Here’s a variation of the Newspaper Attack. The victim—usually a single female traveler—is approached by a gypsy woman carrying a baby in a blanket, who tosses the child into the arms of the victim. Cohorts grab the victim’s purse, wallet, camera, and anything else they can snatch amid the confusion. After the crooks run away, the victim discovers that the “baby” is nothing more than a doll.
The “Helpful Local” Scam
Thieves posing as concerned locals will warn you to store your wallet safely — and then steal it after they see where you stash it. If someone wants to help you use an ATM, politely refuse (they’re just after your PIN code). If a bank machine eats your ATM card, see if there’s a thin plastic insert with a tongue hanging out that crooks use to extract it. (A similar scam is to put something sticky in the slot.) Some thieves put out tacks and ambush drivers with their “assistance” in changing the tire. Others hang out at subway ticket machines eager to “help” you, the bewildered tourist, buy tickets with a pile of your quickly disappearing foreign cash. If using a station locker, beware of the “hood Samaritan” who may have his own key to a locker he’d like you to use. And skip the helping hand from official-looking railroad attendants at the Rome train station. They’ll help you find your seat…then demand a “tip.”
Hot Dog Scam
The perp “accidentally” squirts mustard on you while eating a hot dog (it’s really a tube of mustard in a bun). Full of apologies, he clumsily tries to help clean up the mess while an accomplice walks off with your carry-ons.
Lube Job Scam
You drive into a small town, and a helpful bystander points out that your wheel bearing is hemorrhaging oil. In fact, the bystander has just sloshed a cup of oil onto your wheel, and tells you there’s a garage around the corner that’ll fix your problem. The garage owner is in on the con, charges an inflated rate, and splits the take with the bystander.
A pedestrian bumps against you and drops something. “If you pick it up and attempt to return it, you’ll find you’ve got a bagful of banknotes and a bagful of trouble. That’s when the careless cash-dropper accuses you of removing some of the money. Of course, the bad guy turns out to be willing to forget the whole incident in exchange for a fistful of dollars.
A group of children surrounds you, waving newspapers in your face. The papers are merely to confuse you and block your view as the youths reach into your pocket and grab your bag—or anything else they can get their hands on.