Consumerist Prevents You From Getting Mugged?

Reader Geoff was at a gas station with his girlfriend when a shady looking dude approached them and started asking for money so he could pay someone to unlock his car and free the 11 month-old kid whom he’d locked inside… in a dark corner of the next parking lot over. Hm. Was he telling the truth? Geoff writes:

Dear Consumerist,

I just wanted to say thank you for practically saving my life last night. I was at the gas station with my beautiful girlfriend when a strange, homeless looking man came up to us begging for our help.

He claimed that he accidentally locked his 11-month old child in the car, which he pointed to in the distance, sitting in a dark corner in the next parking lot over. He at first said he needed some money to pay someone to unlock his car. After I told him I had no money, he started begging I go to the ATM. At that point I told him to beat it because there was no kid in that car and that he just wanted money.

Then things got scary.

He started telling me to go check out the car so he could see his child was locked in the car. Now remember, this car is in the next parking lot over, in a dark corner, and it’s about 1:00AM. This is when I remembered a little tip I got from a Consumerist article I read a couple weeks ago about a corrupt company that overcharges customers to have their car be unlocked. So I turned to him and said, “If there is really a kid in there, then call 911. The fire department will come and unlock it for free, since I think an infant locked in the car constitutes an emergency.” Then I offered to call the 911 for him on my cell phone. He then stared at me for a second, turned around and jogged away.

I just wanted to thank you, Consumerist, for providing me the information I needed to protect both my girlfriend and I from a potential danger. I know that saving us from getting mugged and robbed by a homeless man isn’t quite your mission, but you saved the day for us, and I’m forever grateful.


You know, Geoff. We think you’re on to something there. Good thinking on your part. Consumerist says: Don’t follow strangers into dark parking lots! Here’s the original shady locksmith post Geoff mentioned.



Edit Your Comment

  1. flackman says:

    Was there not even a promise of candy?

    Now that I’ve read this story, I’ll know not to get into a dark car parked outside the reach of cameras at 1 in the morning! Thanks Consumerist!

  2. beyond says:

    Give him a rock.

  3. jeffeb3 says:

    I saw a commercial van that said they would unlock your car for free if there was a kid inside. I put the number in my cell phone because I think that’s just nice business practices. I don’t have any kids though.

  4. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    @jeffeb3: Keep a child on hand, for just such an emergency.

  5. Meg Marco says:

    @jeffeb3: That scares me.

  6. asherchang says:

    “he information I needed to protect both my girlfriend and I”…

    It’s supposed to be “me”!!! “I” for subjects, “me” for objects.

  7. 3drage says:

    It’s nice to see that he thanks a web site for his safety instead of common sense.

  8. dbeahn says:

    Bah! EVERYONE knows that 1am in the far, darkened corner of a shady parking lot is the MOST likely place for a small child to end up locked in a car.

    Probably the real problem was that a Verizon van was parked so close to the drivers side, it was blocking access to the UNLOCKED driver’s door…

  9. weave says:

    I almost fell vic to a scam a while back in the city I was in where some guy claimed he just got here from some african country and was asking for directions to some place. I had no idea, so he pulled out what seemed like a huge wad of bills and said he was willing to pay me to help him out.

    My good side kicked in and I told him not to go flashing his money around. Around then some other guy walked by, saw the roll, and said the same thing, but then offered to help him out. I thought the originally guy was going to get rolled so I stuck by him and followed them up the street a bit all the while telling him to not be so trusting.

    After we turned onto a side street, the second guy was trying to prove his honesty by claiming he didn’t need the money and pulled out his own large wad of cash and suggested I put the original guy’s mind at ease and show him I didn’t need his money either.

    At this point I finally got suspicious and said “Shit, I’m broke, I only have about 30 cents on me.” (A lie, I actually had a lot more than that.)

    At this point they both ran off in different directions.

  10. Musician78 says:



  11. Mark 2000 says:

    I was at the train station in Oakland a year ago and I needed the get to the airport, but at 5am the shuttle wasn’t running. This guy came up to me an said he was a taxi driver and asked if I needed to get to the airport. I said sure and followed him out the exit. Looking around I saw no cab on the entire block.

    “Where’s your car?” I asked. The guy says, it’s this beat up brown sedan which had the silhouette of another person in the passenger side. So I laughed at him and told him forget it. He was SOOO disappointed he yelled “Awww, come on, man!”

    And that’s the day Audrey’s papa wasn’t taken somewhere by two hoods in America’s most dangerous city and beaten to death for the two bucks and credit card he had on him.

  12. weave says:

    He may have just been an unlicensed vehicle looking to make money, but yes, that’s VERY risky. I fell for that about 10 years ago in New Orleans after getting off the train and having some guy approach my wife and I and another couple for a cab ride into the French Quarter. We got there OK and it was a real cab, but the fare box never came on and he charged us each about 10x the rate we paid on the return trip in a legit cab. Always go to a cab stand in a place like that.

