This is the story of how I got scammed by a businessman in Rome. I think of myself as a pretty savvy traveler. I have heard about all the famous and most common travel scams with money, taxi drivers, and people approaching you on the street.
Although I like to meet locals, I am always a bit cautious when somebody approaches me out of the blue. Especially when travelling solo, you really have to watch your own back and be aware of people not having good intentions with you.
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Scammed by a businessman in Rome
That’s why I’m still amazed how I got scammed by a businessman in Rome, while I travelled with my parents. That is right. I had mommy and daddy with me and a businessman scammed us all.
My story might be very specific. How many people get scammed by a businessman in Rome? I haven’t heard any stories yet? Do you know of any? Either way, the scam was very generic and the tactics used are all but too familair. So read on and learn.
Engaging in conversation
After visiting some churches in Rome, we were on our way to Borghese Park and got lost. We were in a residential area. No tourists, no locals. This was clearly the wrong area and we needed to go back.
All of a sudden, a big black sedan pulls up. The man opens the window on the passenger side and leans over to us. He greets us and asks us straight away if we can help him.
I feel no need to help this man, so I tell him right away, we do not know directions. But my dad, bless him the good man, feels the need to answer the man.
We are three tourists lost in a big city and this scammer has engaged us in a conversation.
Making a connection
The man tells us his story. His credit card is blocked and he doesn’t have any cash. He can’t get gas and used his last money to get out of the parking garage. Sounds legit, doesn’t it?
While he leans over and tells his story, he starts firing questions to us. Where we are from? If we know how to get out of Rome? My dad answers we are from Holland.
Instantly, the man grabs my hand. Hello, I’m Giovanni. My friends call me Gio. My wife is Dutch. She’s from Alkmaar, do you know Alkmaar?
I realize I find the talks of this man too smooth. I’ve seen it all too often with salesmen on the street, trying to lure you into their shop. But the man is holding my hand all the time.
After engaging in conversation, the scammers make a connection by looking for things you have in common.
Gio the business man shifts his attention to my dad and my mom, who are standing next to me. He also wants to shake their hands. He is so happy to meet more people from Holland. Of course, he misses his wife so much and we remind him of her.
My dad reaches into the car and shakes his hand. My mom too. I’m standing tip toeing on the side. My head yells: let’s go. This is not right. Let’s go. But my conscience tells me he is a friendly man and I shouldn’t be so cold.
The scammer shifts his focus to other people in the group. Engaging in conversation and making a connection with everyone.
Asking for money
After all the polite talk, the man asks if we can help him. He just needs a few euros to get some gas and get out of Rome. I do not want to give him any money as he could call his insurance or his bank to help him with his lost credit card.
But he tells us everything is closed and he needs to deliver these designer bags quickly somewhere. He shows us a bag which is sitting on the passenger seat.
If we help him we can have one of those gorgeous designer bags in exchange. I’m thinking: “just give the man 5 euro and let’s go.” My dad is in charge of the money and hands the man a tenner. He shakes his head and says he needs gas and money for the toll road outside Rome.
He doesn’t take the money we hand him. Instead, he takes the bag and gives it to my mother. He says its real leather and the stitching inside are of top quality. I do not know a lot of bags. I’m no fashionista and I do not care for a fancy purse.
My dad gives him 20 euro and my mom says the bag is very pretty. Now the man is all of a sudden in a hurry. He says the bag is worth much more than 20 euro and if we do not want to help him, we should have said so from the beginning.
The scammer asks for a favour or help, in exchange for something worthless. He wants to know how much money you’ll have and if you’re open for a trade.
Mood shifts and storming off
Aiiii… touché. Guilt is creeping up on us. Poor man. In such a big city, without money. This time a 50 euro note is handed to him through the window. The man still protests. My dad is checking his wallet for more.
Now I’m losing it. I can just barely prevent my dad from dishing out more money and convince him to store his wallet. So, I grab the bag from my mom’s hands and try to give it back. I try to stay polite. I tell the man it’s a nice bag, but we do not have that much money on us. And I suggest he takes the bag and tries somewhere else.
Now the man gets furious. He starts to yell at us. Stupid tourists. Don’t know real designer bags from fakes. He snatches the 50 euro note from my dad’s hand. I try to shove the purse back into the car but he he zips up the window and storms off. Squeaking tires and everything.
The scammer changes his sentiment. He will play with your feelings and is all of a sudden in a hurry. He will confuse you and storm of if needed.
We got scammed
Yup, he is gone. With our 50 euros. We do have a cheap bag to brag about it though. It is a nice bag. It’s definitely not a real designer bag and I question if it’s real leather either.
My mom wears it with pride thought. She jokes that she paid fair and square for the bag. Each time I see it: I have to laugh and think about the story how I got scammed by a businessman in Rome.
The scammer operated as all scammers do. They engage in conversation. They try to make a connection and shift their focus to other people in the group. The scammers check how much money you’ll have and then all of a sudden change their sentiment and storm off.
As we were getting scammed by a businessman in Rome, I knew the scamm was going on but then it was too late. But how can you not help somebody in need? If the person looks like a businessman and seems to have no bad intentions?
The lesson I learned is: getting scammed can happen to everybody. Even after years of travelling far and wide. It can happen close to home or somewhere across the globe. It can be when you’re travelling solo or with a group or with your parents. You can get scammed by a scam artist or somebody who sees an opportunity and decides to go for it.
We now have a fancy bag and a great story to show for us. Luckily that’s all that happened and it only costs us 50 euro. In exchange for a bag. Besides getting scammed, read more about things to see and do in Rome.
Want to read more about travel scams? Check 15 common travel scams by expertvagabond.
Learn more about Rome with this short Rome travel guide.
Have you ever been scammed? Please share your story below.