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Sardinia - attempted scam

Tourist place in Sardinia: A man approached me and my family and asked me if I spoke German. I said "Leider nicht" and looked uninterested - something about his appearance immediately made me sceptical. He then began his story in English and it was a long, detailed tale about him needing assistance in the country, but he had experienced massive problems with the local bureaucracy. He told me he had been sent from one office to another that whole day and that he was exhausted. He was very emotional when telling his elaborate story - almost breaking into tears here and there.

For some reason he opened his bum bag around one minute into his speech. Anyways, he must have spent almost 10 minutes on the story - which seemed well-rehearsed. The conclusion anyways was that he was short 2 euros and 60 cents for a train ticket to Cagliari and hence asked me for help. I told him "I am sorry, but no" and he looked shocked and angry. He then asked me why and I told him that I don't give money to strangers like that. Actually, I could have, but I didn't trust him one bit. He then hurled an array of insults to me and left.

It was just something about this guy. All my alarm bells went off. Anways, I am curious what the scam was all about. I had the feeling that if I had given him the money, it would never have stopped with 2.60 euros. It just seemed like he invested so much time and energy and thus would want more worth out of it.

Anyone has any thoughts?

Posted by
2347 posts

It's not a big mystery. He was just trying to get money from you. Maybe a few euro, or more if you felt generous. The same thing happens here- a big story about needing enough gas just to get home, etc.

Posted by
6 posts

It just seemed like so much work for so little gain. I would be easier and probably more profitable to just sit down on the street with a paper cup.

Oh, I forgot to mention that while this was going on, an elderly lady came closer to us (I noticed her in the corner of my eye), watching us but when I said no and he started insulting me, she promptly left.

Posted by
20625 posts

Not everything odd that happens or every encounter is a scam. Sounds like begging with a long story. What prevented you from saying NO and moving on. You seem to have encouraged it.

Posted by
7173 posts

Why did you even answer him at all? You could have said no and walked away. Or you could have just actually said nothing and kept on walking. You don't have to stand around for 10 minutes listening to a story that you didn't initiate from a stranger you knew nothing about.

Posted by
11154 posts

"I am curious what the scam was all about."

Getting money from strangers - that's it.

These incidents happen all over. People have a well-rehearsed story with a plausible need for a one-time amount of money to get home, or take a cab because they're running late for a job interview, or need to pay a bill, or whatever. They tell this story over and over, every day, and that's how they make their living. Sure, it took him some time, but he has nothing else to do - this is his "job." And they definitely take advantage of those afraid to be "not nice."

As you noted, the giveaway that the story isn't genuine, in addition to the overly-rehearsed nature, is the sudden change in demeanor, from tearful to abusive, when you refused.

Posted by
5019 posts

I typically respond to such nonsense with a loud "no speeka de engleesh" with a shrug. When repeated attempts in a dozen other languages follow, I just shake my head and shrug at each one. They give up eventually.

Posted by
2347 posts

I often give a bright "oh, no thank you!" to them as if they'd offered me something instead of asking for it. It's polite, not sarcastic, and is momentarily confusing to them. I don't think I've had anyone become abusive or angry at me when I say it.

Posted by
8293 posts

The man was begging for less than 3 euro. Not a scam (look up definition of "scam")..... just a man begging for less than 3 euro.

Posted by
6 posts

Yes, I thought about putting a question mark in the title of my original post. The reason I called it a scam, was that I am confident that he was lying and that he was using various tricks so as to make me feel that I didn't have any other choice than to give him money. And indeed I felt that, but still fought the feeling and said no.

Furthermore, I may be paranoid, but I believe that "it would never have stopped with 2.60 euros". Moreover, as I wrote, this guy set off all my alarm bells - but if that had not been the case, and he had just come up to me and asked for a couple of euros for a train ticket, I might have given it to him.

This was different, however. He wanted to manipulate me.

Posted by
20625 posts

Spin it anyway you like. Bottom line -- he was begging. And you had a choice. You chose to participate. Hardly a scam and similar to the several encounters we hit last week in Chicago.

Posted by
6 posts

I'm really not attempting to spin it - merely trying to convey the situation accurately and explain my thoughts and feelings. When someone approaches you and then starts a long monologue, as was the case - well, I didn't feel like I got a choice whether to hear him out or not. He didn't ask me: "Do you have ten minutes?"

Of course, I could, and should, have ended it earlier, but I was polite. We could have left, but we were eating, minding our own business and I didn't want to be chased away. A common advice seems to be that one should just walk away as quickly as possible from the situation. It, is, however, irritating (to put it mildly) that you cannot enjoy the atmosphere and scenery at a specific site in the country to which you have traveled. Especially given the fact that you have worked, saved money and looked forward to the trip for an entire year...

Posted by
1153 posts

I wouldn't call it a scam (basically you and he know what's going on - though if this was your first experience, perhaps you didn't). But, it is certainly annoying.

The long story is to draw you in so you feel guilty about not handing over money at the end. The curiously precise need for €2.60 is to provide verisimilitude of particular cost rather than asking for a random amount of money. It's more for your benefit, than his. He won't reject €3.60, but with €2.60 you can feel you were a specific help not a dupe.

You may experience this again. So here is my approach (a) shake your head when they start and say "no" (that word works in most tourist places whatever the language), or (b) hand over a euro or two when they start and they will usually move on or (c) listen to the story then hand over the money requested. I pretty much always do (b) because it's not a lot of money and, there but for the grace of, etc.

Posted by
30957 posts

That scam is fairly common and I've encountered it even in the city I live in. The last time I encountered it was outside one of the local burger joints, where I was approached by an individual asking for a "donation". The story was that I need $5 for bus fare because my car is broken / my car was stolen / I was in an accident and have to get home as my wife is in hospital. The amount is typically only a few bucks which most people won't miss, and it's human nature to try to help a "poor soul" get home to his family. The story seemed a bit "fishy" so I refused to give him any money. I often use the excuse that I always use debit, so don't have any cash on me (which is somewhat true).

A few days later, my suspicions were confirmed by an article in the local paper warning people not to be fooled by this scammer. Shortly after that, the RCMP had a chat with him, and he decided it would be prudent to get out of town quickly (his car was miraculously operable at about that time). I've encountered this type of scam a couple of times, and the scenario is often very similar each time.