Tourist Scam Alert: 2004
Tourists are targeted by scam and rip-off artists everywhere in Europe. If you know the games (spilling the mustard, bus 64 in Rome, and so on), you're less likely to be a victim. By sharing the latest scams (and learning from each others' mistakes) we'll all travel more safely. What cons and scams have you encountered?
Remember, pickpocketing attempts throughout Europe can be expected unless you wear a moneybelt under your clothing. Smart travelers leave wallets at home and store their credit cards, passport, paper money and rail ticket(s) in a secure moneybelt. Visit our Travel Store for Rick Steves' recommended moneybelts.
Read the Distillation: Tourist Scams, 2005
Was in Rome and Florence recently and had a wonderful time. All the warnings about gypsies are very true. We were walking along the forum when a woman and child approached seemingly from nowhere. Having read Rick's warnings we quickly backed off before anything happened. Don't stand still. Move away from them. We were lucky, but we saw it happening again to others. Hopefully they were lucky too. Though I felt safe for most of the trip, zip up your jackets, wear money belts, etc. and you will have a wonderful time, especially in busy tourist areas. Stay alert!
Seattle, WA USA Sat 01/01/2005
Hotel arrival caution
Members of our group transferred by bus from the Prague airport to the hotel. As the luggage was being offloaded from the bus, a gentleman offered to help a woman in the group with removing her bag from the luggage hold. She thought that he was from the hotel, and laid her purse down next to her carryon bag. By the time the suitcase was out of the luggage hold and she got her bearings, her purse was gone.Be especially vigilant right after your transatlantic flight; you are tired and it's easy to let your guard down.
Rochester, NY USA Wed 12/08/2004
London Taxi Scam Danger
Once again, watch out for London Taxi scam. London taxi drivers must pass very tough written and road examinations to obtain their licences. And their cars must also pass rigourous testing. But some thugs are driving cars they claim to be taxis. Some poeple who get into their "taxis" are robbed and several women are raped.London police and the legitimate drivers work very hard to get these pirates off the street (and into prison.)
Remember: in London, only the familiar "black" cabs can be hailed from the street. If any other kind of car stops for you, tell them to get lost, no matter how insistant they may be.Licenced "mini cabs" can be contacted by phone. If you have any doubts, ask to see their licences. Or just don't get in.
Check out this site to see what else is being done. http://www.londontransport.co.uk/pco/press-releases/2004/october/press-1215.shtml
Edmonton, Canada Mon 12/06/2004
Count Your Cash
At a hotel in Paris where I have stayed numerous times I paid my last bill in cash. I handed over a wad of 50EU bills and told the clerk that there was 600Eu there. She counted the bills and said "this is only 550." I had no way to prove that it was really 600 since I didn't count it in front of her (I had counted it earlier). We both searched around and didn't find the missing 50. I gave her another 50, figuring it was the only thing I could do.
USA Wed 11/17/2004
Taxi scam in London
On an early trip to Victoria station to catch the Gatwick Express 2 weeks ago, a London taxi driver told me the train line was down for repairs. He drove me to a back entrance that appeared closed, and told me that section of Victoria Station was closed. Then he offered to drive me for 80 pounds to Gatwick. Fortunately, it sounded a little too suspicious, so I didn't fall for it. But it was nearly convincing. Still love London and its cabbies!
Atlanta, GA USA Sat 11/13/2004
Planes, trains and NO Automobiles
In a long life of travel in the US and abroad I have rented cars many times and never, not once, did it fail that the rental people somewhere along the line tried to cheat. Either they try to add one charges, can't find your contract, tell some lie to sell some add-on or after the fact try claim some damage or find some way to add an additional charge. The unpleasantness is reason enough for me to prefer trains and planes, not to mention all the other advantages of trains in Europe. Funny thing, I have never had a railroad company try to charge me for a ding on their train.
Charles M. Luther
USA Wed 11/03/2004
Pickpockets in Italy
My father and mother-in-law recently returned from a bus tour in Italy. While boarding the bus, they witnessed a woman carrying a baby in a blanket (and two other small children) surround one of the tour bus passengers. My father-in-law had read about theives on this website, and tried to step between them. There was a commotion, and the "baby" fell. The "baby" was a doll. Fortunately, the theives ran off! My husband and I are going to Italy in March of 2005--we will wear money belts, pay attention to our surroundings, and enjoy ourselves, thanks to Rick's advice!
