Beggars & Scam Artists, Chicago

19 Reviews

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  • Streetwise banner
    Streetwise banner
    by sambarnett
  • beggar at Marshall & Fields on State street
    beggar at Marshall & Fields on State...
    by dircelo
  • Women claiming Domestic violence for donation

    by AnnVK Written Sep 19, 2014

    We were near Buckingham Fountain at Dusk (to see the lighted fountain). A thin, black woman about 5'4" approached us (four women). Scam woman had Chicago postcards in her hand and started on her story of how she is collecting money for a shelter for battered women (of course appealing to four women). She gave us her so-called story of abuse and leaving with only the clothes on her back. This woman was wearing a faded yellow jogging type outfit (looked like something from Goodwill). She was giving postcards in exchange for $$$. One of us went to give her a dollar. Then she said, well, they ask for a minimum of a $5.00 donation. On the card is a stamp that says; Safe & Sound, c/o Shaton Fuller, 2113 W. 119th St. #10, Blue Island, IL 60406 (yes, we coughed up a $5.00 bill, sigh...) As this woman ran off, one of the vendors nearby who was selling some light sticks started to laugh loudly and tell us how we were just scammed. As far as I am concerned, he is as much of an ass as was the woman. He couldn't say something earlier to us, as we were off of our guard?? He told us that we should have asked her for a vendor's license. Whatever, nothing serious, but obviously a good scam to appeal to women who are sympathetic. Just keep walking!!

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  • Chicago Shoe Shine Scam

    by admanc Written Feb 28, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    I was stopped on a street by a guy who offered to shine my shoes. His friend walked away by about 15 feet, but stayed close by. I turned down the shine, but the man insisted he wanted to show me his skills and would do it for free. I tried to politely decline, but the next thing I know, he's already on the ground putting polish on my shoe. I let him shine one and then move to the other as he starts telling me his expertise in shoe shining. Suddenly, the price goes from free to $8 a shoe! I'm like "Whoa...hold on there. I said I didn't want a shine and you said you were going to show me what you could do." He then stands up and gets confrontational, acting like I'm the one who is ripping HIM off. Next thing I know, his friend comes back with this menacing look like he's going to be the "muscle" and force me to pay up. I reached into my pocket and said "Guys...all I got is $6. You can take it or leave it." He took the money and I quickly walked away. Beware! If a random dude on the street offers to shine your shoes, do NOT engage him in conversation or let him anywhere near your shoes.

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  • Streetwise is legitimate/Some frauds

    by afeeney Updated Apr 4, 2011

    Streetwise is a legitimate newspaper with legitimate vendors. It's been a lifesaver for some of the vendors who have gotten income and job experience from selling it. Buying the newspaper is a way to make a real difference to help somebody. Be sure to buy only from vendors with ID, though. Sellers are NOT allowed to be aggressive or to pester if they've been refused. In fact, one of the signs that somebody is not a legit vendor is if they pester you.

    There are several free daily and weeklies including The Onion and Red Eye. Don't buy those.

    If you do want to help somebody on the street, you can buy Chicago Shares food vouchers from any of the locations listed on the link below. Many people who are homeless have substance abuse or mental health problems which can make cash donations actually counter-productive to their well-being.

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  • Shoe Shine Scam, Chicago

    by tmax1 Written Jan 4, 2011

    I was approached by a man wanting to shine shoes to which I agreed. I never got a chance or thought to ask the price figuring how much could it be. While shining my shoes he starts into a speech about how he just got out of federal prision after serving 8 years and that he is happy to be free and working again. Feeling generous at the end of the shine I go to hand him a $20.00. He says it's $15 a shoe and that he is part of half way house prison program where the $30 goes back to the house and that tipping is optional for me, and that he would appreaciate a tip as this is what he survives on...I knew something was up but left him $33.00 feeling obligated.

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    Union Station scam with luggage

    by beber1 Written Sep 23, 2009

    This has happened to us twice at Chicago Union Station. Exiting the station with our bags, we headed to a taxi stand. "Helpful" guys come up, grab your bags and put them into the cab, a job that the cab driver is supposed to do. Then they want a tip for doing it. Also beware of taxi drivers charging a lot extra if you have bags. Take the Metro instead if you can.

