Barcelona Scams

Note: This page on Barcelona scams was begun by Terry Jones shortly after he moved to Barcelona. Bob and I met him through our mutual fascination with the city’s thieves and became great friends. Terry got too busy to maintain the site, and has bequeathed it to me. I’ve left it as is. Please add your Barcelona scam experiences by writing them here. And stay safe out there…

Bambi Vincent
Thiefhunter

BARCELONA SCAMS

Greetings.

I created this page in early 1996. At that time it was a small collection of my own experiences. These were almost all amusing and almost all involved the voluntary surrender of one’s money. I also solicited stories from others. Over time, the contributed stories grew to greatly outnumber my own, and the tone has steadily changed from amused to something darker.

I find myself forced to re-do this page and to write this introduction. Yes, you can still be tricked in an entertaining way into giving people money on the Ramblas in Barcelona. But, you can also be attacked, have teeth knocked out, be set on fire, and be strangled, all in the process of having your bag snatched.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve spent time on the streets of New York, whether you’ve travelled in dozens of countries, or whether you consider yourself too experienced or too lucky to be a victim. The simple truth is that people with similar backgrounds and confidence are being robbed every day in the old center of Barcelona.

Below you will find both the youthful and naive beginnings of this page and the gritty reality that over 100 other people have faced here.

If you’d like to read more (admittedly highly non-representative) about Barcelona, check out my Calle Leona – Tales from the Barrio Gótico.

Terry Jones

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

Two friends, Bambi Vincent and Bob Arno, have just published a great book, TRAVEL ADVISORY! How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams While Traveling. I highly recommend grabbing a copy before traveling. There’s not much about street crime that they don’t know. What’s more, their knowledge is first-hand; gained through many years of extensive travel and remarkable interviews with pickpockets. They visit Barcelona several times a year, and the book even includes a good photo of a smiling Kharem (page 170), one of Barcelona’s most prolific pickpockets. I’ve seen Kharem in action on the Ramblas here – something you will probably want to avoid as a visitor. You can read more about the extraordinary exploits of Bob and Bambi in the book and find out more about them at their web site: http://www.bobarno.com.

NAIVE ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION

There are a number (any number) of ways to leave some extra cash behind when you visit Barcelona. For example, you could give it to someone on the street. Some of the people who will ask you for money, or be “performing”, are true artists, though not exactly in the classical sense of the word…

1. Watch for the sidewalk artists with the huge chalked picture of the Mona Lisa at their knees. Notice their studied faces, how they hold the colored chalk just so. With great deliberation, they add a few strokes here, maybe just a touch there. Then they sit back and look at the work with what is clearly an artistic spirit. If any street performers deserve some of your money, surely it these people, the true and pained artists.

NOT

What a sham. Once you know what’s going on, it’s incredible to watch these people. If you get up early enough, you’ll see them arrive. They bring the Mona Lisa rolled up under their arm. They lay it out in a prominent place on the sidewalk and then tape it down. Then they sit by it ALL DAY with that incredibly good suffering-artist look, always about to add a little color here or there, pausing, considering, choosing another color etc. Perhaps they do deserve your money for being such great fakes, but certainly not for being artists.

redstars 2. A short, tanned, flustered woman with sunglasses and a big birth mark on her face approaches you and asks desperately if you speak German. Even though you say “no, not really” or can even manage “nur ein bissen”, she manages to convey to you that her bags have just been stolen. Her papers are gone and she has no money whatsoever. She’s a tourist and she needs to go to the police. She’s very polite and perhaps somewhat disheveled. She says “entshuldigen” (excuse me) after every sentence and is generally very apologetic. You know about the Mona Lisa Scam, but this woman is in a desperate position and really needs your help. The right thing, the good thing, the Christian thing to do is to give her some money, maybe all your money.

UH HUH

She’s lying! I know for sure because this woman approached me in Madrid and then, a few months later, approached Ana when we were walking to the office in Barcelona. There was no doubt it was the same woman, though she (very apologetically) denied having been in Madrid. You don’t have to believe everything I say though, feel free to give her your cash. Since then I’ve seen her twice, always with that worried just-robbed look, wandering the streets: in search or her recently lost baggage, or yet another gullible tourist? You be the judge.

redstars 3. She’s not the only one.

There are at least two other women doing more or less the same thing. One is tall with long straight brown hair, silver (I think) thin-rimmed glasses, and watery eyes. Your eyes would water too if your bags had been stolen as many times a day as this women’s have been!

