Monday, March 16, 2009

NYC09: Tips to Avoid Being Scammed: A How To Guide

When someone says to you “I want you to have this for free” one should normally take note. Needless to say, mistakes were made.

Seeing the scam artists around the base of the Empire State Building, I knew that stopping to take a picture would be a problem. And yet, I did it anyway.

“I'd like you to have this DVD movie. It's free.” If you ever find yourself face with this, here are some simple tips that will help you progress and avoid an unfortunate situation.

Step 1: Keep walking. If this doesn't work, and you must pause – be rude... ignore. If this doesn't work and they start to address you, well then pretend you don't speak english. Just shake your head, or learn to say “I don't speak English” is any of a dozen other languages. Try Chinese – especially if you do not look it. This will confuse them, but remember your pronunciation must be exact. These are a wily bunch!

You may have failed this already. You may find yourself in conversation with these shysters. Now they know you speak English. You're starting to get it deep. But fear not, there's still a way out.

“Take this DVD (cd, item, whatever - )

Step 2: This is simple to avoid. Say, no. Refuse the item. Claim you don't have a DVD player. Tell them you're busy and you need to go right away. Just do not touch the item.

For some the lure of potentially free gifts may be too much. You may have reached out and grabbed it. It is now in your possession. Once more you have failed a simple exit strategy - here comes the hook.

“We accept donations. Whatever you want – ten, twenty dollars.”

Step 3: Do not take out your wallet. Claim you have no money. Just walk away with it – they said it was free, after all (probably not the best, unless you're in a populated area – or there are noticeable police nearby). Give the item back.

But like a fool you've already taken out your wallet. But don't worry – you're no idiot. You took out your quick-grab loaded with small bills. Perhaps one or two dollars is worth the experience, and the story.

Wait – you don't have a quick-grab? You opened up your full wallet and let him see inside? It's still o.k.

Step 4: Just remember step 3. It's your money. Now, if you're not in a safe place maybe try and feel out the situation. This man now knows how much cash you have, and could have friends. Placating him might be the safest choice at this point – but if you are safe – as I was near the ESB, remember: it's your money. You don't need to part with it.

Wait – you just handed over a twenty dollar bill? O.K. - I'm trying to help you here, but from time to time you need to help yourself! Sure he promised change, but... O.K. here's what you do.

Step 5: He gave you 2 DVDs and wanted twenty dollars each? Even though they're just burns in a laser printed case? And he has already offered you a deal taking only your twenty? Well – you said five bucks each, and that's what you're going with. So feel free to raise your voice.

“I don't have change,” he now tells you.

Step 6: Demand all your money back. Just get out now. In the future don't hand cash over until you already have the change. But if you're safe, and it looks like the change isn't coming yelling “give me ten dollars now,” might just fluster him into it.

In all honesty, you should just end this travesty at Step One. I should have ended it at Step One. But, as I said, mistakes were made.

And that's how I got hosed for ten dollars outside of the Empire State Building.

Wrap Up:
What have we learned from this?
1. situations like this are best avoided
2. if you are not safe, sometimes it's best to accept the scam
3. always have a quick-grab on you, filled with small bills
4. never reveal your real wallet in public
5. if you get scammed, don't feel bad. It happens to the best of us, even city hardened pros when out of their element. After all, these people probably need the money more than you do, and it might just make a compelling story.

Now, I'm just excited to get back and watch – what I have no doubt are two blank writable disks that were purchased for the low low price of only $5.00 each. What value, what savings.


  1. Tabernac! Thanks for the advice. I generally avoid people trying to sell/give me stuff for a donation in TO, but we don't really have this type of scam here, so now I know to hold back on my 'conversations' with strangers in these situations.

  2. I wouldn't say hold back - they can be quite fun. Just hold your ground. Most strangers are quite nice, out there. Sleep deprivation just makes you a bit loopy and off your guard, some times.

  3. Another scam: Orange Electronic, a small camera shop on 7th Ave NYC, lied to me about a lens attachment, charged me 3 times the B&H price, and skillfully mislead me about the return policy. The total price ot that humbling experience, $153. June 2011 Avoid Avoid Avoid.


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