Town Square

Begging Scam?

Original post made by RichardCheney on Apr 16, 2011

We were driving today around doing errands and saw 3 different women begging. One was at the Bryant St. Post Office, the other was at Cambridge street post office, and the third one was in Redwood City. We gave the first some money before running into the other 2 later in the day.

Several things we found strange:

a) Each woman was holding a similar sign with the same text in the same handwriting
b) Each had a small child
c) Each had the same model of stroller for the child
d) Each woman was Indian or of Indian descent

We find it highly improbable that this is a random intersection of fate, and more that someone is operating a more organized scheme.

Did anyone else encounter any of these women?


Posted by qq, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 17, 2011 at 12:15 am

I saw them too at the PO Saturday afternoon. Lady I ran into was just as you described. Indian looking woman with baby in stroller holding a small cardboard sign, cleanly dressed.

I have never seen anyone homeless/begging of Indian/Pakistani decent in the valley. Looked totally out of place. I thought to myself the economy must be really taking a nose dive if it has come to this. The H1B engineer wives with the anchor babies are even begging now. LOL

Knowing there was more than one smells of a scam. Thanks for the post.


Posted by Indian, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 17, 2011 at 8:58 am

I saw a women + baby in Sunnyvale and I have to say I was very surprised at the ethnicity ... never have seen Indian women begging on the streets in the Valley ..

The woman did not look comfortable in what she was doing. She did not say a word, but neither did she do an eye contact .. I had seen just one woman, but the mention of 1+ reeks of a scam or organized begging !

Posted by , a resident of Atherton
on Apr 17, 2011 at 10:42 am

I encountered the very same thing at the main Menlo Park Post Office a few weeks ago.

It was the first time I have ever seen an Indian woman begging.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Never EVER give to those who beg. You are only enabling drug/alcohol abuse, or a scam. The fact that these current beggars look like Indians, has nothing to do with it...they are just Tinkers of another race.

Beggars and bums, on our streets, will end the moment we all agree to quit caving in to their pleadings.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Give to your choice of the legions of legitimate charities, religious groups, employment re-training groups, etc. but do not give to panhandlers on the streets.
I agree the ethnicity is irrelevant.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 17, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Ride a train in Europe - a guy will walk through your car and hand out business cards. It will tell you about his situation and then ask for cash. He goes back to the front of the car - collects the cards and any cash that may come back with the card.

Happens all the time.

Posted by Thought, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm

It seems to me from your descriptions that they may be gypsies (Roma people) from Eastern Europe maybe? In Western European countries they are the type of people who would send women with young children beg, including in front of post offices. They look like they could be of Indian descent as indeed the Roma people (gypsies) of Europe are descended from some Indo-European tribe.

I have never seen any in the US. This would be something new to me.

Posted by sarah, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2011 at 9:38 am

I agree the ethnicity is irrelevant.
Was at Mt View Costco & saw the same ...women w/ a baby & sign Begging with a look of shame on her face. 1st I thought of the economy & how this is the perfect scam....But w/the baby!!!!Completely fell for it. Never have seen such a thing before.

Posted by the watcher, a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I too have seen one of these women. Once at Nob Hill parking lot in Mt View. Then again with a child in a stroller at the Lick Mill Shopping center in S.J. She was standing near the WF bank with a sign. Her facial features are so said as she presents her plight.
The last time I saw her was last week in the Big Lot parking lot. That time she verbally got it from me, in that I told her that I felt she was a cheater and I new I had helped her before and that she'd get no more help from me. Only one time did she have a child in a stroller. But I recognized her face, and have seen another woman with her on the second encounter. It goes along with the description in the posted related article.
What a shame.

Posted by Thought, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 18, 2011 at 1:49 pm

@ Sarah: It IS a perfect scam. Those people make a profession of this no matter what the economy is... and they are con artists. Next thing to get ready for is their kids going around and picking pockets expertly. Go to Europe and experience it. You'll stop feeling sorry for them.

Posted by Thought, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Here is an article about the Roma/Romani people and their origins.