This one speaks English, and is often to be seen wandering the Ramblas around Liceu, or near the Jaume I metro stop on Via Laietana, always in search of her bags. I have been approached by her at least 4 times. I think she knows me now, because the last time I told her she’d already asked me several times, and since then we have not spoken. I should try to get an interview with her, to post to the world here.

Barcelona scammer

After reading this page, Nick Farnworth was on the alert. He thought quickly and caught her on film! He sent me the image on the left and these words:

Thanks to your page I avoided being duped by the “robbed” woman near Liceu. She approached me twice in 2 days. Both times she had “just been robbed” and wanted cash for a meal. She has an American accent, about 50 years old, with long hair in a pony tail down to the middle of her back. and wears oval glasses and a “worried” expression. The second time I told her she had already approached me and I asked if I could take her photo. Needless to say she shot off. So I have a photo of her from the back if you want it for the page.

It’s taken from the rear, but is unmistakably her. At least you’ll be able to tell if that was her. If you want the big version of this photo, here it is. For even more on this woman, see below.

The other woman I know of only from my good friend Emily, who got the royal treatment and came away 1,000 pesetas (about US$7) poorer, but feeling damned good about it. In this case, the poor woman, who Emily says was French, had suffered the same fate, and asked for money for a pension for the night, just for one night so she could get out of Barcelona the next day. They went to a pension, and bargained with the friendly owner (undoubtedly in on the deal) for a cheap room. They tried to get 2,000 from her, but in the end she only gave them 1,000. Emily said that afterwards she thought it might have been a scam because the man who ran the place started to haggle over room prices before they’d even told him what they wanted. Also, the woman’s bags were plastic bags, from a supermarket. Smells kinda fishy to me too!

ONE WONDERS

To what extent the petty crime rate in Barcelona would drop if all the con artists wandering the streets claiming their bags had been stolen were subtracted from the statistics. Maybe no-one in Barcelona has ever actually had their bags stolen.

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4. You see an excited crowd of people gathered around a man who’s hiding a pea under one of three cups on a table. A man wins 5,000 pesetas (US$40) and you knew where the pea was too. Another man plays and he wins too. Again, incredibly, you knew where the pea was. That’s 10,000 you could have won in a few minutes. They play again, and this time when the shuffling man looks away briefly, a man lifts up a cup to make sure the pea is under there, it is. They put their hands on that cup and lay down more money. They see your curiosity and beckon you to join. You resist because you’ve heard this is really a scam. Hell, you even read about it on the web someplace before you left home. They win again. Another man comes up and he loses, but then he wins it back. Both times you knew where the pea was. This is plain crazy, how can anyone lose? You reach for your cash…

WHOAH!

Keep your hat on. Unless you want to throw your money away, just watch the show but don’t play. All the people playing are ringers who are in on the scam. If you manage to see a game like this being set up, they all come from different directions and arrive at the game as if by chance. They make lots of noise and many people get drawn into the circle of watchers. The enthusiastic ringers encourage everyone to play. Eventually someone comes along who does. The shuffler looks away, the ringer lifts the cup to confirm where the pea is and puts their hand on the cup, the innocent victim knows where the pea is, the shuffler looks back, apparently noticing nothing. For one reason or another, the victim looks away, there’s plenty of ways to distract someone, the shuffler shuffles like crazy, the victim perhaps doesn’t even notice this, the pea is gone. So too the money.

The aftermath of these games is also interesting. We’re conditioned to associate some sense of permanence with such a game or with people selling things. I’m not sure what it is, but when you see one of these games disappear in about 3 seconds flat, you wonder what just happened. The victim gets angry and the shuffler simply puts the cups into his (her?) pocket and walks away swiftly. The “table” proves to be a cardboard box, which collapses. The victim goes after the shuffler but the ringers are on hand to dissuade and delay while the shuffler disappears down the steps into the metro. A few minutes later, another ringer walks off in another direction with the table top and cloth. One minute they’re there, and a few seconds later they’ve simply vanished. There’s no sign of any game, the noise has stopped, the onlookers are dispersing, the victim is wondering what the hell happened. Even when you’re just watching and you know what’s going on, it’s still hard to believe how quickly the whole thing comes and then disappears.

