I had an insanely early flight this morning for some client work in the Bay Area, so last night I hopped out to fill up on gas and grab some pizza for family movie night (The Muppets Take Manhattan, in case you were wondering).

I’m at the gas station when the guy at the pump next to me asks if I ever shop at Target. This is the sort of question that raises my wariness under most circumstances, and since we were, at that moment, about 100 meters from said Target, this line of conversation was clearly headed someplace interesting.

My curiosity piqued, I said, “yes”.

My pump-mate then proceeded to ask me,

“We’re just trying to get some cash to find a place to stay tonight, I have this $50 gift card that I’ll sell you for $40…”

“No thanks.”

I realize it’s been over two decades since I lived in New Jersey (the part that likes to say they’re from New York), but some instincts never die. Anyone reading this blog knows that said gift card was, shall we say, certified pre-owned. The odds of there being $.01 left on it, never mind $50, were significantly lower than those of my baby’s diaper not requiring a full hazmat response.

Or it was totally fake.

This isn’t that significant an event. Most of you encounter this sort of stuff every couple years or so, at a minimum. I even once fell for an artful scam when I was traveling abroad, although my paranoia did manage to constrain the damage.

But I do find the parallels with online scams interesting. Unlike my overseas adventure, this dude was clearly not the most trustworthy on the face of the planet. That’s one nice thing about online – even with bad grammar, no one knows you smell like a wet dog on a three week bender, and look like Lindsay Lohan after a weekend drug vacation with Charlie Sheen.

And this dude had to run from location to location, because sitting still for very long would result in a call to law enforcement. And never mind that each contact is a one-off, costing time and gas.

Perhaps it’s an effective scam, but certainly not overly efficient.

Anyway, it’s been a long time since someone tried to defraud me face to face, so it was kind of refreshing.