Exactly one interesting thing has happened to me since the virus started: I met my first big city conman. Not socially; he was at work. Conning people. Me, specifically. It was while he was conning me. But still, very exciting to meet a real one.
Oh yes, also terrifying. Excellent observation.
I was driving around LA not thinking I looked like a sucker when a truck pulled next to me and honked. People here love to honk, especially when they’re 100% in the wrong, so I ignored him. But at some point I accidentally glanced over and I saw a man looking seriously concerned.
“Bro, your wheel’s wobbling like crazy, it’s all messed up. You better pull over now or you’re gonna crash.” Look, I know that sounds suspicious to you because you’re cheating, I already told you he was a conman. Nobody did me that favor.
So I just assumed it was a real thing and I was in grave car-danger. I pulled over, worrying about how I’d ever manage to handle such a crisis when, to my surprise (but not yours because you live in the future), he parked behind me and jumped out to take a look.
What a guy! They say chivalry is dead, but here we are in 2020 and this ****random surly chap with a scar on his face and a creepy friend who’s staying in the truck and not making eye contact for some reason, they’re taking time out of their busy days to help a complete stranger!
I’m so lucky I met you two! There are bad people out here; people who might try to take advantage of a gullible fella who doesn’t know anything about cars and doesn’t seem concerned about his own physical safety!
To my combined relief and suspicion, he also just happened to have the part I needed, right there in his truck. What luck! Then he did something weird: he told me he needed to weld the part on, and pulled out a can of WD-40.
I know about as much about fixing cars as I do about koala midwifery, but it just so happens I know what welding is. I mean, I don’t UNDERSTAND it, but I get the gist: metal, fire, goalie helmet, union dues, complain a lot about your ex-wife. Welding!
I know for sure it’s not a spray can. I know that much. Unless W-D-40 stands for “40 times better at Da Welding” but no, the letters are backwards. He definitely wasn’t welding.
I should have been mad about the con, but I was mostly annoyed he was doing such a shit job of it. Like when a spam email is all “give password i am y0ur bank promise.” Don’t do crime, but for fuck’s sake, spell check is built into everything now! This isn’t koala midwifery here.
Scar Face finishes “welding” and says I’m all set. He’s just glad to help, wouldn’t even think of accepting a tip. However. If I could just pay him back for the “part”, that would be great. No big deal, the wholesale price. An easy $250. At that price I’m stealing from HIM.
If I don’t have the cash, he’d be happy to follow me to an ATM. I was on to him at “welding”, but that’s a red flag the size of the ones on car dealerships. No Good Samaritan offers to linger behind you at the place where you hide all your money guarded by just four digits.
Also, who the fuck just has $250? When you pulled up next to my 2007 Subaru, did you think a sultan was driving? This isn’t exactly a booming economy. I might be able to go halfsies with you on a postage stamp, but I need to check with my wife first.
Plus. PLUS! It is 2020, my dude! Who carries any cash? If you want to rob a millenial, you’re gonna need to take Venmo. I’m not looking to get scammed by a fucking Luddite.
Eventually, I managed to persuade him that he was barking up a poor-ass tree. He went back to his creepy truck partner and I drove home, no detectable wobble in my wheels. But here’s where it gets good (he said, just in case you weren’t having fun yet).
I wondered if this was a known scam. Is it like Game of Thrones? Am I two seasons behind on the “wobbly wheel scam”? I Bingled it and the first thing that popped up was THE FUCKING GUYS. The exact same two guys! From two paragraphs ago! Just staring out at me, looking like this:
That’s Scar Face on the right and Mr. Stays In Truck (his understudy?) on the left.
I’d like to tell you they looked more trustworthy in person, but they for sure didn’t.
I got that picture from a 2018 article about them getting arrested in Texas for this exact scam. Which they pulled dozens and dozens of times. Sometimes they even did it with their moms and sometimes with their young children.
You guys. I didn’t just experience the Wobbly Wheel Scam; I met the Michael Jordan of the Wobbly Wheel Scam!
Scary Facey has been conning people out of $1,000/each with this little bit of larceny and —
— Wait, $1,000? He asks for $1,000? He told me the part only cost $250! Here I am again, should be mad about the crime itself but instead I’m insulted at the way he attempted to crime me.
I know I just made it clear I don’t have $250 — I’m not a Walton — but I was still insulted it was so obvious! Normally he charges a grand, but I’m so unsuccessful looking he saw me and thought, “I’ll be lucky to get $250 from this dipshit. And I’m prepared to go lower.”
Today only, just because you look like your life sucks, 75% off fake auto parts. No charge for Da Welding.
How did he manage to rob so many people despite the obvious flaws in the con? I wondered that too! Then I thought back to when I told him I never carry cash he said, “If I had Venmo you’d do it?” A genuine question. Possibly his only honest moment with me. And I thought, oh fuck.
Did I just… make him better at this? He was so interested, I’d be willing to bet my half of a postage stamp that the next time he pulled somebody over, he’d whip out a Square reader, flash his Venmo handle, have a QR-code for his bitcoin wallet painted on the back of the truck.
And that, my friends, is how you get to be the Michael Jordan of the Wobbly Wheel Scam. You don’t rest on your evil laurels. Scar Face is out there every day looking for ways to improve his game. If he ever finds out what welding means, he’ll be unstoppable.
Post Script that isn’t funny: while telling this story to a friend, she pointed out that she had heard of this scam, but it was a little different. It was how the Zodiac Killer lured a potential victim into his car. So yeah, that’s fucking terrifying.
Really no joke here, just telling you that I know this and that I should be super thankful that I learned this lesson from a guy trying to get $250 and not somebody trying to serial kill me. The point is don’t let people try to help you with your car, I guess. Shit.