Parkville, MD USA Sun 10/31/2004
Vienna Ticket Machine Scam
Just want to mention an odd situation that happened to me at Floridsdorf train station in Vienna. As this is not a touristy area, I doubt that many travelers would be here, but the potential scam may be repicated elsewhere.
I was going to work one recent Monday morning- very groggy as usual- and I stopped at a ticket machine to buy a weekly pass with my debit card. I was very clearly using the machine, yet someone came up from behind me and started pressing buttons while I was waiting for my card to clear. He had a woman with him who said (in German), "Oh, wait- he's not finished yet." I think this may have been to make it look innocent. The guy continued to almost push me out of the way with his uncomfortable presence beside me, so I did what you are told to do: I protected my card and wallet, took my metro ticket, and got away from them as soon as I could.
I turned back and saw that they were gone, and I got onto my streetcar. The whole way to work all I could think of was, "What's the scam here?" Especially since they didn't get my debit card itself or my PIN number.
Then I realized--- the machines print out a receipt several seconds later with your ENTIRE credit card number on them (at least here in Vienna). Don't ask me why- it sounds pretty stupid but it's true. If you walk away too soon, your receipt will print out for the next person who walks by. So I got to work, called up my bank immediately, and had them put a hold on my account. In fact, my bank didn't believe that they would print the entire number- it was news to them. Even if this situation were totally innocent, and the couple was just rude and pushy, my card number was floating around out there somewhere, so I did the safe thing and cancelled the card.
So learn from my mistake: don't forget your coffee in the morning, take your receipt no matter how uncomfortable someone makes you feel, and when in doubt call up and put a hold on your card right away! Happy travels!
Vienna, AUT Fri 10/29/2004
restaurant attempted shortchange in Paris
In July, a waiter tried to shortchange me by 10 Euros in Paris. This was a pizza place close to Notre Dame, in the Latin Quarter. I quickly protested, and he had already moved away. However, a young woman working there brought him back, and he immediately gave me the 10 Euros. So protest should this happen to you. I hope the other diners within earshot (many tourists, of course) were alerted to this trick.
In Montmartre, I met the bracelet guy who tried to put a bracelet on me. I held my hands in my pockets and gruffly said "no" (although I'm not very gruff, so this probably sounded more comical than anything). I could see someone's cut-off bracelet lying on the ground.
I saw a group of young gypsy girls near Notre Dame (perhaps 12-14) who seemed to be remonstrating with a crowd of tourists. I can't even remember what language they were using. In any event, one girl suddenly raised her long skirt, flashing the audience with her buttocks. I started to pay extra close attention to my possessions because this seemed like exactly the sort of distraction that could lead to easy pickpocketing. About 10 feet away, a gypsy couple was performing a dance (very well) for an audience, so the whole scene was quite crowded.
Canada Sun 10/17/2004
Count your change in Italy!
Be sure to always count your change in Italy. We didn't have many problems, because I always did. but, we spoke with a LOT of Americans that said thay had been short-changed in various ways, particularly in southern Italy. Our only trouble was a little old lady grocery store-owner in Amalfi that cussed me out in Italian because I caught her short-changing me, and having the nerve to expect to get all of my change. Just be polite, but even if they give you more back, count it again!
Dallas, TX USA Sat 10/16/2004
My wife and I just got back from 2 weeks in Italy. I was alert to pickpockets and scams, following Rick's advice, and we did very well. Except for the last day in Milan. I was wearing a wallet on my waist. It has an outside zippered pocket that I keep change and small bills in, and several inside pockets for passports, credit cards and large bills. I usually wear my shirt out, to cover the wallet. On the Milan metro, though, I got dipped for 40 euro from the outside pocket. Here's how it happened. >
It was warm and muggy, and I had on a t-shirt over the wallet. When we went to get on the train, there were 3 gypsy women just inside the door. One of them was breastfeeding a baby (guess where my attention was). As I tried to push on the train, the three didn't move. I moved to the side of them, and pushed past them, my wife following me. The car wasn't very full. After the car started moving, my wife noticed that the outside pocket of my wallet was unzipped. We looked back at the 3 women and I started accusing them: "ladro". They were talking among themselves, and with a large gypsy man in the middle of the car. I wasn't going to accost them because I didn't know how they would react. But, I remember the way one of them glared at me, daring me to do something. They got off at the next stop. We got off at the following stop, and I described the event to a policeman I met in the station.
