Is it better to know you've been scammed or not know?

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 9:37 PM

If you've been scammed, is it better to know or to live in blissful ignorance? Does knowing harden your heart? Does not knowing keep you open to future acts of kindness?

I pondered this after asking readers to share their scammer stories. Most stories lack a denouement, but some have a satisfying conclusion - although it usually costs a few bucks to discover that.

Ten years ago, Oakton's Lisa Pianta was approached in McPherson Square by a well-dressed man in a trench coat who spun a story about needing cash to get his car out of the parking garage. "He had just gotten back into town, his luggage was lost, he had no money . . . blah blah blah," Lisa wrote. She gave him $5.

Several months later, Lisa and her husband were waiting at a light on Constitution Avenue. "A man in a trench coat approached my window, and I rolled it down slightly to see what he wanted. It was the same guy, with the same sad story! My husband swears I tried to grab his coat collar through the window as I screamed profanities, demanding my money back, but I'm denying that."

Heading home to Alexandria one night after work, Paul Kondis had stopped at the light at 14th and C streets, waiting to make the left over the 14th Street Bridge. A car pulled up next to him, and the driver explained that he worked at the fish market, someone had stolen his wallet, he lived way out in Virginia and was low on gas. "I gave him $5. the light turned green. I went home," Paul wrote.

The next day, Paul was walking down L'Enfant Plaza when a car pulled up, and the driver started telling him his story.

"It was the same guy. So I said, 'You told me the same thing last night.' He said 'So, is that a 'No?'

"He may be a slimy weasel, but at least he has a good work ethic."

The District's Vance Garnett was approached on the street by a guy in a jogging suit who asked for $3 for the Metro home, explaining that he had stopped Vance because he recognized him. "I jog past your place every morning," the man said. "I'll drop the money off tomorrow."

Vance gave him the three bucks, pretty sure he had been conned.

A week later in another part of town, the same guy in the same outfit stopped Vance and again asked for $3 to get home by Metro.

Wrote Vance: "That's when I had the pleasure of telling the guy: 'I don't have any cash on me now, but I'll give it to you tomorrow morning when you jog past my house.'

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