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Frank Gray

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Gas scam running on full

A column on a man who was talked out of a little bit of money in what could be called a gas scam brought a lot of reaction – from other people who had been marks in the same ploy.

The story started with a call from a man named Ron Allen of Noble County. On Christmas Day, he was approached by a woman at the Speedway station on Sherman Boulevard. She was crying and told a tale of having to drive to Fort Wayne from out of town to take her child to the emergency room, and now she didn't have gas to get home. Allen gave her $20.

Then, a month later, at the same gas station, the same woman, in her early 20s, in the same SUV, a Chevy Trailblazer, approached him again with the same story, even the same tears, Allen said.

Angered that it was all an act, Allen notified the clerk inside, who came out to confront the woman, who quickly drove off.

It turns out the woman had been working that station from time to time, hiding behind one of the pumps where employees couldn't see her, putting on her act. Others inside the store said she also worked other gas stations around town.

Which stations?

Well, a man named Michael Albertson sent an email that he had been scammed by the same person, with a Trailblazer, pitching a story about needing gas and a kid in the hospital, at the Marathon station on Goshen Road. It was disheartening, he said, considering he's unemployed but gave the woman what little money he had in his wallet.

On the other side of town, at the Meijer gas station on Illinois Road, Lynn Hossler said she was approached by a woman with the same description. She was skeptical, but she gave the woman $20. Next time, she says, she won't be so gullible.

Another woman, Amy Aker, said she was approached by the woman at Phil's One Stop at Washington Center Road and U.S. 33. The crying woman said she had to get to DuPont Hospital because her daughter was in the ER there, but she needed gas money. Aker told the woman the truth. She had no cash. Then she left and felt guilty.

Don't feel guilty.

The same woman hit customers at the Kroger gas station at St. Joe Center and Maplecrest. Tina Rutledge said she just didn't have a good feeling and said no. The woman seemed to disappear into thin air, she said. "She seems like she's had some practice at making a quick exit," she said.

Another man said he experienced a major guilt trip after turning down a woman of the same description at the Speedway on Indiana 14, and almost turned around and went back.

Finally, one woman, who identified herself only as Lindsay, said she encountered the woman at the Valero station on Ardmore Avenue and became angry as she watched the woman talk a man out of some money. She said after the man left, she watched the woman sit in her car and smile and put on lip gloss. "It disgusted me," the woman said.

There are other individuals who have told me in passing of their encounters with the same individual, and others have passed on stories of others who have fallen for the scam.

Well, tell your friends. Then the scam won't work anymore.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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