I figure I made a 40 euro donation to the widows and orphans fund of Milan. The next time I get in a crowd, I will keep one hand on the wallet and one hand free to grab any curious fingers.
USA Sat 10/16/2004
When your unsure about driving just watch closely what the guy does in front of you. When getting on the Autostrada, grab your ticket and go. When getting off, hand the guy your ticket and pay what's due. Simple, except when I went to hand the cashier my ticket (like the guy did in front of me), the cashier kept saying "Where's your ticket? No ticket?..." I tried to give him my ticket but he said wait a minute. He then proceeded to write down my license number and fill out a form and then said I had 15 days to pay this fee (if no ticket you pay the maximum travel cost - E 37.00 in this case). But we only went a few miles and owed .40.
We asked a fellow traveler from Belgium and he said the guy was scamming us. Don't pay anything. We were ready the next time. The next time someone was going to mess with us, the video recorder goes on, and my wife was going to video tape it. Keep that in mind anytime you think your being hussled. Have the video camera ready and make it part of your vacation entertainment when you get back home ;)
McHenry, IL USA Sat 09/25/2004
bait and switch
Made rservations at the Aster House in London diretly by phone. Requested a room with a double bed for my wife and I and roll away for my daughter. Told we needed a superior rather than standard room to allow for the extra bed. Upon arrival we were told that we had a reservation for two, not three and the room was too small for a roll away bed. They just happened to have a single room available for an added 50 pounds for my daughter who is old enough to stay alone. Arriving hot and sweatylate in the afternoon with a guaranteed reservation we were stuck. Would not have stayed there if we had had been told this when making the reservation.
WI USA Sun 09/19/2004
Be sure to count your change, or give only the amount needed. At a bakery the morning after we arrived in Vienna, the clerk short changed me 1 euro, and I found out immediately after leaving the shop, as I knew exactly how much was in my pocket. It's the Backo bakery next to Ankor by the Hauptbahnhof in Vienna. I suspect he had done this to tourists before.
Lk. Stevens, WA USA Sun 09/05/2004
Ticket Helper in Paris train station
I had just arrived at one of the big train stations in Paris (Gare du Nord). I was looking at the metro map to figure out how to get to my hotel when a nice friendly French guy came over and asked me where I was going. After showing me the best route to take he offered to help me buy a ticket at the automated ticket machine. As he was selecting the options from the menu he asked me how many days I would be in Paris for, and I said 7 (big mistake!) He selected a 7 day metro pass for me (or that's what he told me it was, but how would I know if I can't read French?) It cost 77 Euros (which I saw on the screen), and I put my credit card in the machine to purchase. When it didn't work he touched a few buttons and quickly put in his credit card. The ticket came out, and he had me give him the cash.
I knew something was wrong, but it happened so fast that I didn't walk away like I should have. The ticket from the machine didn't look like a 7 day ticket because it was a 1 Euro single journey ticket (which I found out later when I tried to use it on my second trip on the metro). A few days later I was approached by one of the aggressive bracelet vendors in Montmartre, and the word "NO" never came out of my mouth as fast and as loud as it did that day!
Boston, MA USA Wed 09/01/2004
Scam in Prague
My wife and I visited Prague two years ago. As we needed local currency, we asked to the receptionist of our hotel where the closest bank was. After we changed some money, we exited the bank and were approached by a shady person with a map in his hands asking for information. A few seconds this interaction started, two man (in civil dresses) approached us quickly exhibiting police IDs. They claimed that we had just purchased drugs from the shady guy and they wanted to see our wallets. Wary of what happened, I asked them again to see the IDs. They looked fine to me, so we open the wallet in front of them keeping them in our hands. As the scammers weren't reaching their goal, they asked to look at the documents and grabbed the money in their hands. Then they distracted us by pushing my wife and put them back the money in the wallet. They ended the conversation saying that everything was fine. And left the scene. We felt something was wrong in what happened and opened the wallet and found out that the big bills were gone.
