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Train Station Scam at Venice Santa Lucia Station

This happened to us in mid-September, at Venice's Santa Lucia train station ... but it could happen anywhere. At the SLC station, they do not post the track number for any train until 15 minutes before the train leaves. So, there is a mad scramble to get to your train and on-board in the correct car. Our car was #1, which meant it was the first car on the train, closest to the engine pointing outward, furthest from where one waits to find their track number and so the furthest to get to. We made it in time, but while loading our 2 big bags onto the train, there was an older-looking woman with a HUGE bag just standing there in the car's inside area blocking entrance up to the seats. While we were trying to get her to move (she was apparently a member of the gang), two muscled-up guys appeared and started grabbing our 2 bags. Since they were actually loading our bags into the train car, and not trying to walk off the train, we thought nothing of it. But, once our two heavy bags were stowed away, they hovered over us, asking for 50 Euros for their "help". I questioned what they were saying, and once I understood I said NO. They kept yelling, demanding 50 Euros, and I kept saying NO. One actually flashed his Italian ID card at me, as if I might have thought they were some train officials. He finally walked off after several more NOs. But, his partner kept yelling, louder and louder, but changing the demand to "20 Euros, 10 Euros each". I still said no several more times, but he kept yelling louder and louder. So, and I regret in hindsight doing this, but I gave him 20 Euros just to make him go away. What I should have done, in hindsight, was step off the train and yelled 'HELP, POLICE" in Italian, when they first came up to us in the car entrance. But, it was so sudden, and they "seemed" to just be 2 other passengers wanting to help, I didn't think about it. So, just a caution to other travelers, particularly at the Venice Santa Lucia train station.

Posted by
23471 posts

Unfortunately that is not a new or infrequent scam. Good reminder. Another good reason to have small, light suitcases. Don't think it is restricted to any one train station. At least they were not trying to steal them. Another risk is that once you pull your billfold out, it might to subject to a grab and run. That happened to a friend of ours in one of the Paris train stations years ago.

The 15 min posting of track information is pretty standard especially at a station and not a terminal. Not sure exactly where the train will be until just prior to arrival.

Posted by
8239 posts

We long ago had a family rule. If you want to travel with us, you handle your own bag. And if you cannot walk a mile and drag the bag into a train car, don't bring it. Our 21" rolling bags will carry us indefinitely weighing 10 kg. maximum.

We do not rely on any individual for directions or any advice. If I need help, I'll ask. I have nothing to do with any person giving unsolicited advice. We have run into individuals whose intentions were not good.

Another issue is pickpockets in busy places. My wife follows me very closely, and we are not cordial to those that get into our space. I'm 6' 3" and 240 lbs., and not many people mess with me

Posted by
3903 posts

Another thanks for sharing your experience. It‘s good to have people report scams from time to time to remind me of the scams that are out there and to inform new travelers. Thanks again!

Posted by
8649 posts

There might be dozens of trains using that same track in any given day. So if they posted the track information too far ahead of time, you'd have a good chance of getting on the wrong train. And note, in a hurry, you can get on any car (with an unblocked doorway, and just walk through the train to your assigned car.

Posted by
14269 posts

Thanks for posting. I totally understand giving them the 20E just to make them go away. And I understand your hindsight regrets as well...hate to reward them for bad behavior.

Posted by
301 posts

Thank you for posting this! I hadn't heard of this one before.

Posted by
1508 posts

There is a very similar scam involving boarding Italian trains with luggage that might make you feel quite fortunate you only were scammed out of €20.
This particular scam occurred in Rome’s Termini station.
Two men wearing uniforms were already on the train while passengers are lining up to board the train. The man in the doorway holds out his arms to assist lifting the passenger’s 🧳 luggage aboard. The passenger hands the luggage up to what appears to be an official train employee, who then passes the luggage to the second uniformed man further inside the train. At this point the first man standing at the entrance and effectively blocking it, starts writing what appears to be a claim ticket in the doorway for a few seconds. He then steps back out of the doorway. The passenger then boards the entrance of the train and looks around for the second train “employee” with the luggage. When there is no sign of either the luggage or the second employee, the passenger turns around to ask the man writing the claim ticket where the luggage can be found. There is no one there.

Both have disappeared along with the luggage and its entire contents.
There are several versions of this same story with slightly altered details of the theft but the warning is always the same. In Italy, there are no train employees such as baggage handlers. Do not hand off your belongings to anyone.

Posted by
150 posts

Good reminder to all, especially me, that our travel bags don’t need to be more then we can handle. Sorry this happened.

Posted by
3246 posts

I like the SMN station at Florence where you have to show an actual ticket to get onto the platform, through manned gates.
I wish all the major stations would do this; it might prevent, or lessen, the crooks getting near and onto trains.

Posted by
7463 posts

Be aware inside the train stations, too. I had an incident at the Bologna train station in 2018. I just have a lightweight wheeled carry on & wear a small daypack on the front side of my body when I’m in the train station. I was walking down a set of stairs, and a younger man grabbed the handle of my suitcase and insisted on carrying it down the stairs for me. It seemed odd, first because he didn’t give me choice; he had my suitcase out of my hand before I could consent. And he only caught up to me when I had 4-5 steps left to go down, so why would I need help? (I had been moving at a fast rate, and no one else was on that stairway.) Of course, he wanted a tip when he set the bag down. Not only was I not going to give him a tip for taking it a few measly steps without my permission, but I noticed his grinning accomplice off to the side ready to see where I would obtain my money. I grabbed my suitcase handle, firmly said, “No” and ran into the crowd.

On the positive side, I’ve taken numerous train rides on each yearly trip, and this is the only time anything happened. I always have one hand free, and my purse is inside my daypack that’s on the front side of me for safe-keeping….and critical essentials worn in my money belt.

Posted by
2017 posts

Definitely carry only as much as you can handle. I see this all the time in airports and train stations. A family with carry-ons and big luggage wants to go to the bathroom or walk around. So all luggage is left with one person. One father had to watch four other suitcases besides his. If someone were to just come over and take one it would be hard to chase after.

Like I said, I've taken solo train rides for years and never seen anything happen. On one London-to-York trip I actually had to leave my bag in the vestibule because there was no room overhead or on the luggage rack.

Posted by
993 posts

Thank you for sharing. So sorry you had to deal with this on your trip.

Posted by
7021 posts

I guess I've been lucky - as a solo traveler, I've had people help me with bags before (usually helping to lift them onto trains or up stairs at the stations) but no one has ever tried to scam me out of money. It's a good reminder, though, that it can happen.

Posted by
27426 posts

I'm female and over 70; I travel with a 23"-24" bag. I've run into pushy helpers who expect/demand tips in Italian train stations on occasion, though not during my 2022 trip. It's worth remembering, though, that if you are visibly struggling with a suitcase, especially on or near stairs, a young person (often but not always male) may offer to help with your bag. Most of the time they will ask whether you need help--or use charades to inquire--but sometimes they just grab the bag and carry it up or down the stairs. Those are not scam artists; they're trying to be helpful and also to keep you from impeding movement on the stairs. Honest folks don't stop to think that what they are doing might make you nervous. Having that experience is less nerve-racking if you know you don't have items of great value in your suitcase.