No, You Didn’t Break His Glasses: Avoiding the Eyeglass Scam

  • BY Lainie Petersen

Times must be really tough, because I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about the “broken eyeglass scam.” If you aren’t familiar with it, here’s how it works:

You are walking down the street and you collide with another pedestrian. You make your apologizes and attempt to move on, only to be accosted with the complaint that you broke the person’s glasses, which just happened to be in their pocket at the time you bumped into to him (or her).  The pedestrian will then brandish his damaged glasses so that you may see the havoc caused by your exuberant stride, and may go on at length about how he is a man of modest means and is now unable to see clearly.

Therefore, you are under obligation to pay for the repair of his glasses. Or at least contribute to the cost. $50 should do the trick, but he’ll gladly accept $20.

Keep your wallet shut.

Along with the pigeon drop and the shell trick, this is one of the oldest scams in the book. Variations on the con involve other breakable items, such as wine and medication bottles.  In any case, however, keep in mind that you aren’t under any obligation to pay up.

In most cases, all you need to do is look the scammer in the eye and say,

“Sorry, I don’t have any cash.”


“I’ll have to call the police so that I can file a claim with my homeowner’s insurance company.”


“I know this is a scam, and I’m calling the cops.”


In most cases, scammers will move on, looking for another target.

The scam works for two reasons: First, the victim is jarred by getting bumped into and then verbally confronted by the scammer. The second reason is that con artists prey upon the decency of others.  Nobody likes to be the cause of causing damage to another person’s property, particularly something like glasses. But the chances of glasses getting broken in a person’s pocket as a result of a street collision is pretty slim. . .don’t let confusion and having your emotions played cloud your thinking.

As I said earlier, most scammers will flee the scene if confronted. However, if the con artist is persistent and won’t leave you alone, here are some tips for dealing with the situation:

1. Move into an office building, restaurant or shop. If the con artist has been working the area, it’s likely that the employees or security guards know who he is. He won’t want to follow you into some place where he could be outed. If he hangs around outside the shop or building, call the police.

2. If the scammer menaces or threatens you (very unlikely, but possible) scream for help. He doesn’t want to attract attention and will probably run.

3. Suggest that the scammer replace his glasses at Zenni Optical, where he is sure to get a great deal.

One more thing: Even if you don’t fall for the scam, call your police department’s non-emergency line to report the incident. Police are often interested in busting street scammers and can use your information to address the problem.