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5. You’re wandering down the Ramblas, minding your own business, when some young attractive person thrusts a coupon into your hands. It’s a buy one, get one free deal for Pans & Company, who make quite good fresh rolls and other things. Sounds like a good deal. You put it into your pocket and remind yourself that the next time you’re feeling hungry, you’ll visit Pans to have a heapin’ helpin’ of their hospitality.

THAT’S WHAT YOU THINK

A couple of days later, you arrive, starving, at the Pans restaurant and ask for two of their biggest, juiciest, offerings. “But this coupon has expired” they politely explain. You examine the coupon closely; it expired over three months ago! What’s the deal? You explain in broken Spanish that you just got the coupon two days ago and that there must be some mistake. No, we’re sorry, this coupon has expired. You change your order to one big juicy thing and hand over your money. You’re paying just as much as you had expected to pay, you just missed out on the freebie. Bummer.

In fact, you’ve been had. They gave you an old coupon deliberately, and it got you into their store. When the deal didn’t go through, instead of leaving, you cough up your money without thinking too much. It’s a scam I tell you, and somebody should do something about it. Besides making a web page that is. I got stung by this one, but it wont happen again. I’ll go to Pans when and if I feel like it. Not when they lure me there with a lie. Besides, Bocatta makes much better food.

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6. OK. You’re minding your own business sitting in a restaurant near the door. It’s a corner seat and you can see out the window. Your bag is on the chair next to you where you can see it, because you’ve heard about street scams in Barcelona. A guy taps on the window outside and you look up. He motions to his watch and gives you a questioning look. Do you have the time?

I DON’T THINK SO…

At the same moment, by some unfortunate coincidence, another guy has appeared on your other side. He’s reaching for your bag while you do a dumb-show pantomime to the guy needing the time, who (another unfortunate coincidence) turns out to be short-sighted, hard of hearing, and has no languages in common with you.

I nearly fell for this one. Ah it was so close, I couldn’t believe it. I, the author of these fabbo Barcelona Street Scams pages. What did happen is another story, culminating in a spitting match of all things! Not only does this bastard try to steal my bag, but he gets mad at me when I catch him and tell him to fuck off, and, to top it all off, he spits at me.

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7. Once again I nearly got done! It’s amazing how good these people are.

I was on the metro with Ana coming back from a film at about 1am. We were only going 2 stations, so we stood at the doors, facing outwards. At Barceloneta, two guys got on and stood beside Ana (I was on the other side of her). One was just behind her right shoulder, and the other was to her right. I was immediately watching them very closely, because they looked exactly like the kind of people you see trying to steal bags.

I was really watching them! There was no-one standing anywhere near us. I was so careful I even looked to see if I could see all their hands. They were talking away, I suppose in Arabic, one guy touching the other’s jacket and making some comments. I thought to myself, “hmmmm, that jacket looks out of place on that guy, I wonder if it was stolen.” Then I thought “come on, just because these guys look like just another pair of petty thieves doesn’t mean they are, they can’t help how they look.”

So it went. I watched them quite literally every second of the trip to the next stop (less than 2 minutes).

TO MY GREAT SHOCK

as we went to get off at Jaume I, Ana jumped as though she had been bitten. Her black wallet fell to the floor of the metro. I couldn’t believe it. She yelled at the two guys, who immediately looked extremely taken aback and said “what? what?” She grabbed her wallet and we got off. They stayed on.

It’s SO hard to get around your upbringing and background and really see immediately that these guys are guilty as sin. As soon as they protest and claim complete innocence, you somehow feel in the wrong. Other passengers are just looking at you wondering what you’re shouting about. You know you’re right, but you have no strength of conviction. Then the train doors close and they’re gone. Of course the realization soon sinks in that of course you were just being robbed. That wallets simply do not jump out of backpacks and onto the floor of the metro.

Once again, you’ve been had, or nearly so. I was amazed, simply amazed. I’d watched them, I’d even counted their hands (and I realized later that I had only counted to 3 and not worried about the 4th). Once again I had simply walked away from two blatant thieves. Once again I had been too shocked and somehow doubting (or something) to do anything about it when they started to protest their innocence. Unbelievable.

If you wear one of those simple in-fashion backpacks with a fold over top that clips down, you might want to watch it!

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8. The other Saturday I was out walking around the bottom of the Ramblas around noon. I noticed a group of about 4 tourists ahead of me, obviously American, aged between 50 and 60. Probably enjoying their retirement. I also noticed a group of 2 or 3 young guys hanging around behind them. From the look of them I knew that something was about to go down.