The episode left us a sour taste about the trip. Needless to say that when we went to report the fact to the police, we waited in a room for 30 mins completely ignored. So we went to another station and a policeman said that this was a common scam.
Driving back to Italy, we had another interesting episode. At the border with the Slovakia's and Austria republics, one of the policemen at the booth told us that we needed a special sticker on the windshield that demonstrated we had paid the highway toll (there are no toll booths there). I could leave the country without paying a fine, that he estimated in Euro 80. I started negotiating with him about the fine and I ended up paying Euro 20 that he quickly pocketed and let me go.
Bellevue, WA USA Thu 08/05/2004
Paris - Marche aux Puces
Saw something really hairy at Metro stop for Marche aux Puces in Paris. There was a scuffle as people got off at the top of the escalator; it appeared that 2 guys (1 on each side of escalator landing) pushed you backwards just as you got off escalator. As you desperately tried to hold on & regain balance - they grabbed your purse, camera etc.
LA USA Wed 08/04/2004
Euro, Lira confusion
I have heard of this scam before and I believe it was on this message board. The 500 Lira coins were/are worth less than 1 cent. I can easily see why someone is trying to pass them off as 2 Euro coins (more than $2). A pretty good markup in any business.
Reading, PA USA Wed 07/28/2004
Euro, Lira confusion
Read this one in the newspaper.
Apparently the 2 Euro coin is similar to the old 500 lira coin. People may try to pass this worthless coin off to you as a 2 Euro piece.
CA USA Mon 07/26/2004
Hustler in Naples train station
If you are taking the little subway type train from Naples (downstairs) to Pompeii, be sure to watch out for a little guy who is trying to "help" you. He will sell you a ticket, help you find the correct train, etc, then stick out his hand for a "tip". $10 is not enough!! He will yell loudly for more. He is very persistant and will not leave you alone while he is trying to "help" you. He will not take "no" for an answer. You just have to totally ignore him. We have seen him doing this for the last 10 years at least, but only fell for the scam once!!
USA Fri 07/23/2004
Poland - Beware of ticket scam on Krakow/Prague train route
Beware of letting your round trip tickets out of sight on the overnight train from Krakow, Poland to Prague (or any number of Eastern European routes). The "conductor" took my round trip ticket as I got into the couchette and assured me that I'd get it back in the morning. Come morning, he first said he gave it to me, then said he said he put it in my couchette, then he went through the motions of looking in his pockets, other couchettes etc. I was screwed. My r/t ticket was gone and he'd sell it most likely for the 25 bucks it was worth. The train started pulling out of the station in Prague and he just laughed as I was forced to jump from the moving train with luggage but without my ticket. I would now have to buy a new ticket to get back to Krakow. If possible, get a round trip ticket that is physically two seperate pieces of paper (mine was all on one piece of paper issued by Orbitz (the national Polish travel agency, not the American website). Once you have two seperate papers, only give the conductor the one necessary for that "leg" of the trip.
BTW, knowing I would not get justice or the chance to be compensated for my inconvenience and threat to life and limb, to balance the scales, for the rest of my train travels in Poland I purchased only a one-way ticket and then returned on that same ticket. When questioned by conductors, I plead ignorance and they let me slide (secretly, I was tabulating the amount of compensatory and punitive tort damages Poland owed me). In pleading ignorance, it was a combination of "I don't speak Polish" and if someone emerged who could translate, then I invoked plan B which was to claim that I had asked for, and paid for a r/t ticket and if anyone was ripping anyone off, it was the person who sold me the ticket. This worked 3 out of 3 times in Poland and evened the score in my mind. Of course having to jump from a moving train could have cost me my life, so upon return to the US, I contested the charge of the original r/t ticket from Krakow to Prague which the credit card removed. Naz drovia!
New York, NY USA Mon 07/12/2004
ATM Scam There's an ATM scam going on in Italy (probably elsewhere in Europe too). Criminals either use a special machine at the ATM which records your card information or a hidden camera. Then using an old card, they put your information on the magnetic strip and are set to withdraw money from your account. Luckily I used a credit card for cash advances rather than a debit card so have not personally lost any money. For some reason the withdrawals didn't take place til two weeks after my return, so it's a good idea to keep a close watch on your account for some time.The fraud investigator's advice was to get cash at a bank or exchange booth where a live person is involved. Janet B.
