The Urge to Help

Part of what makes us human is the wonderful urge to help others of the species when they experience difficulty. All we have to do is look at the outpouring of money to other countries – to people we’ve never met-when they experience floods and earthquakes. This is a wonderful human quality. We just need to balance it with a bit of cynicism. Here’s an example.

There was a recent article about an older gentleman who was scammed out of $10,000. He met a stranger at a gas station, just chatting. Great. No problem with being social. The stranger then proceeded to talk about how he lived out-of-country, had just inherited money, but could only take $10,000 out with him. The stranger offers this older gentleman a large part of the inheritance (ok, now is the time to be suspicious. A stranger offers you a lot of cash? Yeah right. Turn Around. Run the other way. It is definitely too good to be true).

The deal was that if the older gentleman received the cash, he had to donate a large portion of it to charity. Ok, that sounds alright. Doing good opens all of our hearts. The stranger had him hooked with this. However, the older gentleman was asked to show good faith by taking some of his own money out of the bank. Now we weren’t there to hear the pleas, or smooth talking, or see the nice smile of this suspicious stranger. But mark my words – you need to look through that and start to connect the dots.

If we simplistically rationalize this – an older man meets a STRANGER at a gas station. He is PROMISED MONEY. To prove good faith he is asked to WITHDRAW MONEY. Is this rational on any level? No.

The elder gentleman withdraws cash, the stranger asks to count it, and disappears. If anyone is surprised about this you shouldn’t be. Yes it is harder when you’re in the situation, but a number of alarm bells should be going off in your head as this transaction occurs.

Why Did The Gentleman Take the Bait?

  • We all have an urge to help, and this often grows as we experience more tragedy
  • The stranger is practiced at this – smooth talking, friendly, impassioned, groomed
  • There was an opportunity to receive money with no effort

The Urge to Help or Greed?

  • The words “out of the country” and “inheritance” should have rung bells in the elder gentleman’s head
  • Being asked to withdraw money should have made the elder gentleman run the other way
  • The opportunity to get money, or help another, was so compelling that he ignored reasoning

At the risk of leaving some truly honest sap in a pickle, you need to walk away. Unusual circumstances like this are just too good to be true.

Categorized as BC Blog

By Carrie Rattle

Carrie Rattle is a Principal at, a website for women focused on mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Read More