Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Trouble with being a Good Samaritan

I've lived in Chicago for a long time, so I don't have the country fear of crime that bothers others. In general, I trust people. I've become more mellow living in a senior residence where nearly everyone exudes helpfulness and sympathy. Of course I don't fall for those Internet schemes involving Nigerian con men eager to give me money if I'll only send some of my own. I always thought I was quite alert and savvy.

So what happened? A week or so ago, I fell for a young woman's sob story in the grocery store parking lot. She was obviously pregnant, or perhaps bolstered with a pillow (I don't know much about pregnancy), and she claimed to be about to give birth and needed a ride to a hospital quite far away. She told me where she lived (probly not true) and babbled on a lot, but I couldn't understand much of what she said. I made the mistake of offering her money, and she saw where my wallet was. She strongly insisted on a ride, so I agreed to drive her to an el station; the hospital was too far away.

I stowed my purse, with wallet inside, on the floor beneath my feet, but my car is very small, and the woman was supposedly in pain, so she moved around a lot. I just kept my eyes on the road and was in a hurry to get rid of the woman before something happened. (This being Chicago, she might well have had a gun, so I began to worry). After quite a bit of driving around (I wasn't sure of the location of the el stop), she finally agreed to get out as a bus approached. I heaved a sigh of relief to get rid of her, and proceeded home.

I started to have nagging doubts when I later observed that, although my wallet was still in my purse, it seemed out of place. Sure enough, when I took it out, it was very light. Most of its contents were gone. The cash was gone, of course: probably about $80 or so, but I'm not sure. More importantly, my major credit cards were gone, and probably some minor ones I no longer use and can't remember. Fortunately, my driver's license and medical cards were left, as well as one credit card that was in the purse but outside the wallet.

I immediately called Chase Bank and Bank of America and cancelled two credit cards and a debit card (my pin number was not in the wallet, so the thief couldn't have used that very much). By the time I called, soon after the incident, one card had been used, but for only a small amount. I'm glad the thief was not a big spender! Apparently she made a few other small purchases--small enough so as not to be asked for an ID. I've not found any large charges on any of the cards, but more could be on the way.

Anyway, I now have new cards with different numbers, and I've used my new debit card successfully to replace the cash. I'll check out future statements very carefully. I am ashamed for being so gullible, but the woman must have been an experienced thief to grab the wallet, strip it, and return it to my purse without my noticing. Some slight of hand must have been involved.

While I've always believed in people helping people, and although I could probably afford to lose what I lost, I know I'll be more wary from now on. No wonder city people, especially, sometimes seem so cold and distant. The big city is not a friendly place for good samaritans, and I'll probably never try again to be one.


Nancy said...

I was taken in in this way once too - the young woman promised to pay me back, I gave her my address,, etc. How naive! But as my friend said, I'd rather be naive and trust than paranoid and suspect everyone!

musing said...

This lady must do this all the time?
Crazy world we live in.
Sorry to hear of this