Portsmouth residents warn about scammer taking advantage of giving spirit


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — It’s the time of year when people give back during the holidays.

On Monday, Robert Church, who lives off Bain Street in Portsmouth, found himself helping a man in need.

Or, so he thought.

“He said his car needed to be towed and his wife was waiting for him over there… They needed to pay the tow truck, and they wouldn’t take credit cards. He needed $40, so I gave him 40. He was like, ‘Got another 5?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I got another 5, take it,'” Church said.

He said shortly after, he got a feeling something fishy was going on.

Church said the man tried to act more credible by claiming his neighbor, Joyce Johnson, sent him to his house for help.

Johnson said that didn’t happen. In fact, he knocked on her door with a similar story.

“When I opened the door, the first thing he said was the lady on the corner had sent him to me, and that his wife was stranded and she needed money, and he had the credit card but needed $20 to add to it,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she didn’t have any cash and called police shortly after.

Church said he took to their West Park View Community Facebook page to warn others after the incident.

He posted a picture of the man riding down the street on his bike from his home camera. Hours later, neighbors started posting more Ring camera pictures of the man acting suspicious on their porch.

Now, Church is warning others.

“Keep your eye open. If something doesn’t feel right, if your cat senses and the hairs on the back of your neck are sticking up, all you have to do is turn around and close the door,” Church said.

He said he’d ultimately like his money back, and for this guy to get money through honorable ways.

“I’d like to see him stop doing what he’s doing and actually start an honest living. Make an honest living. Do something that’s productive for yourself and for your family,” he added.

Portsmouth Police say they’ve received several similar calls from other people in the area.

They are currently investigating Church’s incident as fraud.

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