  13. ohnothimagain says:

    What a pussy. My “beautiful girlfriend”… robbed by a “homeless guy”….”then things got scary”…

    Next time let your “beautiful girlfriend” (uh-huh) handle it, he-man.

  14. Maude Buttons says:

    I may not know how to save myself jillions of dollars in overseas roaming charges, or the best investments for my paltry dollars. However, I’d like to think that, on my own, I’d know not to accompany a homeless man to his car in a dark parking lot.

    But then, I’ve always had a high opinion of myself.

  15. lincolnparadox says:

    @ohnothimagain: I’m guessing you fell for this scam? It’s ok, nobody thinks you’re “stupid.” Still, that’s no reason to flame a fellow consumerist reader, or is girl. When you make posts like that, we might think you’re a “douche.”

    I’d rather be conned than mugged. There was a guy in Buffalo back in the mid-90s who would hide under people’s cars near shopping malls and cut their Achilles’ tendon. Then he’d just take their stuff and hoof it. The cops never caught him, and he attacked a dozen shoppers. Needless to say, mall profits went down for a few months. To this day, people still look under their cars when they go to the mall.

  16. overbysara says:

    good to know

  17. Skyoodpov says:



    Tendon aint tender. I would think it would be prohibitively difficult to cut an achilles tendon from the prone position under a car. Besides, have you ever tried to FIT under a car? Its why mechanics use jacks… Maybe an SUV though.

  18. @Lincolnparadox: No, that happened in Tacoma! No wait, Fargo! Or was it Pittsburgh?

    Oh, that’s right. It was none of those places…


  19. jerkasaurus says:

    I’ll admit it, I fell for this scam when I was in college. Except she was just a grifter, not a grifter/mugger. My friends and I pooled the only cash we had, which was supposedly as much as she needed for the locksmith. Then we saw her giving the same sob story to someone else about an hour later and a block away.

  20. thedreamingtree says:
  21. backbroken says:

    I’d just like to thank The Consumerist for saving my grapes too. Just the other day, my raven haired girlfriend, surprisingly spry grandfather, and blindingly loyal pooch were in the TSA line at our local airport when we overheard some shady looking men with foreign accents discussing how they were going to detonate the bomb they were hiding in their laptop. Luckily, I remembered the article I read on Consumerist about how the TSA sucks at finding bombs, so I notified the authorities of the plot.

    Ok, seriously…do you need a website (or anyone) to tell you that it’s not a good idea to follow a stranger to a dark, remote area at 1 am? I’m glad that nobody was hurt, but I suspect you wouldn’t have become a victim even if you had never been on the internets.

  22. E-Bell says:

    Another fun tip: next time you see one of those “deaf” panhandlers who give you a card asking for money, tell them that you’ll give them $5 if they sing a well-known song.

    Sometimes, they’ll slip up and actually sing for you. You’ll be out $5 but you’ll have exposed them to everyone else who is within earshot.

  23. ARPRINCE says:

    All you need is “common sense” in those type of situations! ;)

  24. engunneer says:

    When I was in college in Boston, a gut in a nice leather jacket came up to me at 10 PM and asked for cash to get his tire fixed. He said he had just picked up his son from the hospital, but had no cash. (We were in the hospital district, so it was at least a good story) He even offered me his jacket as collateral (I didn’t take it since it was raining). He gave me a card with a phone number to call him at work to get my money back. I gave him $40, and never heard from him again. Qute a few months later the same guy gave me the same story on the same block on the same street. It wasn’t raining this time, and I reminded him about how he owed me money from the last time. He started backing away and saying sorry.

    I should have let him go on with the story and gotten a nice jacket out of it.

  25. Echodork says:

    I was at a 7-11 in DC getting directions when a guy asked me to help him change his tire. His car was parked “just around the corner.”


  26. jrdnjstn78 says:

    Guy should have called the police not try to give the beggar his phone to call the police. The police would have been there in about 3 minutes once you tell them there is a child in a locked car.

    I had locked my kids in my car one time. In the dead of summer in Texas. Me and the kids had just left the doctors and I put my son in the front and the other in the backseat in their child seats. I then turn the a/c on full blast. I walk over to the other side and just realize the driver side was locked and the I had locked the passenger side (this was before keyless entry). A couple people see me struggling and they call a company to unlock the car, well the guy was on the other side of town. Called the police. the police came and the firetruck came. I tried to get my son to unlock the door but he just laughed and thought it was a game. They told me that if the Pop-a-Lock company didn’t come fast that they would break my window to get it because the jimmy wasn’t working. Pop-a-Lock came just in time. Opened it for free.

    I just tell these people I don’t carry cash on me, which I don’t.

  27. geeoph says:

    Hello everyone.

    This was my letter I wrote this morning.