The young guys were looking about, just wandering along behind the tourists. I stepped a few paces to the left to get a better view, and also to be out of the way.

Then it began. I don’t have a very clear picture of what they were going to do, or even of what happened. I understand now why witness accounts of events are so unreliable. Briefly, I saw them come very close behind the tourists. One of them bent down very low, as if he was trying to touch his ankle, or one of theirs. They were going for some shopping bags carried by the tourists. At that point I knew that if I didn’t do something quite fast it would all be over. So I shouted and moved towards them quickly.

They knew right off that the game was up. Two of them (or was it only one?) slinked off (or is it slunk?) behind some stalls. The third (or was it only the second?) gave me that barefaced “what are you shouting about?” look that I have come to know – that caught-in-the-act-but-hey-I’m-totally-innocent look. I shouted pretty loudly and aggressively, something I seem quite good at, and have an odd pride in – despite having nothing to compare it with.

Mainly my commotion seemed to get the attention of the tourists, who looked at me sideways. A man in the group said “See, that’s what I was saying” which I took to mean he had been warning them of thieves (not of shouting idiots like me). A woman in their group looked at me oddly. I said “you need to be careful” (in English). She seemed then to understand and said thanks. I kept walking, thinking how easy it is to spot the people who perpetrate (or attempt to) these petty crimes. In my experience, they all look the same.

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9. I was walking down Via Laietana the other night, quite close to my office. Towards me came two guys. Shortly after I passed them, they said something to each other and ran across the street (back in the direction they had come) towards the cars stopped at the traffic signal. They ran to opposite sides of a small white car. The one on the near side opened a door and tried to get in. The one going for the far side didn’t make it in time. The lights went green and the car drove off. The guy on the near side only managed to get partially into the car and gave up the attempt.

Innocent as I am, I thought “Oh, they saw a friend and were jumping into the friend’s car for a ride”. I expected to see the car pull over and the friends to get in. Well, if you haven’t guessed yet,

I’M A NAIVE IDIOT

Of course the white car didn’t stop. Of course they weren’t friends. The car drove off and the two guys continued walking up Via Laietana in their original direction, on the other side of the street.

I have no doubt they had spotted someone who looked vulnerable in a car, surely a lone woman. Very likely they would have simply robbed her and nothing more.

Once again I prove to be naive. But this case seemed to go beyond the typical snatch and run petty crime around here. What could be safer for those guys? Simply get into a car, make the driver drive a few blocks and then pull over. Empty her bag at your leisure, get out and walk away. Brazen, simple, well hidden, and effective.

So I have another tip, something I hate to have to say: lock your car door when you drive!

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10. Here’s another car story, while I’m at it.

A year ago or so, I found the remains of someone’s diary and address book outside my front door on Calle Leona. I gave it to Ana and she called a number she found inside. It belonged to a young French woman who lived nearby and who had recently been robbed (surprise, surprise).

I arranged to meet her to return her diary (which we’d all read in the meantime, it was great!). I asked her what had happened and she told me she’d stopped her car in Plaza del Pi (I wouldn’t even know how to get a car in there) when two guys had come up to her. They said there was something odd with her back wheel, and that she might want to take a look. One of them even went around the back of the car to help her see where the problem might be….

NOT REALLY A GOOD IDEA

Of course while she was there, the other guy was helping himself to the contents of the back seat, which included her handbag. He had surely walked off casually before the two at the back even got close to finding the problem. Some car problems can be so elusive.

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11. Last weekend I sat and lay in the sun talking with Ana in the lovely Parque de la Ciutadella. It’s not really heavily touristed, but there are clearly many people there who are tourists. Ana had her flat blue crime magnet of a backpack/purse with her, and was lying back on it. At some point I lay beside her and she sat up, so I made her tickle the inside of my ear with a stick. Then it occurred to me that she was no longer lying on her bag and that it was behind her (and I) and more exposed than it should be. So I reached behind her and moved it between us.

I MUST BE LEARNING

About a minute or two later, I became aware of two voices quite close by. I twisted my neck round and saw two guys sitting on the pedestal of a statue a few metres away. They spoke just a little, not in Spanish, in quiet and deep voices. How had they gotten there? Why hadn’t I heard them earlier? It’s all so obvious in hindsight of course.

