EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 18, 2014

Police warn of latest scams

Panhandlers use new tactics outside local shopping centers

AMESBURY — The phone conversation sounds innocent enough — a young man standing outside the Carriagetown Marketplace Stop & Shop asking his mother for money so he can get home or to buy formula for his baby. But according to local police, the man is hoping to attract the attention of shoppers so that they will give him money for other purposes.

“People want to mean well, they want to help out. But it’s a scam,” Amesbury police crime prevention officer Thomas Hanshaw said.

Hanshaw said the young man, about 20 years old, was seen outside the Macy Street supermarket last week speaking in a loud enough voice to stop shoppers in their tracks. After separating victims from their money, he leaves the scene in a gray SUV. He hasn’t been seen in recent days.

Word of the advanced panhandler has spread across the area, as the Amesbury Police Department warned residents of the young man’s scam on its Facebook page. Hanshaw admitted the man likely wasn’t breaking any laws — but nonetheless believed it was in the department’s best efforts to get the word out.

“Whatever he’s doing, it’s certainly not right,” Hanshaw said, adding that panhandling on private property would likely not be well received by Stop & Shop.

Hanshaw said similar money-raising efforts have been reported at Stop & Shop, but in those cases, the panhandlers are more upfront, simply asking shoppers for gas money.

Stop & Shop isn’t the only area supermarket that has seen panhandlers soliciting customers. In Newburyport, police are aware of an older man who stands by the Storey Avenue entrance to Port Plaza with a sign that reads “Will Work For Food.”

Amesbury City Councilor Donna McClure posted that she tried to give that man a bag of groceries only to be told that he didn’t want it and preferred cash. Another poster, a Newburyport police officer, said the man will never take a job if offered and is only interested in money.

Both the Amesbury panhandler and the Newburyport panhandler are discussed at great length by folks posting comments on the Amesbury Police Department’s Facebook post regarding the Stop & Shop incident. Some of the posters report seeing the Amesbury panhandler in Seabrook, Salisbury and the same Newburyport shopping area.

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