Police Warn of Scam Artist Violin Players at Shopping Centers

Police are warning citizens around the country of scam artists who pretend to play the violin at shopping centers and parking lots while an instrumental plays through a speaker.

The Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) in Maryland tweeted a warning of the trend on Thursday.

WARNING: This is a nationwide issue, please be aware of scam violin players in Rockville and other location’s shopping centers. They are soliciting money through cash AND electronic methods.

Please share this alert to others. Stay Safe.

#scamviolinplayers#MCPnews pic.twitter.com/Axjj7tnkuk

— Montgomery County Department of Police (@mcpnews) December 2, 2021

“WARNING: This is a nationwide issue, please be aware of scam violin players in Rockville and other location’s shopping centers,” the MCPD tweeted. “They are soliciting money through cash AND electronic methods.”

MCPD followed up with another tweet on Friday, stating in part that the department does “not enforce panhandling laws and there is no criminal violation.”

“These individuals are pretending to play the violin over a music trac [sic] and claim to be homeless or have a sick relative, which is usually untrue,” the department added. “MCPD cannot discourage anyone from giving money, but does offer a word of warning to be cautious, especially if using phone apps.”

An incident was documented last month in Pinellas Park, Florida, according to Fox 13. Crime and Prevention and Community Policing Corporal James Gatti told the outlet that the scammers usually hold signs asking for help with rent, food, and the care of relatives and sometimes children stand beside a counterfeit performer as they pretend to play.

“The second we pull up, they drop the violin, but the music is still playing through the speaker,” Gatti told Fox 13. 

Gatti says the con artists are part of an organized group that plays on people’s emotions rather than violin strings. 

“They are just traveling through the southeastern United States, stopping in different places,” he said. 

Early in 2020, an actual violinist, Jewel Kirkendoll, came across a man pretending to play the violin at the Broadway Market Center in Tyler, Texas, according to KETK. Kirkendoll called the man on his bluff. 

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“I got my violin out and I asked him if I could play with him, and he was like yeah sure,” Kirkendoll told KETK. “He didn’t play, so I said is it because you don’t really know how to play, and he was like yeah, I’m so sorry.”

Corporal Gatti has a word of advice for anyone that comes across the scammers.

“There’s many other places that you can give that hard earned money of yours to you, that it’s going to actually go for what it’s intended for, as opposed to somebody fooling you with what they’re asking the money for,” he told Fox 13.