    To everyone saying it’s common sense not to follow the guy, no kidding! There was no way in hell I was following that guy!

    And Jrdnjstn78, I never said anything about giving my phone to the guy, I offered to call 911 for him. I did this because I knew that this would scare him off. I wasn’t born yesterday, this guy was trying to rob me. I figured me pulling out my phone and dialing 911 in front of the gas station would probably scare this guy off, which it did. I got the idea from Consumerist after I remembered reading that article and what it said about calling 911 in an emergency like this, which then made me think offering to call 911 would probably scare him off. Making a bit more sense now?

    I also told the guy I had no cash, but he did see me use a card to pump gas, which is why he begged me to go to the ATM.

    I’m simply thanking the Consumerist for giving me the idea. I didn’t want any trouble and just wanted this guy to leave us alone. I’m sure I could have came up with some other good excuse to get rid of the guy, but this was the first one that came to mind.

    Thanks again Consumerist!

  28. geeoph says:


    Haha! What would you like for me to have done? Give him a Stone Cold Stunner when he walked up?

    I’ll admit I’m not a violent guy, but I am able to stand up for myself. I don’t think that makes me a pussy.

    And I’m sorry I think my girlfriend is beautiful. Try calling your wife/girlfriend/blow-up doll beautiful every once in a while, she might return the favor. (After she’s done servicing the guy who does appreciate her beauty)

  29. andrewsmash says:

    My policy has always been “If I give you money, I expect goods or services in return. If you can’t provide that, here are the numbers for local government and non-profit services.” No one who asks for money in an emergency really NEEDS it, they just don’t want to risk being “that guy” on the news later.

  30. TechnoDestructo says:

    It’s 1 am. Even if there was a kid, he or she is in little to no danger, since the sun is not shining and the car will not get hot. (Now, if this was the middle of winter, that would be a different story)

  31. lincolnparadox says:

    @Skyoodpov: Well, I’ll be. There was a big scare and everything. Granted, it only happened at the “new” Walden Galleria Mall.

    Still, people in Erie County still look under their cars. Some ingrained, unnecessary survival instinct.

  32. wring says:

    whats the owl picture for?

  33. TechnoDestructo says:


    Night time. Also owls have been known to mug people.

  34. JayXJ says:


    Owls represent wisdom.

  35. jmschn says:

    haha i love reading the articles on consumerist but there are some that just stand out as a bit absurd…this one and that Dell video card article are quite odd (but hilarious!)

  36. mr.dandy says:

    I was walking somewhere in the San Fernando valley and a fairly well-dressed guy walked up to me and said he was having car trouble and asked me for “a couple bucks” so he could make a phone call for a ride. In the same breath he also mentioned that he had a job and wasn’t a bum. I told him that unless he knew of some new kind of pay phone that had a bill acceptor, a couple bucks wasn’t going to help much. Instead I offered to make the call on my cell phone for him. He refused, and wandered away grumbling. Not a mugger I wouldn’t say, but a scammer all the same.

  37. mr.dandy says:

    A couple others that were fun

    1. Guy coasts his beat-up car into a strip mall containing a check cashing place, and tells everyone he just ran out of gas.

    2. A 20-ish girl panhandling outside a pet-supply store. Her approach goes like this: “You’re going in there to buy food for a dog? Well I’m a person and I need food.” Actually I wasn’t going in there to buy dog food, but all sorts of unsavory comparisons as to what an average dog does to earn his living were possible. Tempting, but I didn’t go there.

  38. philipbarrett says:

    My wife locked our two small (at the time) kids in the car. In a panic she called the local FD who arrived in force complete with ladder truck! They then very calmly talked my 2 year old into pulling up the lock. I think they’d played this game before.

  39. hoo_foot says:

    It’s a sad commentary on society when people need a website to tell them not follow a strange man into an alley way.

    My personal favorite: there’s a woman in my neighborhood who tells a sob story that her car broke down just a fe blocks away and she needs money to fix it. Over the last five years I’ve lived here, she has accosted me with the same story over a dozen times.

  40. says:

    @geeoph: I’m not entirely sure why half the commenters think you were planning on being his new best friend until you remembered a tidbit from Consumerist. It is pretty clear from your letter you had no interest in giving him cash or following him anywhere and the Consumerist mental link was just an interesting side story. Well handled on your part.

  41. geeoph says:

    @hoo_foot: Did you read my letter? Never did I say “Thank you Consumerist for telling me to not follow strangers into dark corners of a parking lot at 1AM!”

    I was thanking them for giving me the idea that made the guy scram. I was just trying to get rid of him, because I knew he was looking for money, and something I read here gave me a good idea.

  42. Blueskylaw says:

    When he wrote “I needed to protect both my girlfriend and I from a potential danger”, he forgot to put beautiful before girlfriend.
    Nice point. Always listen to Consumerist instead of common sense.