INSIDE EDITION Investigates Bogus Beggars

With the economy so tough, some people who are down and out are resorting to begging in order to keep food in their mouths. However, not every panhandler is for real. INSIDE EDITION's I-Squad spent two months watching beggars and found some of them

Just how genuine are some of those people you see on the street, asking for a handout?

Day after day, we watched a sad pathetic woman hobbling on crutches, slumped over and shaking her cup for donations.

And boy did her cup runneth over.

Her territory was The Avenue of Avenues, Fifth Avenue, where stores like Gucci, Prada and Tiffany's attract wealthy and apparently generous shoppers. One after another we saw them dropping cash into her cup. On busy days, she averaged an amazing 50 donations an hour.

INSIDE EDITION's I-Squad observe the woman take the money out of the cup and dump it into her purse to make it appear empty for the next passerby.

She certainly looked like a sad and desperate lady. But we were a little suspicious. So we followed her.

She got off a bus in Queens and hopped into a minivan. But it was a totally different looking woman that emerged when the van pulled over.   

It looked like a miracle! She was walking perfectly fine. And, of course, the crutches were gone.

Our producer observed her walking with no crutches, nothing.

Our cameras rolled, as night after night we saw her crossing streets, maneuvering up   stairs, meeting up with friends, and even doing a little shopping.

 So, how does she do it?
When it's time to go to "work", she changes into her "work" clothes in the back of a van.  Voila! She's ready for another day of bent over bogus begging.

Later that morning she told our undercover producer she hurt her back in a car accident.

INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerrero confronted the woman and said, "We've been watching you the past few days and you don't really need those crutches do you? We saw you this morning walking perfectly fine."

Like any good actor, the beggar never broke character.

Guerrero followed her down the street asking, "How much money do you make a day trying to take advantage of people? Look the jig is up. Why don't you walk normally like you did this morning?" But no response.

Experts say the best way to make sure your donations don't end up in the wrong place is to give to a reputable charity that supports programs for the homeless. And we will have part two of this story tomorrow.