AVOID FALLING VICTIM TO 'DISTRESSED STRANGER' SCAMS These scams work because the amounts pleaded for are relatively small. While fraud is sorry repayment for a kind heart and generous nature, the only way to entirely safeguard yourself against falling victim to "stranger in distress" scams is to refuse to help strangers who appear to be in dire straits. Such a course of (non)action appeals to some but will be rejected by others who view the occasional $20 lost on a con artist as the cost of maintaining a positive view of their fellow man. Therefore, portions of the following advice will apply to some but not to others: • When strangers seeking your assistance hit you up with sob stories, become comfortable with saying "No, I'm sorry but I just can't do that" and walking away or hanging up. If you cannot bring yourself to say no and instead feel you must make some attempt to aid those who appear to be in need, offer your assistance rather than the cash that has been asked for. Offer to telephone whichever friend or relative the stranded couple believes could come for them, or to ask the police for help in getting the child home. Insist that mugging victims contact the police and indeed place those calls for them. Strictly limit your help to non-monetary forms: making phone calls, brainstorming possible solutions, mucking about under the hood of non-functioning cars, etc. But above all, keep your hand away from your wallet. • Beware the pull on your heartstrings - it's often the purse strings that are actually being reached for. When approached with tales of woe, keep in mind those making the request should have other avenues of relief available to them beyond that of asking random strangers for cash. Is it reasonable to assume they have no family or friends who could come to their assistance, either monetarily or to give them a drive home? Or that they do not have so much as one credit card they could charge a necessity against? Remind yourself that a great many taxis do accept credit cards and so regard with suspicion any well-heeled stranger's claim of needing $20 for cab fare. • Don't ever let strangers into your house to use the phone. Instead, offer to place whatever calls they need made on their behalf. Likewise, those seeking the use of a bathroom should be given directions to the nearest gas station or restaurant. People have been robbed in their homes by those whose "car broke down" or who needed "a glass of water" or "to call a doctor for the baby." Those not assaulted immediately still run the risk of being burgled later by thieves who have inventoried the home's contents and are now familiar with its layout. • Churches in some communities have adopted a policy of refusing to provide cash to those who appeal to them for emergency assistance. Instead, those thrown upon hard times are given whatever other kind of material assistance they have requested (e.g.; tank of gas, place to stay for the night, transportation to another city where a relative is supposedly languishing, something to eat), but are refused money. Anyone coming into contact with persons seeking financial assistance in the ways listed above are encouraged to contact the La Grange Park Police Department via LTACC at (708) 352-2059 so we can thoroughly evaluate what is happening and respond appropriately, from protecting our residents from fraudsters to providing legitimate assistance through our Police Social Worker if circumstances warrant it.