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    Wicker Park - "We're in this Band"

    by uniko509 Written Jul 2, 2009

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    There are two scam artists who walk around Wicker Park saying they're in bands that have upcoming shows at the Metro. They have also been seen at such festivals like the Taste of Chicago recently.

    They're pretty convincing and make you believe they actually might be in the band they're talking about until you see them walking around all the time, telling people they're in completely different bands. {They've tried to be Camera Obscura, The Kills, and even in Lady Sovereign's band just to name a few.}

    What they do is try to sell you a CD {which is blank} with a clipping of the Metro flier for the show and tell you that if you buy it, you can get free access to that specific Metro show. NO ONE for the Metro does this!

    Physical description of these two specific scammers: One is a bald-headed guy who usually wears black shorts, an oversized t-shirt and walks around with a bike {which my boyfriend overheard that he had lied about stealing the bike because the scammer scratched the serial numbers off this bike!}. The other is an Asian girl who wears two ponytails and a shaved head in the back. She also has various tattoos on her arm which are small and sparse. She is generally very sweet, but she's just as much a part of the scam.

    Do NOT buy CDs from people on the street telling you they are in a band unless their band is playing RIGHT THERE. No one who is a real, playing musician goes up to strangers to sell their CDs. People do sell CDs on the street, but they will usually let YOU come up to THEM while they're playing their own music.

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  • Being aware of beggars and shady characters

    by QueenBee75 Written Aug 6, 2008

    Giving most major cities they do have a high number of homeless and shady characters that prey on tourists because they won't have a clue as to what the city's elements are about. As for Chicago I want to keep it real and clear with tourists who plan to visit Chicago and that is to watch your surroundings. Do not ask for directions from bums that will give you directions in exchange for a couple dollars or some change. What many tourists don't really realize is that most of the homeless on the streets of Chicago are mentally ill and drug addicts and you don't want to have anything to do with them. Reason being is that this is their hustle to support their addiction and to eat on a daily basis. If you see homeless people wandering around a tourist area notify the police and make sure you give a full description of the individual and where you saw him or her at so that the police can pick them up. This helps the police lower the number of homeless that wander the downtown area so they don't harass citizens and tourists and making the streets safer.

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    Waaaaayyyyyy too many beggers downtown

    by BellaMora Updated Aug 6, 2007

    Along with that beautiful scenic, elaborate hotel, (and right outside it) there are probably the most bums Ive ever seen in a downtown area with hardly no police anywhere. I dont remember seeing that many bums in Miami! I thought there were waaaayyyyyy too many beggers right in that area of downtown for it to be a tourist spot. We had to walk over to the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Ave for our conferences and all of those streets getting there were filled with bums and beggers. No one bothered us because everyone in my group just happened to be from rough neighborhoods growing up and we all have plenty of street smarts. But for you not so street smart types--take off ALL of your jewelry, do not stop to talk to any of those bums, do not offer them money because they will tell you $2-3 is not enough and that can cause a confrontation, (apparently the bums in Chicago want a cost of living increase in their donations), ignore them, do not adjust your money in your wallet in public, get to where you are going, and get back to where you came from. End of story.

    There wasnt hardly if any at all along the lakefront of Michigan Ave but behind that street is where everything is and also where all of those bums are. There is also a park directly in front of the Hilton Chicago right across the street. Stay out of there as well. There are homeless people everywhere and it just has an unsafe feeling even across the street from the Hilton Chicago.

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    The Onion: Don't buy it

    by Castaner Written Jun 20, 2006

    I've seen this happen many many times, especially in the downtown area and around the University of Chicago, in Hyde Park. There is a free newspaper called The Onion, which is actually a satiric paper and is widely read by many people. This paper comes out every Thursday. By Friday morning, most of the newspaper stands that carry The Onion will be empty and homeless people will be trying to sell them to you. Usually, they say it's for a charity or something of the like, but they are lying: no one sells The Onion. Don't be fooled

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    Street Wise vendors and con artists

    by midnight_mike Written May 20, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Street Wise is a publication which allows homeless people to earn a living. It cost $1 and the vendors sell it on busy street corners or anywhere a crowd is gathered. In theory, it is a really good idea having these people work for money instead of begging. Unfortunately, some of the vendors are really rude. Either they hand an unsuspecting tourist a newspaper and then demand money for it or they make a sarcastic remark about you if you ignore them. I rarely carry cash with me and I don't think I have to explain that to them.

