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Scam on train departing Rome

We were leaving Rome by train. The platform for our train changed, so we were rushed to move to the new platform and get on the train departing in the next 10 minutes. There was a man inside the train car looking out the door who looked official. He helped us get our luggage up into the train and to our seats. Just before the train was to depart, he stated in a panicked tone that we were in the wrong car and that we had to move quickly. The rest of my family grabbed their luggage and started moving to the next car - causing confusion and separating us. i looked at our tickets and stated that we were in the right place. He argued in a panicked voice. I followed the rest of my family as the train was starting. Once the train was going, I realized my wallet was missing along with my reading book. I assume he took the wallet under cover of my reading book while I was looking at our ticket to check our seat numbers. Ugh. Luckily, I had a page with our credit card numbers and phone numbers I could call from Italy (can't call 1-800 numbers from your cell phone in Europe). I was able to stop any use of our credit cards, but we were very inconvenienced, lost the cash and lost my driver's license (still had my International Driver's License). So what did we learn. We should NEVER have allowed anyone to help us even if they look official (sounds unfriendly, but there are too many scams). My husband and I should have had different credit cards so we still had one if we lost the other (we were lucky our daughter had hers). I am glad I had my International Driver's License as the car rental company accepted it with my passport. I am very glad I had the page with our credit card numbers and phone numbers (not 1-800 number) to call and cancel immediately. I am also glad I had warned my bank we were going abroad because I had to speak to them to move money to my daughter's account. We thought we were always on our guard, but fell for this one.

Posted by
32273 posts


Sorry to hear that you were victimized in Rome. They seem to come up with new and inventive ways to scam people every day. Were you using Money Belts?

One comment though. There's no such thing as an International Driver's License. Are you referring to an International Driver's Permit that you obtained from AAA? The rental agency may have accepted it, but in reality it's not valid without your home D.L. (AFAIK).


Posted by
23473 posts

I would add one comment. You should never have more than one item out at a time. I always stick our tickets in one jacket or shirt pocket. Everything else is secured either in other secured pockets or a money belt. It is easy to get distracted. Even if you are in the wrong car or wrong seats, as long as you are on the correct train you have plenty of time to find the correct car and seats. There is no fine or penalty for being in the wrong seats.

Posted by
4535 posts

Unfortunately now you know, too late, that there is nothing wrong with being in the wrong railcar as long as you are on the right train. And that you should have been wearing a moneybelt of some type. The latter point would've solved everything.

Tourists are often "helped" by people in Europe, usually in exchange for a request for money. Unfortunately in your case he skipped the "request" part and just took your money. But that is not common, so people shouldn't become too aggressive or fearful against those offering to help.

And on occasion, people do help others that need some assistance out of kindness.

Posted by
43 posts

I was a victim of the very same scam in Budapest a few years ago. It is an old one. Did not lose my wallet because I do not carry one. I only use a money belt, and keep my cards, license and money there. I keep a few coins/bills in my pocket, though. Only as much as I can afford to lose. I do have to say, however that I have been helped many, many times by strangers when I am traveling. Do not be so closed that you do not accept help when needed. I have traveled abroad many, many times, and every time I have been in need of help, a stranger has stepped forward and helped me. Just be cautious.

I would say that I have encountered more scams in Italy than anywhere else in the world. When I was getting on the train in Rome once, I was surrounded by a group of youngsters -6-10 years old or so. They began shouting at me incessantly and pulling on my suitcase. They were trying to get it onto the train. Suddenly, I smelled an overpowering stench of body odor and, realizing what was going on, looked over my shoulder, to find a youngster digging in my backpack. I grabbed her arm quickly, and managed to keep hold of my suitcase. The children realized they were caught and ran away. I shook the arm of the girl digging in my backpack and then scolded her and let her go. She did not get anything because there was nothing in my backpack except a tour book, my reading book for the train, and my lunch. Had there been something of value there, she would have had it and been gone. The children pulling on my suitcase were creating the distraction. It all happened very quickly.