I have heard multiple times already this year about a new-ish scam that is running in Italy and across Europe. I haven’t encountered this one yet myself but it sounds like it is going to be everywhere this summer. Originally I planned to send this a an email to the travelers on my upcoming Glam Italia Tours, but as so many of you will also be heading to Europe this summer I want you to be aware too.
Any place that has lots of tourists is going to have its share of scammers and petty thieves hoping to separate them from their valuables.
The following are three scams you need to be watching out for, number three is the new one.
1. Be Wary Of Beggars
Just as we have homeless people panhandling here in the USA, in Europe you will see beggars, especially around big tourist attractions. In Italy you will see them around the big churches and cathedrals, in Paris you see many more, and they seem to be on the streets in the busy areas.
I will happily buy food for the hungry, and do it all the time, but when it comes to beggars in Europe I generally keep my distance. I am there often enough to see the same faces working the same places, year in and year out.
You will see gypsy women on their knees in the gutter, crying and begging for money. Look a little closer and you will see they’re not thin or starving, in fact plenty of them are chunkier than I am! Often (but not always) they work in teams. Their partners are watching from across the street or somewhere nearby to see where you pull your money from, and what valuables are on your wrists and fingers. A few minutes later they bump into you or distract you, and before you know it your wallet is gone, your watch is gone or whatever they wanted is gone.
As much as you want to be compassionate, don’t be.
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2. The Ring Scam
This one has been happening in Paris forever, but last year while there I finally was able to see it in action. I let it keep going for ages just because I was so entertained, but I seriously advise you to walk away and not engage should this happen to you.
The way it works is the scammer will pretend to find a ring on the ground not far from you. They will politely ask if you dropped it or if it is yours. As they look at it they will tell you it has an inscription, normally something to do with how many carats gold it is.
If you let them keep talking they will tell you they don’t have papers to be in the country so can’t turn it in or sell it, and then they try to convince you to buy it from them.
Remember if you let these people get physically close to you chances are they will rob you without you being even slightly aware of what is going on. And of course, do not even think about buying the ring! It is a fake, and on top of that you are showing them where your money is.
I haven’t been aware of this scam in Italy, but then again after a lifetime of going back and forth to Paris, last summer was the first time I actually saw it there, so who knows?
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3. The Bracelet Scam
This one is happening in Italy at the moment. I have seen it discussed on some of the Facebook groups and travel forums I belong to several times already this year. So far travelers have been in Florence and in Milan when this has happened, but it no doubt happens elsewhere too.
A man or woman stops you and asks you the time or for directions, (or for whatever they can get you to stop for) then they grab your wrist and tie a bracelet onto it. As soon as it is tied they start demanding money for it. Travelers have reported being followed down the street, and one reported being threatened. Aparently the scammers are quite aggressive.
Should this happen to you, yell at the top of your voice. They figure that you will quietly acquiesce and they will get away with it. If you make a lot of noise other people will stop and any police in the area will come (if they hear you). The last thing a scammer wants is the attention of a crowd or of the police, so make as much noise as you can.
While you are traveling you need to be aware of pickpockets and scammers. If someone approaches you, don’t stop to speak to them. Scammers are banking on you being naïve, gullible and unaware. They plan on you thinking it would be rude not to stop and acknowledge them.
The ladies traveling with me are pretty much safe, because I think, scammers can smell the fierceness of a firey redhead coming their way and won’t waste their time with the significant trouble on the immediate horizon (me) when there are plenty of unsuspecting tourists to pick on.
That being said, I will be telling my travelers exactly what I am telling you:
*Keep your handbag closed at all times. If your bag has a flap closure wear the flap side against your body.
*Always keep your hand on your bag.
*Guys, don’t put your wallet in your back pocket.
*Don’t stop and talk to people who approach you– if someone needs to know the time or needs directions there are plenty of other people they can ask. An Italian is not going to stop a tourist – they will ask another Italian. If someone is approaching you, trying to get your attention or trying to talk to you, ignore them and keep moving.
The best way to avoid pickpockets, gypsies et al is to be aware. Know they are out there but that they are looking for easy pickings. When you look like you are aware of your surroundings and your belongings you are less enticing. Don’t hang your handbag on your chair, don’t put your bag or your camera down and turn your back on them, don’t flash money around.
Before you let yourself get panicked, remember that here in the USA the bad guys have guns. In Italy and across Europe they don’t.