Have you ever been caught off-guard by a stranger asking you for money? It can be jarring—even scary if you’re not expecting the interaction. However, there are plenty of ways to respond to the person. Here are some options.
1. Give to Charity
This is more of a long-term solution that could help out many people. If you don’t have cash or don’t want to give it out when you encounter the person, you can put some toward a local organization that helps unhoused people.
2. I Don’t Carry Cash Nowadays
This will only work if you’re paying with a debit or credit card. If someone sees you pull out your wallet with cash, they will most likely call your bluff.
It’s true—most of us don’t carry cash anymore. Some even carry crypto.
3. Block Out the Noise Selectively
I wouldn’t recommend listening to music while walking or driving around. However, wearing your headphones can save the day if someone approaches you as you’re walking into the gas station store. One user suggested only appearing like you’re listening to something so that people think you can’t hear them.
4. No, Thank You
Another user mentioned that when a stranger asks them for money, he responds, “No, thanks.” People are usually confused and walk away. Remember that it is important to avoid being rude or hostile to those asking for money.
5. Want My Debt?
This is more of a joking response to lighten the situation, but it’s a good way to go if you’re having a bad day. The truth is that you’re not a bad person if you don’t give money to everyone. You may be undergoing a financial struggle, or you might be having a bad day.
It’s best to give yourself time to recover and give money when it comes from the heart.
6. Politely Walk Away
One user recalled someone asking for money, claiming his daughter was in the emergency room. He politely said, “Sorry, not today.” The man insisted, but the user kept walking. After the third time, the stranger walked away.
A stranger insisting like this could put you in an awkward or dangerous position, so seeking safety should be your priority.
7. Call Their Bluff
If someone tells you they’re hungry, offer to buy them food. If their car is broken, offer to take a look. Odds are if they walk away—they’re lying.
“People say they’re hungry and I say ‘Let’s go in and buy some food.’ People say they need to get somewhere and I say ‘Let me drive you there, it’s on my way.’ People say their car is broken and I say ‘Let me take I [sic] look, I might be able to help.’
“Maybe there is a genuinely hungry, hurt, or stranded person out there, but I’ve never met them. They usually walk away from me.”
8. Skip the Ride
Say you’re picking up friends, don’t have enough space, or simply say “no” if someone asks for a ride. One user recalled giving a woman a ride until they’d realized she was trying to lure them to a trailer park where someone had experienced an unfortunate incident.
9. How About Gas?
If someone walks up to you with an empty gas can as you’re pouring gas, consider pouring a bit of gas to help the stranger out. Use your judgment, but at least you know the stranger needs gas.
10. Have a Safe Trip
We often shrug off people asking for money, but we forget that we may need money from strangers one day.
11. Learn From Past Experiences
A guide could be created on how strangers have tried to scam others for their money. If something doesn’t feel right, do your best to walk away immediately. Some will do more than get upset after hearing “no.”
12. Be a Mind-Reader
If someone approaches you with a “hey,” this most likely means they’re about to pitch you their ask. Someone commented that you could respond with, “Hi! You’re not gonna ask me for money right?”
You judge whether or not they truly need the money and give it to them if you have money to spare. At least you’ll know if they’re genuine based on the stranger’s response.
13. I Don’t Understand English
If you speak a second language, this may come naturally, but even if you don’t, pretending you don’t understand English is an option. You may get a funny stare, but you’ll have an excuse to walk away.
“[Y]ou have to say that you don’t speak German but say it in french while in America,” one person suggested.
14. Spontaneously Run Your Pockets
This will only work if you carry a few loose dollar bills. Run your pockets before the stranger and give them a dollar or two.