Walking past Workwear World on my way to the library last week, I was stopped by a man smiling from ear-to-ear who held out a red 3×5 inch card.
One side of the card read: SMILE “Deaf Education System. Please pardon my intrusion, but I am deaf-mute trying to earn a decent living.
Would you help me by buying one of these cards. Pay whatever you wish … Thank-you and may God Bless you all.”
The reverse side of the card showed hand signs for the deaf alphabet. The last five signs were too smudged to recognize.
Any cheap printer could have produced the cards.
“How do I know you’re legitimate?” I asked.
He smiled more broadly if that were possible, set down his bulging backpack, and from his wallet extracted a laminated identity card showing his photo, name, and Prince George address. Could it, too, have been fake?
As I studied his card my mind reviewed the many ways elderly people have been scammed – by spam emails, letters and by phone. A persistent Spanish lawyer had offered me half of an $8 million inheritance if I would pretend to be an heir; a Nigerian oil company urged upon me shares in a profitable oil company. I had resisted all.
The man standing in front of me holding a stack of red and yellow cards appeared physically fine except for a barely audible voice.
Was I being scammed?
I counted coins into his hand. He thanked me with a yoga Namaste gesture, palms pressed together as he bowed.
At the library desk, after reading the card the clerk merely said, “I’ve seen cards like this before.”
That afternoon I tuned in Dr. Phil. His guests were women who had met a sweet talking dude through a dating website, and fallen for a man who wasn’t who he said he was, even posted someone else’s photo. Typically the man worked in Africa. One was a consultant on an oil rig in the far north.
In every case the man needed money which the women gladly supplied; one woman handed over $30,000. In all instances the man was unable to visit when he promised to. The man on the oil rig claimed pirates had attacked, forcing him to postpone his trip. Dr. Phil pointed out no news of a pirate attack on an oil rig had ever been reported,
Checking on-line, at http://deafness.about.com/od/historicprogress/a/deafpeddlers.htm I found this entry for “Deaf Peddlers. Peddlers using deafness to make money.”
“One aspect of deaf history that will never be repeated, is that of deaf peddling. This activity, which usually involved deaf people selling alphabet cards on the street, was one that shamed the American deaf community and hurt the image of deaf people for years. Today, there are laws against deaf peddling.”
If the U.S. has laws forbidding deaf peddling; I didn’t find any. Nor did I find mention of it in Canada.
I phoned the Canadian Association of the Deaf in Ottawa to ask if this street peddler’s offering of printed cards is sanctioned or a scam? The Canadian Association of the Deaf phased out printed card peddling in the l950s and 1960s. They neither sanction nor condone it, nor do they condemn it in hard economic times.
Checking on-line for deaf mute peddlers at http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/huge-increase-in-deafmute-scam-in-paris.cfm, this turns out to be a profitable, long standing method of solicitation used particularly by Romanian gypsies in Paris to fleece tourists. Tourists report similar scams in Italy and even the U.S. on buses or trains.
I’ve concluded I was scammed by someone with a novel approach to begging money for drugs and liquor.