Web Link

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Anyone know the name of a good homeless shelter for women and children? I think it would be better to hand them some information on where they could receive some long term assistance, if they are indeed truly in need and not just a pack of grifters.

Posted by M Bromberg, a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2011 at 11:01 am

I have lived in Atlanta for 35 years. Just today, for the first time in Atlanta, I saw two women as described in this comment thread (including child in stroller and matching signs) at opposite ends of a nearby shopping center. The one who addressed me said "excuse me sir" and then held up the sign, which was extremely odd. The other was collecting change from an exiting store patron. The comments here lead me to think this is indeed a scam. If I see them again I will report this activity. I discovered this thread by a Google search.

Posted by yi, a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 7, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I saw a woman (wearing long sleeves shirt, long skirt, scarf over her head) and very young child begging in front of SFV Lodge, Mountain View this afternoon. She is targeting men coming for Friday prayer which held weekly there. At first I thought she was Indian descent, but later she reminds me of gypsies women in Europe begging for money on the street.

For those who willing to report this next time, please describe them as how they look, not how you perceive them: Indians, Pakistanis, Middle Eastern or Muslim women, because they are NOT and it can lead to wrong profiling. You can add buzzword GYPSY of course!

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 7, 2011 at 7:09 pm

These are gypsy women begging. The ethnicity is relevant because this is a form of organized crime due to scams that many of them also run. Ethnicity is also relevant because it's a part of their culture - and it's questionable that they need to beg.

The south bay & peninsula have had a lot of gypsy crime, but usually of the the car scam & fortune telling scam variety, so the begging is new to many of us - but that's not the case in Europe.

Posted by Feeling Scammed, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2011 at 6:40 am

I have encountered the same thing in San Jose, I gave money to a lady with a young child in front of Bank of America at Eastridge mall and then yesterday across town on blossom hill at the lucky grocery store there were two different ladies working at the same store at different entrances. I am glad a worker came out and told them to leave

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Feeling Scammed - you're feeling that way because you were scammed. It's hard to say no when they are in our faces & have kids w/them - they know that & count on it, too. Gypsy crime is increasing in this area, so just be aware.

With the holidays upon us, this is a good reminder for those of us interested in donating to do so - & I do it w/a reputable agency where I've seen the truly needy in line to get what they need.

Posted by west sanjose, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2011 at 10:27 pm

I was approached by a woman with a child in cold night at 9 in front of lucky in danza and bolinger . The woman was crying and claimed homeless but was neatly dressed. Gave money but not sure I am scammed...

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2011 at 9:06 am

Next time you see them, report them to the Anti trafficking hotline.

1888 373 7888 Trafficking Watch

They will inform the local police anti trafficking department who will take note and look into it, particularly if they get several complaints.

There is a great deal of modern day slavery in this area, and there are many trying to help the authorities find it and get the traffickers prosecuted. If you want to help or find out more about what is going on, check this out for more information Web Link

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2011 at 9:07 am

Sorry, the weblink above isn't working, so I will try it again.

Web Link

Posted by member, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 12, 2012 at 1:45 am

They are Gypsies. I have seen a woman and a man together with a sign across from The Milkpail Market and a woman and a child begging in the San Antonio Shopping Center. Gypsies are of different ethnicities because they are from many different countries, their diaspora.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Member - have you seen them recently?

Posted by SA, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I have seen several of these women begging at the Menlo Park post office over the last couple of years. Always women, and always with small children. Struck me as being odd, and probably part of an organized begging scheme.

These are Roma "gypsies". The woman I spoke with spoke little English, but did speak Italian. She was from Romania.

At least some of these Roma are being trafficked in via Mexico(google it), and are seeking political asylum upon arrival on US soil. They probably work for some kind of begging syndicate during the many years long asylum process. I would guess they are obligated to pay off the debts then incurred for being illegally transported to USA via Mexico. Though once they are into the asylum process, they should receive temporary work permits, and should be able to work legally.

Interesting stuff. Someone ought to look into this.

