They say they have been cheated, but wait, is it you?

A begging scam is rampant on the streets of Bengaluru today. Citizen journalist Shweta Taneja shares her experience and cautions you.

A few weeks ago, I’d just come out of my gym in RT Nagar when a couple with a child, looking as if they hailed from somewhere rural, approached me. Both of them asked me if I spoke Hindi and told me how they’d come to Bangalore on train from some place in Bihar, was summoned for a job by a contractor who had then cheated them. Now they were without money and couldn’t go back to their village.

The man had tears in his eyes and the woman looked sad. It was late evening and they begged me to give them some money to buy a train ticket to Bihar. They rightly guessed that I spoke Hindi and spoke to me in the same language to emphasise their alien-ness to this city. At that time, vulnerable and tired, I half fell for it. Still deciding not to give money, I took them over to a biryani place nearby and got them some biryani packed for dinner.

As I bought the biryani, I was pretty sure the Rs 150 I was spending on them was scammed off me, but the polite me didn’t know how to say ‘no’. The reason I knew it was a scam was because I vaguely remembered the same thing happening in Delhi, when I used to live there more than a decade ago. Also the cashier in that biryani restaurant looked like he’d seen that guy before. There was a flicker of recognition in his eyes. Anyway, I paid and left, feeling cheated and hoping that I would see them again so I could confront them.

The same scam was repeated before me, TWICE at the Trinity Circle today. There were two families I saw: in each case, a couple with a child, usually 3-7 years of age trailing behind. One of the families was standing a bit off the other and the other had already stopped a lady who gave out Rs 100 to the couple in front of me and my friend. We didn’t stop her at that moment.

Later in the evening, when I was walking out of my gym, a couple, this time on a scooter, stopped me, asking for directions to Mekhri Circle. I told them. Then they said they wanted to go to the airport. I gave more directions. By then, they’d told me they were from Maharashtra (though my first sentence to them was in Kannada and they understood it too) and had come here visiting. They’d been fined for riding a scooter without a helmet on and were now out of money to fill petrol in their scooter and go to their sister’s place who lived on Airport Road.

“I’m not a beggar, miss,” the guy said in Indian English, “but if you could help.” I was surprised as these two appeared more middle class than the others I’d seen and observed. The woman wore a prim cotton sari, her hair neatly tied up. And they were on a scooter! But yes, it was a scam too. “I’m sorry sir, but I won’t give money,” I answered politely before walking away. The woman even smiled as if to say she understood.

Now all of this could be a big coincidence, but since this has happened to me thrice in a few weeks, I get the feeling that it’s a rampant scam across Bangalore right now. Here’s how it goes:

1)   Couple approaches you asking if you speak Hindi. Usually they see you’re an ‘outsider’ to Bangalore

2)   They first ask you directions to get you to talk to them

3)   Then they start telling you their story and say they’re migrants

4)   Fourth phase is when they tell you the ‘we’ve-been-cheated-and-are-out-of-money’ tale

5)   It’s been five minutes and you just want to get away.

6)   They insist they are not beggars, only in trouble and they’ve tried to ask others for help but have been refused. They mumble something about being cheated or fined and being embarrassingly out of money. This is the high-level sympathy card.

By this time, you’re probably hooked. As a good Samaritan you want to help out or maybe you feel pity for them. You won’t give out Rs 10 as you usually would to a beggar. You would give no less than Rs 100, for how will a family travel back to their village, eat dinner and stay the night somewhere on a meagre Rs 10?

It’s a lucrative begging idea, playing off people’s sympathies and works almost every time. I’m sure it’s not even a family, just a bunch of people together made to look like a family. A new kind of a begging scam.

What to do if you’re being scammed and are too polite to say no?

Say you won’t give money. If you’re too polite for that, insist that you would like to take a photograph of them and share it as a warning for others who might be considering coming over. Hopefully, the minute you take out your phone to take a picture, the family will scoot.

Never give money. Maybe food. 

If others have faced this, please do add into this blog with your experiences. It will warn others away from getting scammed.

Comments:

  1. Mainak Chakrabarty says:

    I have an ear for accents . I was approached by people with a south Indian accent asking if I know Hindi. I reply back in Hindi… I don’t know Hindi…

    Similar scam at Indiranagar where a school kid approaches the victim for tuition fees.

    Citizen s be aware be vigilant.

  2. siddharth kumar says:

    This is an old trick.Over the last decade I spent in Bangalore I met this kind of “Family” more than 70-80 times.I first met this type of cheater family in 2006-07 in JP nagar and paid 50rs.But later when I met more like them I realized that its a big scam.Recently met a guy aged around 22 who speaks fluent english asked for money and said he is an Engg student in dayananda sagar college and someone pickpocketed his wallet and he just want the Auto fare and asked me where I work so that later he can come back and repay me..I told him I wont give money but I can drop him off to his college or house.He got nervous and tried to go away from me.I told him dude its an old trick and why are you wasting your life like that? He just moved away.
    In my native place the trick is different.Its usually an old person who will ask for money to go home as someone stole their purse or bag.Ya they try to use our sympathy and someday we wont help in genuine cases also.

  3. Rumia Nandy says:

    These kind of thugs are all over India now. They use the local sentiments of the people well. I have faced it in multiple cities now. They will make up the story as per the location, and they are always pennyless. I was a victim first around 16 yrs back. It was a very old man. I gave 5 rs at that time. Later realized, it was a scam. Once I asked such thugs to accompany me to police station, I will arrange for there return to home with the help of NGO. They almost ran away.

  4. AjayKumar Singh says:

    ‘@Shweta , this trick now happens everywhere, and believe me people do try to become good citizens ๐Ÿ˜›
    Please add one more type to you list of known types

    Kids in torn clothes and carrying school bags asking money for School fees. They will talk in english as they know most of the people here in Bengaluru are software professionals with decent salary. And their primary targets are couples and group of girls.

  5. Arjun KT says:

    The first time I saw this was in Chennai Railway station. Friends told me it was a scam. Saw them a few days later , same story. Knew it was a scam. Since then I had been approached by kids for school fee, Old men for bus fare and many more families for a fare back home.
    I don’t even give cash to beggars with kids, I usually give them biscuit packs.

  6. Chandra Gangineni says:

    I faced the same near silk board junction in Bangalore when i was waiting for my bus. At first instance i believed them and gave 100. But the same story started repeating almost every time when I wait at the junction. Then I understood it is scam and stopped entertaining them.

  7. Vikram Bl says:

    There’s this lady in New Thippasandra who’s short of 2 rupees since 20 years!!

    This is how she plots it..
    She picks bus stops and temples..approaches people saying she is out to buy rice or sugar or some grocery and claims that she is 2 rupees short!!

  8. Vaidya R says:

    The sad part about all this is that it erodes trust in people. Someone genuinely in need of help is not going to get it.

    • Sourabh Sharva says:

      Same thing happened with me today near cloud 9 hospital sarjapur road. I provided the family with buiscuit packets and thought they might be in need. They declined to take perishable food item which put me to first suspect but then I helped them anyway. Soon I discovered there are two more couples roaming around with kids on same road one after another. Not sure if they are forcing kids and women to do this or they are re selling the buiscuits packs and buying alcohol as one of the guy seemed drunk.

      Please do not entertain such people and inform police about it if possible or take them to police.

      I have

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