A couple of minutes later they got up and casually sauntered off. One started to talk to two women near us, and then left them. Only at this point did it really sink in how close we had come (again), and that these guys were looking for unsuspecting people trying to relax in the park. They walked off in another direction and soon split up, one walking about 20 metres from the other. It became very clear that they were looking for opportunities to steal. The leading guy walked very slowly past and close to someone lying down near a tree about 50 metres from us while the other guy looked on. Then they continued their stroll through the park.

When someone comes up to talk to you in the park, it might be a good idea to look behind you. This advice probably applies to several places in Barcelona, definitely including Las Ramblas and Plaza Real.

CONTRIBUTED STREET SCAMS

In this section I have street scams that people have sent me. Some of these are not from Barcelona, but most are. Feel free to send me yours and I will add it.

If you do send me mail with a scam, please let me know if you’d like it added to this page and, if so, whether I can include your name and/or email address. Although you may attract spam, it’s good to have email addresses on this page (they can always be obfuscated). I occasionally get mail from people telling me that they live in Barcelona (as do I), that they’ve never seen any crime here, and that I must therefore have invented all the stories on this page.

Please note that the great majority of these Barcelona stories take place in the old part of town, between The Ramblas and Via Laietana, the sea, and Plaza Catalunya. This is of course where the concentration of visitors to the city is by far the highest.

Note too that being outside this area is no guarantee of safety. In fact, outside this area on the left (down the coast) of the Ramblas in the Barrio Chino is distinctly more dangerous. The same is true of a smaller section on the right (up the coast) of Via Laietana.

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12. I lived in Barcelona for two years as a missionary for the LDS (Mormon) church. I really loved the city and the people and when my two years were up, my parents came over to tour Catalonia. I had written for two years telling them how great Spain was, especially the low amounts of crime. During my mission, I hadn’t seen any type of crime or scam, except the shell game, which I think most people are wise to. Anyway, when my parents came I was very disappointed with two scams that came happened while I was with my parents. The first happened at the Sagrada Familia. Just outside the magnificent building, a large Gitana (Gypsy) woman was pinning flowers on the shirts of tourists. She would then ask the person for “cinco duros” or twenty-five pesetas. As the person would reach into their wallet, the woman would quickly grab whatever cash appeared, not “cinco duros” but a bill of one-thousand pesetas. As this woman tried this on my father, I quickly intervened and told her in plain spanish to leave him alone. She was startled that a tall american could speak spanish and know the scam.

The second scam is even worse for the tourist. As I was walking with my parents along an escalator near the Olympic Stadium, a man either spit or threw lotion on my jacket. He tried to tell me in broken english that a pigeon had crapped on me. The man had a kleenex tissue and kindly offered to clean it off. I knew this was a scam and I told him in spanish to keep his distance. I knew that if I took off my jacket, he would reach into my pockets and steal my wallet. He, like the Gitana, was again shocked and surprised and quickly left just as two Guardia Civil officers drove by. I informed them of what happened, but by this time the man was long gone. I was very upset that this happened, especially while my parents were visiting. It seems like these predators were targeting tourists, and unfortunately were having great success.

Contributed by Marty Fufkin

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13. Now to my Barcelona experience. By the way, I love Barcelona. I first visited there in 1962 and 1963 but I was unable to return again for 30 years. It was much quieter in the 60’s! I have visited three times in the last three years! My most recent visit was last July.

My wife and I were going to dinner at Planet Hollywood. On the way, I stopped at a pharmacy and bought a package of aspirins which I stuffed into my back pocket. We took the subway to the station nearest Planet Hollywood and the beach. We walked through the passages. There were lots of people around and there was a crowd going up the last escalator. Just at the top, the guy in front of me “dropped” his cigarettes on the moving stairs and he then bent over to pick them up. I, of course, came up behind him and the crush of other people was behind me. The guy had a great deal of trouble fumbling to pick up the package. When I moved to go around him he moved to block me. The light went on and I knew something was up. I now pushed him (hard!) out of the way and he stood up and immediately turned and went back down the regular stairs while I turned the other direction taking the final stairs to go out. I put my hand to my back pocket and my package of aspirins was gone! I had to laugh because I did not feel a thing and they (he had to have help) now likely had a headache anyway because they did not get the wallet (the bulge) they thought was there!

