It's a heartbreaking image of a pregnant woman and a little boy panhandling with a sign that says “Please Help."
But the same woman was spotted being driven away from a San Diego shopping mall where she was begging in a $35,000 Mercedes-Benz.
They were caught on camera by shopper Melissa Smith who was so upset, she tailed them to another mall.
Smith said, “They were leaving and I noticed they were in a Mercedes-Benz and I thought, ‘Wow! Here they are counting money, laughing!' He goes to park the Mercedes, then puts up the sign and in not less than five minutes, here she is getting all this money from all these people!”
The pregnant panhandler stood at a San Diego mall week after week, and we're told many shoppers took pity on the woman and gave her money.
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San Diego's KGTV tracked down a woman believed to be the pregnant panhandler. She was no longer pregnant, and was holding a newborn baby.
A reporter asked the woman, “Is this you right here begging on the street?”
She looked like the same woman. Her purse is similar. So are the pants, and it sure did seem like the same little boy. There was also a man with her. They claimed they spoke no English and walked away. They were not driving a Mercedes. Instead, they took off in a brand new black minivan with dealer plates.
KGTV’s Cristin Severance spoke to INSIDE EDITION's Jim Moret.
Moret asked her, "Are people incensed that this woman may have more money than the people she is begging from?"
Severance said, "The comments are, they are mad. A lot of people are just not happy that she is on the side of the road, asking for their money and then getting in this car."
So, who is the mystery pregnant beggar in the fancy car? There's a clue: the license plate on the Mercedes. It was traced to a $2,500-a-month apartment in a building north of San Diego. The family who used to live there recently moved out.
Panhandling scams are on the rise.
A poor soul goes around in a wheelchair all day begging. But his slurred speech is an act. He doesn't even really need the wheelchair! He says his scam nets him a six figure salary, saying, “I clear $100,000-a-year doing this.”
Who would ignore a poor, bent woman who walks on crutches. INSIDE EDITION found her panhandling on the Avenue of Avenues—Fifth Avenue in New York City.
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INSIDE EDITION found the same woman, fashionably dressed going out for the evening. It was a miracle! She was walking perfectly well.
INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero confronted her and said, “We've been watching you the last few days and you don't really need those crutches do you?”
But like any good actor, she never broke character.
“Look the jig is up. Why don’t you walk normally like you did this morning,” said Guerrero.
Whether it's a bogus beggar like the woman on Fifth Avenue or a pregnant panhandler in a Mercedes, experts say it's best to give only to legitimate charities.