I was approached by a man outside my bank this afternoon who showed me a money order check for $990. He told me it was his daughter’s birthday, and because his own account was overdrawn by $500, he asked if I could deposit the money order for him and give him the cash, minus $40 for my troubles. That way, he would have $950 to spend on his daughter instead of the $490 he’d get from depositing it into his own overdrawn account.
I should’ve been hearing major alarm bells at this point, but he caught me in a moment when I was slightly in a hurry and on a day I was in a good mood. My only previous experience with money orders was knowing that they’re meant to be guaranteed funds, I didn’t really question that it could be fake. So I deposited the money order at the ATM into my account, which accepted the funds, and withdrew $990. I honestly did feel a slight tingle of doubt as I handed him the wad of cash, but…foot in the door syndrome I guess. I looked at him and said “I’m choosing to trust you.” He thanked me, stated he wasn’t the type of person to do that, and offered me $40 back. I declined and told him to keep it for his daughter.
He left before me, as I had another check to deposit. The bank is on a busy street in Brooklyn and as I walked out a few minutes later, I was waved over by a group of women who were selling masks on the sidewalk nearby. As soon as they called to me, my stomach sank because I understood immediately what had just happened. I felt foolish for taking that leap of faith on a complete stranger. But it’s been a rough year for many people, while I have been blessed with stable income throughout the pandemic. I wanted to help…I myself moved to the neighborhood last winter and have encountered many random acts of kindness, and I just wanted to believe that he was telling the truth.
Anyway, the ladies told me that guy had been hanging around the bank for weeks, and were upset for me when I told them how much I’d given him. They brought me inside the bank to speak with the security guard, even though at this point I didn’t have any intention of trying to get the money back. I was visibly upset as I told the security guard what happened, and he was very comforting. After a gentle lecture on not trusting strangers, he told me that ultimately I did what I did out of kindness, and that the universe will return that energy and provide in other ways.
I know this is a learning lesson, one that costs some people much more, and that what I lost today is ultimately replaceable. Trying to be thankful for that instead of feeling like a gullible idiot 🙁