5 mins read

Autism and the Scam

We were on vacation and there was a tiny incident. Not even an incident. Yet it could have been.

What was it?

My husband, son, and I were walking to the St. Louis Cardinals Busch Stadium in St. Louis. We had parked our rental about five blocks away from the stadium, checked out the famous Arch, and then headed to the ballpark.

As we were walking, we had to walk around a building that was under construction. The city had constructed a “lane” for pedestrians that were heading to the ballpark.

It was a rather narrow lane, so I led the way, with my husband and son behind me.

As I made my way to the front of the building, with the stadium finally right in front of me, a woman came out from a makeshift side alley (due to blocking off of the sideway because of the construction).

She approached me and said, “It’s five dollars to go through this way.”

I waved her off and kept walking.

Then, a thought occurred to me.

What was the thought?

My son was right behind me.

I turned and saw the woman approach my son.

My husband had stepped off to the side to get a photo of the stadium so he #1) avoided getting accosted by this woman, #2) didn’t notice that she was approaching our son.

Yet, I was paying attention.

I stopped and watched as the woman said to my son, “You have to pay five dollars to come this way.”

What happened?

I noticed my son hesitate, and then I beckoned him to follow me. I took a step or two toward him, steering him away from the woman.

When we were a few feet away, and she went to accost others, I said to my son, “That woman was trying to scam you.”

He said, “How?”

I said, “She’s trying to scam five dollars off of people who really believe that they have to pay HER to use this public walkway.”

That was it. The “incident” was over.

What did I think of the whole thing?

If left to his own devices, I don’t know if my son really would have given her any money.

First, he didn’t have any money on him. (Wisely, I don’t give him any concession money until we’re inside the ballpark.) So, he had no money to give her.

Second, I think he would have questioned her further about why she had to give her money.

He may have questioned her enough to make her go away.

I think once someone questions someone like that enough times, the scammer has to bail because it’s taking the scammer too long to score.

Then, I thought, my son has a lifetime to learn when he’s being scammed and when he’s not.

How does he learn it?

We’ve discussed the computer for years now. You don’t click on ANYTHING! If my son wants to buy anything, I have to do it. (I make sure it’s legitimate.)

Now, out in the real world, it really is (more or less) learning-by-experience. I quickly explained what that woman wanted not because I thought my son would have fallen for it (if he had had any money). But, to just make him aware of it.

All kids, autism or not, have to be taught that there are bad people out there. Every parent does the “Don’t get into a strange car” and “tell an adult if another person had made you feel uncomfortable.” There are dozens more like those two examples.

But, we also have to teach this kind of stuff. Yes, a woman will try to come up to you saying that you have to give her five dollars to use a public walkway. Because of the construction, and the way the temporary walkway was arranged, this woman perpetrated this scam, and it may even have worked on some people! Amazing, right?

I feel individuals like my son are particularly vulnerable to things like this. That’s why I feel I have to teach. And teach and teach and teach.

I know I wouldn’t be able to head all of it off. But, I’m going to try!

Autism and the Scam


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