Posted by Anderson, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I know EXACTLY what you're talking about. There is a ring of women, who wear headscarf and have small children with them, who regularly beg. My mother and I came across one of them in Mountain View (this was after I had seem them about 3 other times across the South Bay. It was very cold and my mother told the woman if she is on the street with a baby there are many resources to help her. My mother works for the city and offered to let the woman use her phone so that she could call the social service hotline and/or the non emergency police number to help the lady secure some temporary safe housing for her and her toddler that were out in the cold. The woman says "No! No police!" and makes some kind of hand signal. Then instantly a man in a NICE black MERCEDES pulls up and the woman and child jump into it and drive away. It is a scam.

Posted by Anderson, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Yes it is a scam. One of these beggar women (headscarf and baby)signaled a man in a nice black Mercedes to scoop her and her and the toddler up after my mom and I offered to call the police to help her and her baby secure shelter housing for the night as it was very cold. This man in the Mercedes was watching near by to take the woman and child away in case anyone bothered them or offered to call the police. Essentially pimping them out. It is a small ring. I have seen them in San Jose, Mountain View, and Campbell. Each time with the headscarf and baby.

Posted by some guy, a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm

I saw these people at a B of A ATM on Berryessa Rd. in San Jose on Sunday. The woman with a headscarf and sign and a small child sitting near the ATM. The woman stared back at me when I looked at her for a moment, as if I wasn't supposed to be looking at her. I looked around for the black Mercedes, found it parked on the corner of the building where the woman could see it but the ATM users couldn't. It's funny how they are so predictable. I felt sorry for the kid sitting in the sun.

Posted by sunnyvale girl, a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2013 at 11:17 am

Just this Friday evening, I saw an indian woman with a little crying girl (about 7 yr old) outside of suunyvale Toys r us. She was just outside the entrance and held a sign that was folded. As I approached the entrance, she unfolded it for me to see. At first it didn't register since she seemed very uncomfortable, yet with a pleading gesture asking for help. The sign said she's willing to work for money too. It was so quick that I couldn't respond and by then I was already inside the store. She seemed genuine. I thought I will shell out some dollars to help, maybe even offer a home just when I would come out of the store. But she was gone when I came out. I felt so bad for not helping. I kept thinking about her for 4-5 days. Since I am an indian too, I wanted to help. It's not common for indian girls (especially in bay area) to beg. If they fall on hard times then usually a friend, or extended family will help out. I honestly thought that maybe her husband was a bully and threw them out of the house for the night or so. How do you know if someone is genuine or a scam in this matter? I still can't seem to help thinking about her possible situation.

Posted by Norm Carroll, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Saw her at CVS Midtown standing at the door with child about 2:30 today.

Posted by MoJo, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2013 at 11:42 am

These small groups of women and chidren are popping up around the area -- Palo Alto, Los Gatos and elsewhere. They seem to be professional beggars in an organized group that passes the profession of begging from generation to generation. The group travels in a mini van, drops beggars on corners and collects them at the end of the day. I read in a newspaper that the average urban beggar earns between $35,000 and $50,00 per year. That's a lot of money for sitting around, failing to contribute to society. They don't pay tax on that money but sure do use hospital services, law enforcement, and more. Giving to them only enables the generational dysfunction and further taps our stretched resources. It may be tempting to give, but if you do it only keeps them on the corners. If we stop giving, they'll have to resort to training themselves and getting jobs. Better generational plan, no?

Posted by MoJo, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2013 at 11:46 am

The best thing you can do for such people is give them the name and number of churches, organizations like Inn Vision, or other so that they can get sustainable help and access to food and shelter. Giving them a buck or two only perpetuates the myriad of problems associated with begging.

