Here are five scams visitors to Prague should know about

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The only thing that’s happened to me in Japan was once while walking the streets in Osaka a guy came up and tried to sell me a book of poetry for a couple hundred yen. It was written in kanji so I have no idea if it was his original work or just a copy of something else.

Otherwise scams are almost entirely nonexistent in Japan. There are beggars of course but they, like everyone else, are exceedingly polite to foreigners.

I’ve actually tried to give people money over there for their assistance and have been refused every time - Like the salaryman in the 3 piece suit who (without prompting) saw the confused look on my face and directed me to the correct shinkansen platform in the middle of Tokyo Central at rush hour.


“Belorussian rubbles?” I guess when they’re expired that’s an acceptable name.

There is a well-known scammer in Boston MA who has been plying his trade since at least the mid-90’s, the internet and camera phones finally put a dent in his con, but I think now he’s trained a partner who pulls the scam as well (google “elliot davis boston”-- there are multiple reddit threads about him.) Currently there is a middle-aged woman doing the exact same con in the same neighborhoods he used to frequent.

Basic gist: his car is broken down, he either needs $5 for a can of fix-a-flat, or lots more ($20-40) for a tow truck or cab ride, usually his kids are involved somehow (“I need to get my infant son to the hospital.”) He is well dressed and polite (sometimes under-dressed for the weather), but if you start asking him questions the story falls apart (the car is either weirdly far away or magically gets farther away if you offer him a ride.)


I used to have a shop in the West Loop area of Chicago and a guy came and knocked on the door.
He wanted to know if I had an old used drill so he could get a job on a construction site.
I walked him across the street to the hardware store and picked out the cheapest corded drill they had, paid for it and wished him good luck with his new job.

Several days later another knock on my door. It is a cab driver. He wants money.
“I didn’t order a cab!”
The cabbie points to the guy standing next to the cab. It is the same guy I bought the drill for.
I paid the cabbie about $35 if I recall, the guy had taken a cab from the south side and later said he had no other way to get to his job that day and thanked me profusely.

That was it for maybe a week, but then the guy shows up at my door again.
This time he needs a bus ticket to Peoria to visit his sick Auntie or something.
He said he needed the money right away as the bus was leaving soon. I asked him what time the bus was leaving, he told me. I called Greyhound (this is before internet) and sure enough there was a bus leaving for Peoria at the time the guy stated.

“OK” I said “Let’s go” and I got him to hop into my truck.
We drove to the Greyhound Bus Terminal (not far really).
While we are driving he keeps saying that I don’t have to do this, he just needs the money to buy the ticket, I shouldn’t waste my time, etc. But I insist.

We get to the counter, I buy him a one-way ticket and hand it to him, then I stand there and watch.
Bus leaves in 30 minutes.
He tells me I don’t have to stay.
I insist.
He slowly starts walking towards the bus boarding area. I follow him as far as I can and watch.
I watch him get on the bus. I watch the bus pull away. I wait until the bus is out of my sight, then I go back to work.

About a month later I get a knock on the door.
It is a cab driver that wants money. He says “that guy said you would pay for it”
“Sorry pal,” I said to the cabbie," that guy lied to you and ripped you off."

I shut the door.


I had a guy ask me for money because he had a job interview the next day and needed nice clothes. He made the error of asking me right in front of a Goodwill. I offered to buy him some and he (reluctantly?) says OK. I buy him a pretty nice shirt and slacks and a belt, he took some time to pick them out and try them on too. I paid with a credit card so he could see there was no $$$ in my wallet.

Two hours later I see him on the other side of the street telling the same story to other folks. He has ditched the clothes I just bought him.


Prague, yes I will see you someday…


The most recent scam I encountered (and barely managed to thwart) was a Moroccan cab driver.

After first trying to charge me an outrageous amount, then trying to renege on the agreed (but still high) price after I was in the car, and grumbling about the price the whole way to my hotel outside of town, I was surprised when his disposition suddenly turned SUPER friendly as we pulled into the hotel property.

I handed him a 100MAD note (about US$10), which was the agreed price for the long-ish ride. He thanked me, but as I turned away he started yelling at me. I turned back and he shoved a 20MAD note into my hand, saying I was trying to cheat him. I reflexively apologized, thinking I had grabbed the wrong note from my wallet. But as I took out my wallet to get another 100, I remembered that just before I approached him to negotiate the ride, I’d visited an ATM (that only dispensed 100MAD notes) because i had been completely out of cash. So there was no way I had handed him a 20MAD note.

I handed him back the 20 and he started yelling more. I invited him to call the police and he sped away.

I probably should have kept the 20.


It’s easy to read about this after the fact, but at the time I would have loved to just say “Thanks for the change” and walked off.


Not that I don’t appreciate people advising against specific scams but I feel this all-purpose piece of gambling advice from Marlon Brando is much more to the point and much more vivid in its imagery:

Now who wants a wager on my dice?


If someone gives me a good story and asks for money, I don’t mind giving them a buck or two. I don’t consider it a con - I see it as a short one-act play.


Sorry to be salty, but complaining that homeless people exaggerate or fake disabilities is usually classist bullshit.

Yes, they’re trying to “trick” people out of spare change, but it’s not Ocean’s Eleven.

I tend to think “scams” are more stealing wallets, luggage or cars, kinds of things, not panhandlers fooling people into basic human sympathy.


I agree!
I’ve had people try to pull the same, lame, tired, sorry scam stories and IF I have the time, I’ve stopped and told them flat out that I’ve heard that old tale too many times, but if they have a BETTER story, it was worth $5 (and I pull out a $5 bill).

Every Time. They Just Repeat. The Same Story. Like They Were Reading. From A Script.


I can only read that in the voice of Mitch Hedberg.


That’s the greatest compliment anyone ever gave me.


Interesting… I was just at a state fair and saw a new “game”: hold onto a horizontal bar for 100 seconds and get $100. It doesn’t seem like it would be that hard, and the barker said that seven people had won that day. But I gotta figure he knows his odds better than I do. He did allow people to try it out first (pre-fatiguing the muscles a bit can’t hurt). So I doubt it spun around like the video says, although I didn’t try it myself. Seems likely that it’s just flat out hard to hold on for that long.


Related: “Baggage handlers” at Bucharest’s train station Gara du Nord do not actually work for Gara du Nord. They simply pay the entry fee everyone else pays, and haul luggage 50 feet on a cart and charge sleepy or otherwise confused passengers almost 20 bucks per load.


Alex Honnold: Cool.

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This is why whenever you travel you should be as rude and unfriendly as possible to the locals, amirite?


So, now it’s politically incorrect to disapprove of scammers?

The woman with the crutch and the man in the Mercedes aren’t homeless people.
These people aren’t “fooling people into sympathy”, they’re exploiting sympathy.

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