Manhattan, KS USA Thu 07/08/2004
At Termini in Roma (and probably many other European train stations) you must be careful to pick at cab from the taxi stand with the Commune de Roma seal on the door, NOT one of those at the curb as you exit or one whose driver rushes up to you as you exit. As you exit look to your right at 2 O'Clock where you will see a covered walkway (perhaps with people in line). The cabs will pull up to the front of the line and people will take turns. I cannot understand why anyone would take a taxi from the Airport when the train is so convenient and cheap but if you need to do so, negotiate in advance, BEFORE you get in the taxi and BE CERTAIN he agrees to take you to YOUR hotel. The licensed (Commune of Roma emblem) taxis are required by law to use the meter. Be sure they do.
Charles M. Luther
USA Tue 07/06/2004
Beware in Barcelona on Sundays
It was a Sunday and I was going from the Picasso Museum to the Palau Musica. In order to get there as quickly as possible I headed through one of the side streets - a big mistake! I vaguely noticed three young men standing off to the side. Everything happened very fast. One came in front of me, snatched my travel purse, which I carry across one shouder and round my neck, with enough force to break the tough strap and then took off down an alley. There was not a policeman in sight on any of the main streets nearby. (This was also the complaint of the couple who had fallen victim to the "bird poo" trick in Placa Catalunya.)
When I eventually got to the policestation to report the loss there were other travellers there who had been robbed in the vicinity of both the Picasso Museum and the Palau Musica. I noticed that there is much more activity on the streets during the week when businesses are open and I had no problem when I went to the Palau Musica a couple of days later. Fortunately I lost little of real value because I wear a money belt and the incident made me more conscious of keeping to the more frequented streets.
Victoria, BC Canada Tue 07/06/2004
Problems in France . . .
1. After spending three weeks in the south of France, two friends and I were en route to the Charles DeGaulle airport via the RER. We knew we could use our Metro tickets on the RER, and so we did. On our way into the airport, we tried to enter through one of the ticket gates when we were stopped by an official looking man - he had a 'badge' and an id visible. He told us that if we didn't have a certain kind of ticket, we couldn't get into the airport; being young and apparently naive, we asked what kind we needed, as we had lots of heavy luggage and were ready to check it. He said since we didn't have the right type of ticket, we would have to purchase one from him and it would cost 20 Euro!! Talk about being mad! Unfortunately for us, there was no other people around where we could check the facts. Since we virtually had no other choice, we bought the tickets. So, was this a scam or was it, in fact, legitimate?
2. Let me warn future travelers to the south of France . . . If you decide to visit Montpellier, DO NOT stay at Les Citadines Antigone!! I stayed there during the three weeks, and I was robbed when I was out one afternoon. For some stupid reason, I decided I didn't need to wear my moneybag to the laundrymat, and I left it in my locked suitcase, under the lining, in the back of the closet. When I came back, the room had been ransacked, and the perp. had managed to find my money inside my suitcase. Somehow, the lock had been picked without being broken and the money was gone. The staff can keep track of your every move, as the only way out of the hotel is past the desk. Unfortunately, I learned an expensive ($300) lesson, and I will never stay at Les Citadines Antigone again!!
Vicksburg, MS USA Mon 06/28/2004
Rome train wallet theft
I wish I had found and read Rick's Graffiti wall BEFORE my trip to Italy instead of afterwards. Perhaps I would have been better prepared and not had my wallet stolen....oh well. The details of my experience are a little different from anything I read on the wall so here it is:
My family and I had just gotten on the train in Rome to travel to Florence. I had my purse strapped to the top of my rolling suitcase to get on the train, so that I would have my hands "more free" and could deal with any problems as I got on the train. I was watching for the little gyspy children and for older men who looked shady..... My wallet was at the bottom of my purse with my camera and a paperback book on top of it and 2 large straps holding it on the bag and crossing the purse zipper, which would be the only way to get into my purse. 3 pretty, well-dressed young Italian women got on the train behind me and as we walked down the aisle toward our seats they started pushing me and my bag and saying "scuzi, scuzi" as if they wanted me to hurry up and get out of their way so they could get to their seats (quite rudely, I thought at the time). The young women were probably 18-22 or so and were NOT gypsies. All 3 were wearing expensive clothing and jewelry, nicely made up, manicured, etc. (Guess where they got the money to be decked out like that...)
