If You See This at the Grocery Store, Report It Immediately, Police Warn

·4 min read

Grocery shopping is one of our most mundane weekly errands, whether it's at the local Walmart, Publix, or Kroger. You expect to find everything on your list at these locations, but you probably don't expect to have to contact the authorities on your next shopping trip. However, police across the country have issued a new warning about a prevalent scam that you'll want to keep an eye out for. Read on to find out what you may want to call and report.

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There are constant scam warnings to be aware of.

Unfortunately, scams and criminal activity are prevalent, and police send out frequent alerts to let the public know when and how they could be tricked. Scammers might call you and claim to be a federal official or even show up on your doorstep posing as a representative from your utility company.

When you leave the house, you need to be that much more conscious of fraudsters who think they can catch you off-guard. Last month, the Wilkes-Barre Township Police Department in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, stated that more and more residents had been approached in parking lots and asked to buy jewelry or watches, but according to police, these items are often counterfeit and sold at a "too good to be true price."

If you weren't already on high alert when walking through parking lots, you'll want to keep your eyes peeled, as police are asking you to be mindful of yet another threat outside of grocery stores.

Stay on high alert in grocery store parking lots.

Street performers, troubadours, and buskers are not an uncommon sight, particularly in cities where they can attract enough of an audience to earn substantial tips. But some "musicians" aren't as legitimate as they might seem.

According to reporting by News Channel 3 in Michigan, police have noticed a trend of people pretending to play the violin for donations outside of supermarkets and grocery stores. These performers often have signs claiming they are working to feed and support their families, and even include handles to donate via electronic payment methods like Venmo. However, their claims are not always true.

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The issue is widespread.

Over the past several months, police departments across the U.S. have issued similar warnings about these fake violinists, who appear to play the instrument but are actually just miming along to a recorded track that comes through a speaker. Unsuspecting victims may not realize this is a ruse and feel inclined to "donate" after reading an accompanying sign with a plea for help.

Police in Connecticut, Texas, West Virginia, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New York have received reports of similar instances, according to a Dec. 2021 Facebook post from the Crestview Police Department in Florida. The department also noted that this is an "organized scam," and fraudsters may use "intimidation and distraction techniques" in order to pressure victims into giving money.

"Warning to our compassionate, big-hearted residents—please don't get scammed," Lauren Moreau, Springfield Township Supervisor in Oakland County, Michigan, wrote in a July 25 Facebook post, adding that officials were "addressing" the issue at a Kroger store in Davisburg, Michigan.

"These are not your neighbors in need (we've seen license plates from Texas, Virginia, and Illinois) and they aren't real musicians (the violin music is recorded)," Moreau wrote.

Heed this warning before donating, and report a scam if you see one.

While it's not illegal to pretend to play and instrument and request tips, law enforcement officials ask that you take a moment to think before opening your phone or wallet.

"MCPD cannot discourage anyone from giving money, but does offer a word of warning to be cautious, especially if using phone apps," the Montgomery County Department of Police wrote in a tweet.

Police ask that you report this scam if you see it, and if you sense something isn't quite right, consider donating to a cause or charity you know to be reputable instead.

"If you want to provide money that will go to people who need it, please donate to established, confirmed programs that will truly support the needy," the Norwalk, Connecticut Police Department wrote on Facebook in Dec. 2021.