Friday, September 25, 2020 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

Watch Out for These Tourist Scams When Traveling Outside the USA

In the early 1900’s, George C. Clark earned a substantial living selling the Brooklyn Bridge. Rumor has it he sold the bridge as many as 30 times. Once for $50,000. On more than several occasions, the NY Police had to stop the buyers from erecting toll booths. Clark didn’t stop there. He successfully sold the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Madison Square Gardens, Grants Tomb, and the Statue of Liberty.  To this day he is considered the greatest con-man in American history.

In modern-day lingo, George C. Clark would be a scammer. In the early 1900’s he was a rarity but if Clark was around today he would just be one of many. Technological advancements gave birth to additional opportunities for scamming the unsuspecting. Callers posing as IRS agents threaten people out of instant payments, fake roofers offer pre-paid services they never deliver, TV preachers (not all of them) beg for money for their own edification, and there are new scams popping up every day. As a society, we’ve become leery, and most of us, but not all, have gained somewhat of a “street-wise” education.  But the streets of Europe are quite different.

When traveling anywhere outside of U.S. boundaries, extra caution and a whole lot of common sense and instinct are paramount. There are some scams you may not be familiar with, and they would make George C. Clark proud.

The Turkey Drop

The State Department, because of this scam being so prevalent, has given it a name. The Turkey drop makes a turkey out of anyone who falls for it, and many tourists do.

Imagine walking down a sidewalk when you suddenly spot a fat wallet with paper money sticking out of it or a big wad of cash which appears to have fallen out of someone’s pocket. Because the majority of us are still good people, you may pick the wallet up to find out who the rightful owner is with the intent of dropping it off at the local police department so it can be returned. Perhaps you would do the same for a large bundle of cash. Perhaps not.

Either way though, do not touch it. Leave it right where it sets and keep walking. If you stand there staring at it while deciding what to do, a stranger will approach and ask if the wallet or cash belongs to you. They’ll pick it up and try handing it to you. They want you to touch it, or preferably, to hold it, and this is where your troubles will begin.

Another person will then approach the scene claiming the wallet or money belongs to them. Because you are now holding it, this new person will accuse you of trying to steal it. There are several variations of how this will play out. They will both begin to accuse you of being a thief before offering you one way out of the situation without them turning you over to the police. You guessed it. They want to be handsomely bribed before letting you meander on your merry way. If this happens, simply tell them to have a nice day and walk away. They won’t chase after you.

The second scenario is that they will demand to see your money to make certain you didn’t steal theirs. As soon as you pull out your wallet they’ll snatch it and run, to never be seen again.

In yet a third scenario, and perhaps the best one, another would be tourist will appear beside you as you are looking at the wallet, but in actuality, it isn’t a tourist at all. They may have a different accent than the people in the country you are visiting, or they may speak perfect English, so the entire scenario is believable. They will offer to split the money with you, but don’t be tempted. Once you hand them their cut they will walk away only to be replaced by several new characters claiming the money was theirs. They will then demand the full amount be returned and they may threaten bodily harm if you don’t do it.
The Turkey Drop
The Key Scam

When you get where you are traveling to, whether you’ll only be there a short while or want to walk around a bit before checking into your hotel, it’s easy enough to find a locker to store your heavy bags. They are located in train stations, the airport, and even at malls. Since you’ll be the one in control of the lockers key, this seems like a pretty safe bet. But beware.

As you are approaching the lockers, there will be someone else who is retrieving their belongings from a locker they supposedly rented. They will be the friendliest and kindest stranger you’ve ever met. Rather than having to pay for a locker, they will offer you theirs for free. Pretending to be a tourist they’ll even stand there talking to you while you load your luggage in the locker.  This is only to show you how polite they are by even closing the locker’s door for you and making certain it’s secured good and tight.

This is when a slight of hand takes place. The key they will hand you is not the correct one. When you return you’ll find you cannot open the locker. Even if you can talk security into prying the door open, the locker will be completely empty without even a thank you note.
The Key Scam
Another Wallet Trick

You’re sitting on a train station bench when someone walks by and drops their wallet. Being a good person, you dash over, pick it up, and pursue them to hand it back. You hand them their wallet, they say thank you, and you return to your seat having completed your good deed. There’s one problem.

While you were chasing after the wallet dropper, someone else was watching to see if you would fall for the scam. As soon as you got up, they rushed over and stole all of your bags.
Another Wallet Trick
If something appears too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Keeping your wits about you and questioning random acts of kindness from total strangers will lessen your chances of falling for a scam.

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