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Diversion Scams

Diversion scams can be very nasty since they often divert your attention in very convincing ways.

A few years ago I was in Florence eating lunch outside a nice ristorante. A well dressed couple approached our server and asked her for directions. While I don't understand the entire conversation, it was obvious that they couple was confused and disagreeing with the server. At one point the couple became very hostile shouting at the server in an insulting and accusatory voice. Then, they gave up and left.

A minute after the nasty couple left, a lady at our table found that her purse which had been hanging off the back of her seat was gone. I have to admit is was masterful. We were all totally taken in.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Posted by
1976 posts

A great example of why it's so important to keep an eye on your stuff at all times. At restaurants and any time I sit down, I put my purse in my lap. Aside from possible theft, it's very easy to walk away from a bag you set down.

Posted by
507 posts

Many a news story has been made about purses that are snatched by someone on the run as the thief leaves the restaurant when the purse is left either on the floor beside the woman's chair or left hanging on the back of the chair as in the OP's post.

EDIT: Thank you for sharing with us. This is just an example of how a diversion can take one's attention away from their belongings only to find something is missing after the diversion. Yes, it is a scam.

Posted by
8293 posts

Your friend's purse was hanging from the back of her chair! Are you kidding? It was an open invitation to any passing thief .... nothing "masterful" about it.

Posted by
2046 posts

And nothing about this that makes this scam for tourists. This happens in the US all the time. You don't hang a purse where you can't see it - wherever you are.

Posted by
8293 posts

" .... a diversion can take one's attention away from one's belongings ..." The purse was hanging from the back of her chair where it did not have the owner's attention in the first place., so it wasn 't diverted by the little drama the thieves put on.

Posted by
6810 posts

Thirty-five years ago while I was living in Paris, a visiting friend asked me to read a sign at the Cafe Sarah Bernhardt on the Place de Chatelet in Paris. It said to beware of thieves and don't put your purse on the back of your chair. So she turned around to check on hers. Of course, it was gone. No couple was around to argue with a waiter. Putting a purse on the back of a chair is just plain stupid unless you live where you don't have to bother locking your doors.

Posted by
4654 posts

I thought this thread was going to be about dubious places imitating well-known ones. The biggest one in London is all the dodgy third-party ticketing outlets around Leicester Square that try to get people to mistake them for the genuine Half-Price Ticket Booth. There's also a private "Bankside Gallery" art gallery near Tate Modern which I'm sure is in some way trying to trade off the famous gallery's reputation. Finally there's the "London Tombs" under London Bridge, which started as a ripoff of the nearby London Dungeon, but has become a success in its own right and survives even now the London Dungeon has moved to County Hall.

Any examples from other cities?

Posted by
715 posts

Yes tour guides out side St Peters telling you that the line into the Vatican or St peters is over an hour long and if you pay for their tour you will skip the line. Now, as you approach St Peter's, walking down Via della Conciliazione, you see lots of people in the Piazza San Pietro, from a distance it is not easy to see whether it is a huge line for St Peter's, or just a crowd of people hanging and looking, so you are unsure. My daughter and I just kept walking past heading to the Vatican Museum, guess what, no line, walked right in, on two separate occasions. That is a scam. There are always lots of people around the Piazza and on the walk to the Vatican, so the hucksters claims seem valid, till u get there.

Posted by
2092 posts

I use a cross-body bag and when sitting in public I usually keep it on and sit it in my lap, it's small enough that it's not a bother.

Posted by
12103 posts

It may be negligent even stupid as asserted by some here, but you would be surprised at how many women here do just that. Next time you're at Starbuck's, Pete's, or sitting at the counter at a diner, etc do a poll of how many you see have the purse hanging as described. Obviously, this diversion drew their attention away from paying attention to their stuff.

Posted by
8293 posts

I repeat, if a woman's purse is hanging on the back of her chair she is not attending to it one little bit. A sudden phoney diversion may draw attention away from her food which is directly in front of her ... she has entirely forgotten about her purse behind her.

Posted by
484 posts

This is sad. I live in a small town where you can leave your stuff just about anywhere. And, either no one will touch it or, someone will try their best to return it to you in some way.

Posted by
8293 posts

I remember those posts about the "falling down lady". My take on it was that she was a poor soul from the neighbourhood who had neurological problems and not an imminent threat or "diversion". But really, who knows? No one saw her stealing or picking a pocket, she was only seen falling down a couple of times and that was enough to label her.

Posted by
8293 posts

Ah, yes, the world is an evil place, full of evil people pretending to fall down, pretending to have nasty arguments in restaurants, pretending to be other than what they are . It's under the bedclothes for me.

Posted by
208 posts

Regarding women's purses hanging on the backs of chairs: When my wife and I were in Paris this past May, we met a young Chinese woman who was staying at our hotel. She had hung her purse on the back of her chair at dinner the night before, and of course it was stolen.
The really bad part of it all was that she was a student at Cambridge University, temporarily living in the UK on a student visa. Her passport and visa were in her purse. She went to the PRC embassy in Paris and was immediately issued a new passport, but the British embassy in Paris refused to issue her a new visa, advising her that she had to get the visa in her home country. She had to fly back to Beijing to get a replacement visa.
Too bad. The thief probably sold her passport and visa for 20 euros, and I'm sure she would have paid 40 times that much to get it back.

Posted by
507 posts

Morris,

I can sympathize with the young lady's plight. One mistake & you feel the world is coming to an end.

I hope she was able to straighten everything out & get back to her studies.

Thank you for the report.

Posted by
12103 posts

The moral of the story is to keep the passport on your person, not in a purse. My sympathies go to her too.