    The other thing to watch out for is the "Excuse me sir, my car ran out of gas and I need to get back to Indiana" scam. I have heard so many different version of this story. It is unfortunate because there are people who are truly in such desperate situations but no one will believe them because of people like this. I made this mistake once when I was in Vancouver when I gave a guy $20, but never again.

    Homeless people hold cups in their hands on street corners. They are really in no position to make up some fancy story. It is the drug addicts who will try to steal and con you out of your money.

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    poor people, beggars

    by dircelo Written Jan 26, 2006

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    Not only in India or Africa, but also in the richest nation people have to stand in the cold, asking for support.

    Do not get scared though, most of them are harmless, though once in while if you not used to deal with them or if you are too friendly you may get into difficulties.

    Many are around State street and surroundings.

    beggar at Marshall & Fields on State street
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  • Ignore them and they go away

    by Taupo Updated Jan 25, 2006

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    For someone like me , whose cities arent yet plagued with beggars , these characters are always quite worrying at first , particularly when traveling alone . But I took the locals advice and simply ignored them , and i mean , dont even look at them , and they soon go away...

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  • Public Transportation Con Artists

    by Hillari Written May 1, 2005

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Do not, I repeat, do not ever take part in the card or shell games that take place on the 'L. How they begin is one guy will start talking loudly about "now here we go with show" or something similar. The game is to guess where the red card is at or which covering the ball is under. It never fails. . some passenger who should know better will look too long in the con artist's direction, and get sucked into the game. There's also one or two "hype" persons encouraging the passenger to continue. The "hype" persons are so obvious it's sickening. Once they have fleeced enough people out of money, they move on to the next train car.

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  • I need some cash...

    by grkboiler Updated Apr 3, 2005

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Some areas downtown have people asking for money or offering to place bets. Don't give them anything. Some frequent ones I run into:

    1. "I have AIDS and I am participating in an AIDS walk. Please sign my petition and give me whatever donation you feel necessary." This guy walks around the Loop. Don't sign his petition and don't give him money. He must walk in AIDS walks every week.

    2. "I need $2 to take the bus to go pick up my kids." This lady also walks around the Loop at night.

    3. "Let me tell you a joke." Another Loop prowler. Say no. He will charge you $1 for the joke. He also smells like urine and he will follow you until you give him the $1. Do you really want to hear that joke now?

    4. "I bet you $10 that...." There are a few of these out there. They are alogn Michigan Ave. and in the Loop. Whatever the bet is, don't take it. You won't win. You CAN'T win.

    5. "Hey, I lost my wallet in a cab. I really need to get to a job interview and I am running short on time. Can I have $10 so I can get something to eat and then call home?" This one involves a well-dressed man acting as a business traveler. My neighbor fell for it outside Lou Mitchell's. After finishing breakfast, my neighbor went outside and the "businessman" was still scamming people a block away.

    6. Along Michigan Ave., a legally blind "Baptist minister" from Indiana needed $18.50 to get his children on a bus to get home. When I asked him some questions about Indiana, he couldn't answer them. Nice try, pal.

    There are plenty of others, like the honest citizen running for Congress needing your donation on the spot, or the "starving" man with brand new Nike shoes. Gimme a break, people.

    Just leave them alone and go about your business.

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    Beggars approach your car at intersections

    by dlandt Updated Mar 15, 2004

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    In Chicago's daytime, people frequently wait for red lights at busy intersections and then try to sell things to the waiting motorists. Water, candy, stolen socks etc. They usually claim to be from a church or other charitable organization, but in general these people are harmless, sober, and cheerful.

    At night its a different story. When someone approaches your car it is usually a beggar holding a cup. Let me tell you these people are hard to see!! They don't wear bright clothing, they seldom seem like they aren't on drugs, and they have little regard for their own safety, ignoring the lights and wandering aimlessly from stationary car to stationary car. They aren't likely to cause you problems as far as carjackings or latching onto your vehicle and refusing to let go until you give them something, but accidentally hitting them could still cause you legal problems. Just be aware that they are out there, and so are ambulance chasers.

    Warning: Despite what this tip says, it is ALWAYS customary for these people to approaach your car from the CENTER lane. If someone approaches your car from the sidewalk, you need to be alarmed, something is definitely NOT right.

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