By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

BOSTON (CBS) – Police are urging people to be on the lookout for a scammer working crowded shopping centers north of Boston. As Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve found out, the man tells a very sad story in a loud voice while supposedly talking on his cell phone.

“It bothers me because he taking advantage of good people.” That’s Kim, a shopper who didn’t want her last name used, who says she has seen the same guy on three separate occasions outside the Stop and Shop in Amesbury. She says he is always telling the same sad tale, in a loud voice into his cell phone and it goes like this.

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“I need to get the baby some formula. I need to buy formula. I need to buy gas, mom, come on mom, please, please…”

She says she has then watched as people offered him money.

“He is simply preying on their sympathies,” says Amesbury Police Officer Tom Hanshaw. When Amesbury police heard about the scam, from Kim, they quickly posted a warning on the department’s Facebook page. And within a matter of hours there were more than 50 comments.

Officer Hanshaw says, “we have learned other communities are facing similar reports, Salisbury, Seabrook, New Hampshire, Newburyport, all neighboring communities.”

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And Amesbury Police think it is the same guy. So they are talking to Stop and Shop officials who are now reviewing their surveillance video taken from exterior cameras.

Officer Hanshaw says, “I am thinking since he has been here several times they probably have him on video.”

Kim says, “it means a lot for us to be helping people who are really in need and for him to be scamming like this is just horrific.”

Now here is the interesting part, even if police catch this guy, they may not be able to arrest him. Because while it may be a scam, it’s not a crime for people to offer you money.

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