I actually saw the theft out of the corner of my eye, but thought it couldn't be. I thought I saw one of the girls pass something to another and I saw that girl stick something down the back of her pants (her blouse pulled up in the front, and I noticed that.) So, I thought "Did she just take my wallet?" and so I undid one of the straps holding it to the suitcase and unzipped my purse and felt inside. I found my paperback book and camera just as I left them (I thought) so I didn't check further. In retrospect, at that point I wonder if I could have done something, if I had realized what had happened. I was blocking the aisle in one direction and people behind these women were blocking in the other....Anyway, convinced nothing was wrong, I proceeded to put my suitcase away and took my purse and sat down.
About 10 minutes later I opened my purse and discovered the theft. Both my daughter and I knew what had happened and exactly who and when it had happened. Of course, the young women were nowhere to be found on the train. By the time we got to Florence they had already made charges on 3 credit cards for a total of about $4500. Of course, the stores that allowed the charges are the ones who suffered the loss, not me. Fortunately, my passport and other things of importance were separate, but it sure was a hassle and I did lose some cash. I was also paranoid and did not enjoy the rest of the trip as much as I would have otherwise.
I wonder why the stores in Rome aren't more careful about credit card purchases. The cards all had my picture on it - I'm mid forties, blonde, fair, and blue eyed. Surely the thieves didn't look like the picture on my credit cards and yet they tried the charges anyway.
Tucson, AZ USA Tue 06/15/2004
SEVILLE SPAIN THIEVES
While renting a car - going from Granda to Seville, motorcyclists punctured our tire. Soon they said "pull over you have a flat tire". After yanking out all the luggage and jacking up the car to change the tire, a "good samaritan" came along to say "there's a mechanic over here, look, over here" to my wife. While she was looking another thief tried to steal her purse from our car. Luckily I stood up just in time to see the thief IN the car with the purse (with our credit cards and passports inside) in his hands. He let go and began to run. I nearly clobbered him with the tire iron.
When we mentioned this to other Spaniards they also mentioned how Seville is a place where they are constantly being shaken down for parking spots etc. Instead of spending a few days in Seville we high-tailed it to the coast and thanked our lucky stars we lost nothing and nobody got hurt. BEWARE IN SEVILLE SPAIN.
b r marchand
Healdsburg, CA USA Wed 06/09/2004
Legal Paris Metro scam?
I wanted to relate an experience that my wife, two daughters, and I had about a week and a half ago in Paris. We had just bought a carnet of Metro tickets, and ridden from the stop at Charles de Gaulle d'Etoile to the stop at the Eiffel Tower. All the trash cans in the Metro have been altered to keep the lids from being opened, to prevent bomb scares. There is a small slot big enough for used Metro tickets to be inserted.
We were about three steps from exiting the station, when everyone exiting was being accosted by Controlee agents of RATP, the rapid transit system. They had what I believe were official badges, carrying guns and batons. They demanded to see our tickets, which I explained in my minimal French that we had deposited in the trash cans, so we would not confuse the used tickets with the remainder of the carnet, which were still good. The agents insisted that it was French law ( which was on a paper that they showed us) that the tickets be retained until after leaving the station, and attempted to collect a fine of 30 Euros per person.
I insisted on seeing their badges again, insisted that they show me where it was posted in writing in the Metro. I had lost all my French at this point, was quite agitated, and was about to insist that we all go to the Gendarmerie to sort it out, because as I told the agents, I was sure this was a scam.
In the mean time, my wife had gone back up to the station while one of my daughters and I were arguing with the agents, grabbed some loose tickets people had thrown on the floor in the station, and brought them down and gave them to the agents. At this point, they seemed to decide that it was going to be more trouble dealing with us than it would be worth, and said we could go without paying a fine. I'm pretty sure they were actually who they said they were, so I just wanted to let you know what we had experienced.
Philadelphia, PA USA Mon 05/31/2004
Rome Theft at ATMs
BEWARE: Use ATMs when traveling only when the bank is open, and after someone else has used it. We had an ATM card eat our card, and when we went back to the bank in the morning, found out it was missing. There were charges already before we could cancel the card. Train stations and airports often have the best ATMs, with lots of people around to help.
