Look out for people pretending to play violin for money -- police warn of major scam

‘Nationwide issue’ becomes prominent in Michigan

(AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko) (Natacha Pisarenko, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The last time I went to Target in Warren, there was a man playing the violin with his two kids sitting next to him and a sign that said that he needed money, he needed help. Now I’m starting to think, he wasn’t playing violin at all.

Police across the nation are warning their residents to not fall for this latest scheme. Scammers are setting up outside of popular shopping centers, “playing” violin and asking for donations to help pay for things like rent and food.

This issue has gone viral after people started discovering these violinists are just pretending to play and have music playing from a hidden track. People have been posting confrontations where they call out the solicitors for not actually playing the violin, and they’re getting a lot of attention.

Eric Stanley, a Youtuber who has been playing violin professionally for over 12 years, said in a video reacting to these violin scams, “This is the messed up part about this because there are people who dedicate years and years to practicing their craft and learning the violin. When somebody just comes up to a parking lot and does this, it’s pretty messed up.”

Laura Moreau, the Springfield Township Supervisor in Oakland County, took to Facebook earlier this week to say:

“Warning to our compassionate, big-hearted residents—please don’t get scammed! This is a nationwide problem and we’re addressing it at our Davisburg Kroger. These are not your neighbors in need (we’ve seen license plates from Texas, Virginia, and Illinois) and they aren’t real musicians (the violin music is recorded). Please call Sheriff’s dispatch if you see this scam and do not reward them with a donation!”

Most recently, a news station in Kalamazoo confronted a supposed violin player outside of a Target in Portage. In the video, the reporter approaches a man playing the violin with a sign that reads “Dad with 3 kids please need help for food and rent.” When the reporter asks the man a question, he stops playing his violin, but the violin music continues to come out of the speakers. It was clear he was not playing violin at all.

Police in Florida, Maryland, and Connecticut have all made statements warning their citizens not to fall for these tricks.

There are some people on the flip side of the argument that say this is not a scam at all. Some are arguing this is just entertainment, like any other street performer. One on this side of the debate took to Twitter and said, “How is this a scam? Were you entertained? How is that any different from any other public performance? (Magic isn’t real, people do that in public for money all the time) Or simply begging? This is just begging with music!”

Nonetheless, most street musicians are required to have proper permits. Not to mention, it is illegal to solicit on private property without consent from the property owner.

About the Author:

Morgan is a Digital Editor and has been with WDIV since May of this year. She is also studying political science and communications at Wayne State University.