Beware of panhandlers

  • Thursday, December 5, 2013

With the holidays upon us and the spirit of giving on the forefront of our minds, it is easy to fall prey to schemes.

One such scheme has reared its ugly head in Mount Pleasant, and citizens need to be aware.

According to Jack Little, executive director of East Cooper Community Outreach, there is a panhandling scheme that has surfaced in which families post around area shopping centers looking for unsuspecting shoppers to “help” them.

Those “family members” use a story line that includes their dad having just lost his job in another town and they say they are just trying to get somewhere else. According to Little, several people have referred them to ECCO and not one has shown up, he said.

A recent example went something like this:

“I met a family in a parking lot about a week ago. Jason, Charlotte and their 6 year old son Odhinn recently left California for a more affordable cost of living here in the South.

“In Jacksonville, Fla., (where Jason had a job opportunity that ended up falling through due to this event) they got permission to park their boat (which they used to store all of their belongings) while they interviewed and looked for job opportunities for Charlotte. They returned from their interviewing to find that their boat was stolen.

“All of Jason’s tools, all of the family’s clothes, Charlotte’s driver’s license and birth certificate, all of Odhinn’s toys were taken. They tried to utilize community resources like shelters and food pantries, and found that in addition to being unsafe places for their son, they require either ID, Social Security card, proof of residence, you have to be a resident for at least six months or everyone has to be at least 18 years old to receive services.”

Little has been stopped by two people asking for help with similar stories and he has given them his business card. They never came in for assistance.

“If there is someone in need we want to help, but these folks,” said Little, don’t seem to truly be in need. He has spoken with representatives of organizations like ECCO and these families have not been to their facilities seeking help either. Little encourages citizens to give to their neighbors, but it can be safer simply referring those in need to churches or ECCO rather than giving them money.

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