USA Sun 05/23/2004
Taxi scam in Rome and camera scam in Naples
I have a family with small children, aged 2 and 4. We were approached by a taxi driver offering to take us to the Vatican from Roma Termini Station for 40 euro. We turned him down and flagged a cab paying the metered fare for 15 euro. Be wary of the overanxious cabbies.
A new scam at the Naples train station is digital camera scam. They take your photo with the camera and try to sell it to you for a great deal. They even have some camera bags lined up on the ground for show. They take your money and literally run for it as you look in the bag to find it full of rocks. This happened to several tourists in a matter of days.
La Maddalena, Italy Tue 05/11/2004
Been to Europe many times.... So far, so good. One trick that my husband and I use is, whenever it is necessary to take out money in public, I always have my husband back up to a wall. With his back to a wall and me standing facing him, we eliminate anyone coming up from behind. We are going to Italy again this year ( haven't been there since 91) and I had forgotten how bad they are there.
Woodland Hills, Ca USA Tue 04/20/2004
Pickpockets in Lisbon
My husband and I were travelling in Portugal and had read lots of Rick's books and were careful, using a money belt for all important items (credit cards, passports, plane tickets etc). However, in Lisbon I was carrying a purse (small backpack type) with a wallet with just a small amount of cash, kleenex etc. We went up on the tower called Santa Justa Elevator..my husband climbed the stairs to the top and I stayed down on a lower view level. I was approached by a guy with a strange story, asking me was I cold and how he could get me a jacket (but he was looking at my purse). I walked away from him, not feeling safe. Less than an hour later, as we got onto the #15 tram, I felt people jostle me..the wallet was gone. Luckily, it had nothing of importance in it, but just to let everyone know, use the money belt religiously and keep in mind that pickpocketing can happen to you. I was also approached in the airport in Lisbon (seemed to happen more when I trailed behind my (big, tall) husband, but I learned not to be as trusting of those with stories that don't make sense. After my "wallet" was stolen, I saw guys in a sidestreet seemingly examining a man's wallet;it was Easter week and there were lots of tourists. I am sure the pickpockets did well that week.
San Francisco CA, USA Mon 04/19/2004
Lock your car doors
While driving through Naples to get to Sorrento, we noticed boys on mopeds pass us in the opposite direction. Shortly, we were stopped by a train. My husband happened to catch sight of the kids approaching from behind and immediately hit the power door locks the INSTANT that 2 boys jumped off the bikes (they were passengers) and tried to pull the side door and rear hatch open. They would have had my sister-in-law's bag from her lap with everything in it and my camera, camcorder, etc. from the back. The kids were checking us out as they passed, then returned when we were stopped with nowhere to go. Lock your doors!!!
Granger, IN USA Thu 04/15/2004
Top scams/crimes in London...
London, UK Mon 04/12/2004
This happened to my parents in Barcelona. While walking to a church, someone threw coffee out a window onto my mom. It suprised her (did not burn her though)and she gasped out what had happened to my dad. He turned towards her and a man bumped into him. It was so subtle my apologized to the guy as he looked over my mom. She was a little wet and they were both confused, looking up and around to try to figure where it came from. My dad was NOT wearing his hide- away money pouch/belt ("I know, I know, I know" he says)and in a few seconds he realized he no longer had his wallet. They took credit cards, cash, drivers license...., luckily my mom had photo copies of all the cards and they spent a half day cancelling everything. Put a small damper on an otherwise outstanding trip.
denver, co USA Wed 03/31/2004
The Leather Jacket Scam
In 2000 my husband and I were almost victims of the leather jacket scam in London. (Had we not seen a previous news report in the States). The guy pulled up in a nice car, asked us directions near the V&A Museum, and when we declined his gift of the leather jacket he angrily drove away. In London at the end of 2003near the Hard Rock we saw the scam about to happen to another couple from South America and we called them over as the guy in the BMW pulled out his "weapon" - the leather jacket. They were thankful we intercepted; however we still don't know what the final outcome of this scam is.