Posted by Ellen, a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2013 at 8:54 pm

I Just encountered 2 women meeting the description above at Church in Los Gatos. They both had identical strollers with one child each and told me they were Sisters. The one woman told me she lost her job and against my better judgement, I bought them groceries. It wasn't until I asked them where they were from and the one woman told me Romania did I realize that I had been scammed by Gypsies. Live and learn. It disgusts me that they are taking advantage of people, especially at a Church. There are so many people who are truly suffering and could have used the items I gave these con artists.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 7, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Ellen - I am sorry that you were scammed. But, since you bought them food & had kids w/them, maybe the kids will get some of the food. Perhaps not a total loss? I'm glad that you didn't give them cash, or that they didn't steal any of your valuables. It's hard, in the moment, especially when they outnumber you AND it's at church, to turn your back on them. You did a good thing, you hurt no one, so no harm, no foul. Their deception is on them.

Posted by Vickig, a resident of Woodside
on May 30, 2013 at 7:50 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Susan Chavarria, a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2013 at 10:35 pm

I've been seeing similar scenes since about Christmas time last year or so, at St. Mary's Church in Los Gatos. I have heard several parishioners offer advise, and I am sure the various people have received money.

The first little family did seem odd, in that they were fairly well-dressed for people asking for money. The stroller and baby was disturbing. This family had another toddler aged child. I saw the family rushing to the beginning of the Mass on a couple of occasions. Once the man asked me about the time the Mass would be over. I wondered why they didn't go inside to try to become a part of the community and prayer. I have seen other women and children in strollers since seeing the first family, on several occasions.

Tonight, it bothered me, as it dawned on me that it seems that the child in the stroller is generally asleep. How can that be possible? It was a warm afternoon at around 5:00 pm today. But cold or hot, usually the child looks knocked out. My concern is if the beggars are drugging the kids.

I appreciate finding some information from others who have posted on this site. I think I might forward this information to the human trafficking unit mentioned on an earlier post. Thank you!

Posted by Ali , a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2013 at 10:19 am

Same group of Gypsies have targeted the Muslim Communities in the Bay Area. They stand outside of Mosques with their babies and strollers on Friday's when Muslims go to the Mosques to pray. They are also out late at night during the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims go to the local Mosques to pray there evening prayers. I feel sad for the children as it gets chilly late at night just hanging around waiting for people to give them money.

Posted by Guest, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I'm feeling scammed and disturbed. I saw a woman (who I thought was Indian) who fit the above descriptions last evening begging outside Target in Redwood City with two children. She had the same type of sign and two young children (a baby and a toddler girl sleeping in a stroller). She looked so sad that everyone (myself included) stopped to give her something. Shoppers even returned with things they bought for her and her family. I gave her some money and tried talking to her, asking if she had somewhere to live, but she didn't seem to understand me. It really bothered me that such young children were out there with her. I found this thread after doing some google searches for family social services in San Mateo County, as I was intending to try to find her some more substantive help. So sad that this appears to be an organized scam that exploits children.

Posted by Ravi, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 25, 2013 at 1:18 am

Today I saw an Indian woman, her daughter and husband with sign board ' happy holidays ...lost job..... Need help....' near Toys R US Sunnyvale.

I was terribly upset and still can't sleep over the sight of the innocent little girl (May be 2 years) clinging to her mom while the mom is begging...before I even realized, I just drove past them.

Will definitely check tomorrow and see if I can help.

I don't know if it's a scam...but can't fathom the sight of mom begging with her little one

Posted by Belgique, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm

When I was in Brussels recently, I wanted to visit all of the medieval cathedrals as well as history museums. There are 13 large, ancient cathedrals there, and every single one had a Mulslim. woman with an infant or two and at least two older children sitting on the steps of it, begging for Euros!

What, I wondered, would happen if the tables were turned and a Christian or other religious woman went begging with her children on the steps of a mosque?

Talk about organized begging--purposely staking out cathedrals, even during funerals and weddings!

Posted by MylyP, a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

They are not "Indian," but Gypsy. I have had encounters in San Mateo and Belmont. When I asked where they were from, they said Romania and Moldova. This is classic gypsy behavior. Be wary.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2014 at 3:51 pm

This article was from 2011 -- 3 years ago -- and was "resurrected" and printed as if current. Why?