male travelers are
targets for several sorts of scams
that end in robbery.
One of these is the "Let's
Have a Drink" Scam which
results in your paying a drinks bill
of hundreds or even thousands of
dollars or euros.
Robbers love it because it's easy, and their risk of identification, arrest, trial and punishment is almost non-existent. This is why it happens in many cities (even London), and certainly in Istanbul.
how to avoid it:
Square, and Beyoğlu's
Caddesi and Cumhuriyet Caddesi
are common places for this to happen.
Here's an example of one variation (there are many): while
you wander around on your own in
the evening, you're approached
by a well-dressed
man who addresses you in Turkish. You respond that you don't speak Turkish, and he says "Oh! I thought you were a Turk."
This is an opener to establish his "innocence"—that he is not looking for a tourist to rob.
You discover that he speaks English well.
He chats with you, then he suggests
together, and leads you to a bar
or nightclub that's in on the scam. (He
might lead you to a normal,
innocent place first in order to
gain your confidence, then afterwards
go to the scam location.)
soon as you sit down, women and perhaps
other men also sit at your table
and order drinks (usually, but not
Sooner or later the bill will
come, you will
be expected to pay it, and it will
equal or exceed the total amount
of money you have with you; or
your credit card will be forcibly
taken and charged for a huge amount.
Typical "bills" presented
to victims are between TL1000
In fact, they will usually take
all the money you have or have access to.
you protest the scam, you may be
taken into a backroom "office" and beaten or
even threatened with death until
you agree to pay. You may also be
forcibly taken to an ATM and
ordered to take as much money as
you can from it.
This is Robbery!
plain and simple, and in recent years
it has gotten a lot rougher and more
to a report published in Hürriyet,
Turkey's largest-circulation newspaper,
on June 26, 2008, Istanbul police
staged coordinated raids on
six nightclubs suspected of this
activity and arrested over a hundred
people including bar owners, employees
and konsomatris (bar
girls whose job it is to entertain
customers with the aim of increasing
their bills). The police seized weapons
(including a Kalashnikov and pistols)
and drugs as well.
to the Hürriyet article,
some police may
have been part of the scam. If a victim
reported the incident to police, the
police might recover some of
the money for the victim, perhaps half
of it—which left the remaining
pay the "well-dressed man" who
speaks English, the club, and the police
"Well-dressed men," called "translators"
in the Hürriyet article,
per month at this scam.
If the victim didn't go to the police,
the gang kept all of
in the best of circumstances, where
the police are not in on the scam,
the situation is against
nightclub owner may protest that
you ran up a big bill, got drunk,
caused a ruckus and didn't want to
pay. It's his word against yours,
and he speaks the local language
and knows how to work the scam. He
knows that few foreign travelers
will go to the police, and that
he may never be tried and convicted.
(If at some point the club owner offers
to give some or all of your money back
to you in exchange for avoiding the
police, don't believe him!
He's a crook! You will
get no money back, whatever he says. Avoid
any further dealings with him!)
—Here are first-hand
accounts of the
victims of this crime. Read and avoid!
A Variation of the Scam
variation: you're sitting
alone in a bar, café, taverna (meyhane) or
restaurant area (perhaps Beyoğlu's Çiçek
Pasajı). Two or three men sit
down near you or next to you and
strike up a conversation. You chat
amiably. After awhile they suggest
you all go to another place, perhaps
because it's got "a good view," or "music," or "great
food." In the car or taxi
on the way there, they relieve
you of your wallet, dump you in
the street and speed off to parts
How to Identify the Scam
are the giveaways that you're being
1. The con man often begins his chat
with "I just got off
from work in [nearby hotel]." This is to convince
you that he knows and is friendly
with foreign visitors.
will suggest that you go for a drink
not to just any bar
but "to a place I
know." At first he
may take you to one or two normal
places, perhaps for tea or coffee,
but eventually he will insist on
going to a particular bar/nightclub
that's in on the scam.
3. Your conversation will not seem normal.
You may ask a question about Turkey,
and he will say something on another
topic entirely. In fact, he's
following a script to lead you to the point
of agreeing to go have a drink (and
How to Avoid Being Scammed
that you're with two
or three other male friends who
have gotten ahead of you. "Let's
go find them and all go," you
can say. A Turk who's just interested
in having a friendly drink and chat
would probably welcome the suggestion.
A scammer will pressure you
to come alone.
B. You suggest
another place for a drink,
a very public one, such as a hotel
lobby bar or sidewalk café. A polite
Turk will agree—the point is
to sit and chat, and it doesn't matter
where. A scammer will insist on going
only "to this place I know."
C. Say that you're meeting others
in a few minutes (give no
details, even if he asks),
and offer to meet him for a drink
some other time (say
my other friends." The scammer will
not want that.
you think you're being scammed, excuse
yourself and get away. "Sorry,
I can't right now. Bye!" "I gotta
go!" "Some other time." Most of the
time this will work. The scammer
usually chats you up on a public
street, and won't want to be seen
as part of a ruckus or scuffle.
Another scam is "New Traveling Companions."
Obtain a Police Report!
If you have the misfortune to be robbed by such a scam, try to obtain a police report on the incident. This may help with insurance and credit card claims, and may enable you to take the loss as a tax deduction.
For further action, contact your country's consulate, which may be able to help with the names of recommended attorneys.
let these scams scare you. In
general, Turkey is a safe and welcoming
place. Read some of these Scam Stories so you understand how the robbers operate, and you can avoid falling a victim of this crime.
—by Tom Brosnahan