Hollywood, CA USA Wed 03/31/2004
The Return of the Leather Jacket Scam
Just got back from a week in Rome. No sign of pickpocketers, but the leather jacket scam is alive and well. We were walking through narrow streets on our way to the Borghese Gallery when a very nice car stopped right next to us and a man with a French accent, wearing a very nice suit and tie, asked (in English) for us to show him where he was, on his map. So I did, and he was oh, so grateful. Seems that he was just over from Paris, where he works for a clothing designer, and was going to show his latest fashions at a local exhibit. I said something polite like we hoped to visit Paris someday and he said "let me give you a calling card". That sounded okay, but then he reached into the back seat and started pulling out this package. Thanks to this Graffiti Wall, I began to wonder "Is he going to show me a leather jacket?" and suddenly there it was, a leather jacket! I said "No" rather firmly and we backed away. He zoomed off and we had a big laugh.
Salem, OR USA Wed 03/10/2004
Street kids in Rome
Not to pick on Rome, but it was the only pickpocket or scam situation I encountered after a trip from Greece to Ireland. Beware the gypsy kids, especially if you're travelling alone as I was (early Sun. AM on way to St. Peters). They passed up the couple in front of me who had seen them approach another person further ahead. The method is to get close using a piece of cardboard held to your body as the "beggars money plate". It is a shield so you don't see hands at your pockets as well as a tugging on your sleeve for further distraction. By luck, the couple was Canadian and, in English, called out that my passport was coming out of my pocket. I pushed the urchins away with one arm and caught my passport at the top of my front pocket. Seconds later a policeman pulled up and promptly set to (literally)kicking them in the ass all the way across the street without a word to me at any time. The warning is closeness and distraction techniques...avoid them.
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin USA Tue 03/02/2004
Car Rental Scam
Sixt Car Rentals has a good scam going. A month after our trip to Italy, our credit card has been charged for $70.00 for "refueling". This is after I filled it up two blocks away from the drop off point, but since I paid cash, my credit card company tells me that there's nothing they can do. I can't prove that the tank was full, so Sixt can charge whatever they want to my credit card and there's nothing I can do about it! The rental agreement also said that drop-off charges were already included, but they tacked them on again anyway. It's only another $15.00, but it's the helplessness that is really galling! To avoid the refueling scam, I'm told next time to pay for that final gas with a credit card to at least prove you did put gas in.
Denver, CO USA Fri 02/27/2004
While visiting Sacre Coeur in Paris, a friend and I fell victim to the shell game on one of the alleys leading up to the church. Yeah we were stupid but our initial intention was only to watch. Of course, it all looked so easy. We lost about $70 so no big deal. That $70 made me much more vigilant so perhaps it was a cheap lesson. If you see someone playing the shell game or 3 card monty, go directly to the police and maybe you can save someone else from getting ripped off. No matter how easy it looks, only the "plants" in the crowd will win. These guys operate in teams of several people. If any native is playing then he/she is a plant. In the metro or similar places, if you want to determine whom the thieves are then simply watch what others are watching. Thieves look to see what others are carrying. On the metro, thieves love to walk up and down the aisles until just before the doors close. They time their grab with the closing of the door and quickly jump through as it is closing. In Rome, I was warned about the gypsy kids and, sure enough, was approached by three with a cardboard sign. As it was happening, I remembered the warning from the previous day and yelled at them to get away.
Columbus, oh USA Mon 02/02/2004
I was by myself walking around Taksim Square when this sharp dressed guy in his early 20's stopped me to ask for the time. After he found out that I was from the US, he seems to be really interested and we talked for about 15 min. First he invited me to join him to play pool at this bar but i told him that i was really tired and i was heading back to my hotel to get some rest. Then he suggested to stop by this bar close to my hotel for some beer. Once in the ba , we were having a beer, when a girl sat next to me and my friend ordered her a drink.
At that point it just clicked
on my head...this is that scam i read about. Sure enough, there is no
one in the bar other than the big guy standing by the door and the mean
looking bartender. The bill was $80 for my beer and the girl's drink.
I did not say a word but was fuming mad. I silently paid and took off.
The next day i was again walking in Taksim Square and another guy approached
me with the same scam, trying to befriend me. Please don't be discouraged
in visiting Istanbul, it's a beautiful city and majority of the people
there are very friendly but be very careful when someone invites you to
San Francisco, CA USA Sat 01/17/2004