Thursday, June 16, 2005

Another Tourist Victim of the Old Cash Scam

There are variations of this type of scam out there--Another Victim for the Old Cash Scam.

It is the granddaddy of street scams in Moscow. An unsuspecting tourist is wandering the streets sightseeing when suddenly a man walking in front of him drops a wad of cash and continues on his way, apparently unaware that he has lost his money.

Another man picks up the cash in front of the tourist and with gestures, should there be a language barrier, signals to the visitor that they should split the money. After the tourist agrees and the wealth is divvied up, the man who dropped the wallet returns and demands the money back.

When the tourist agrees and hands over the money, the man claims some of the money is missing and demands, often threatening physical violence, to be reimbursed in full. The unwitting tourist often empties out his wallet, thus failing his first test in Street Scams 101.

Isn't the person caught by his own greed? Another variation that is innocent is a dropped wallet which the tourist picks up to give back to the person who dropped it. That wallet is empty but the guy accuses the tourist of taking the money that was in it. The person is badgered about it and threatened with the police, so he takes out his wallet to make good and the wallet is stolen.

The point is, and the article here says it, that you shouldn't pick up the wallet.

There are other scams used and other ways to be relieved of your wallet. I have had mine stolen a couple of times in a "fool me twice" kind of way. (I was too careless both times.) I ought to write up the incidents here as an alert to others about it. Maybe I will. (Like all the other things you are intending to write about?)

I will though say that if you are out in public and feel someone close to you, that is a sure sign that your wallet is in jeopardy. The pressure is there to direct your attention away from where your wallet is. And it is effective in doing that. I push the person away from me when that happens or move away. (I mostly try to move away.) If it is in a crowded area like a subway car and I can't move, I put my hand in the pocket with the wallet.

One other way they do it is to station someone in front of the victim on an escalator and one behind. At the end when the person is set to get off, the guy in front stops and bends down as if to pick up something. That means the one behind crashes in and that allows the guy to lift the wallet fairly easily.

What do you do in that case? Push through the guy in front. But that is a rude thing to do and most Americans won't do it.

What I do when we ride the subway, which is fairly infrequent these days, is to pause before we get on the escalator and note who is behind. You can tell who is after you by doing this. You can tell by their eyes. They are looking at you but trying to avoid it, if you know what I mean. We stopped once before getting on an escalator going down to the subway platform and looked behind us. There were two guys there who diverted their eyes when we looked. One of them glanced at me on the way past, looking at me but trying not to. We let those guys go obviously and gave it a bit of time before we got on. And we kept an eye out for them when we got down to the platform. They were not anywhere around fortunately.

Most people say that you shouldn't carry the wallet in an outside pocket. The problem is that wallets can be lifted from an inside pocket also. A zippered pocket is pretty good or a pocket that is hidden is better. Those pouches that you can hang around the neck under the shirt are a good way to carry money too. But getting the money out when you need it can direct a lot of attention your way which isn't a good thing. It's not hard to figure out what you're doing.

I had my wife sew into my pants some hidden pockets with zippers. (They are pockets within the pockets.) I carry anything of value there. They work very well.


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