Contributed by Steve Vernon

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14. I was with my wife and two year old daughter about to enter a bank on Via Laietana to change money when two slim, somewhat bedraggled women in their 30’s or 40’s approached me mumbling a lot of Spanish (Catalan?) that I didn’t understand. They were holding cardboard signs with some writing, probably saying something like “Please help…hungry…”. Fortunately, I remembered that these signs serve another purpose. Pickpockets will sometimes thrust signs at you with one hand while the other hand rifles through your bags underneath. I quickly brushed them off, but not before one of them managed to partially unzip the small bag holding my camera. Luckily she didn’t get anything.

Contributed by Nathan Treloar

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15. I studied Landscape Architecture in Barcelona for two months in 1994 and witnessed more of these kinds of crimes than anywhere in Europe. The first day my Prof. arrived from Toronto, he had the “Sorry about spilling that mustard all over your shirt trick!”.

The morning after the first night I arrived in Barcelona I was sketching along the Moll de la Fusta. As it was a work day in October, not many people were around. All of a sudden, out of nowhere (and I could see a great distance in all directions where I was) a guy comes up to me anxiously asking directions to a landmark that was vaguely familiar sounding. Being extremely naïve and wanting to help I pulled out my map and pointed to what he was asking about (remember this was my first morning in Barcelona and I had not heard about the petty crime). As soon as I would point to the place he was asking about in his broken whatever language, he would become more frantic and then point to something else. After about the third instance of this (mere seconds) warning bells went off and I thought of my daypack sitting on the ground behind me containing my camera! I quickly turned around to see another guy crouching beside my day pack. I quickly grabbed it, looked really pissed off and yelled something. Just like they had arrived, they vanished in seconds (once again, not an easy feat on a deserted Moll de la Fusta). Miraculously, I didn’t lose a single thing.

I loved your description of the typical thief because thy do all look the same!!! The only thing you didn’t mention is that if they’re not in a tired old sport coat, they’re wearing those weird nylon gym suit things!

Contributed by Scott Torrance

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16. Your scam experience near the Olympic Stadium was significant to me because I had the very same happening on my visit to the Stadium. I believed it to be a possible scam but since I was successful in watching my possessions none were relieved from me and I chalked the deed as a kindness offered to a visiting tourist. I was amused and enlightened to read of your experience and the confirmation that it was indeed a scam. The male that attempted the scam in my case was oriental, about twenty and had plenty of napkins to help me wipe a brownish liquid from my jacket. There was plenty to remove. I hope others read of these experiences and avoid them.

While I’m at this let me tell you of another scam that happened in Mexico City. It was the first day of our arrival and my wife and I wanted to go to the stadium to obtain tickets for the Sunday bull fight. We decided to take the Metro and were astonished to see the numbers of people in a snaked queue waiting for the train to arrive. When we were boarding along with a large mass attempting to fit through the open doorway of the train, I was pushed rather hard from my right side and stumbled half way to the floor. I picked myself up and immediately reached to my side pocket that contained my wallet loaded with all of our money since I hadn’t taken my usual steps of protection nor those that I always take of never placing my wallet in my pants pocket. I panicked when I did not feel my wallet and I immediately looked at the men standing around me. None looked guilty. I turned and looked at the platform adjacent to the open doors and saw a young girl with a severe scar on her face and a sweater bundled in her hands as though it were a muff. I grabbed for the sweater and a young boy jumped from the train onto the platform at the same time. The metro doors closed and I felt all was lost but looking down on the floor my wallet had appeared. I picked it up safe and sound and was intensely relieved, as you can imagine.

I put the scam together later. The young boy had pushed me as I entered the doors and picked my pocket as I fell. He transferred it to the girl standing on the platform and was ready to get off the train immediately. My wife had held the door from closing delaying the train for just a moment but long enough for me to grab the sweater at which time the girl simply threw the wallet at my feet. I feel I must have sensed or perhaps even seen the wallet being thrown back which led me to look on the floor again. I also simply was aware that many pick pockets work in pairs and this young female accomplice looked the part of a toughy to say the least. My rush in not preparing properly as a tourist lead almost to a disastrous outcome that would have cut into any enjoyment I might subsequently have in Mexico. I might add one more bit: this scam took no longer than a few seconds to complete. The skill and swiftness I witnessed was amazing. In a way I had to admire the two and mused at the thought that if they had succeeded they could have waved goodbye to me with my own wallet as the doors closed and the Metro rolled. I think reading about scams earlier in my background indeed set my thinking and quick reaction so I felt obligated to add to your interesting experiences in hope that it may be helpful to others.

Contributed by wunderl

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17. I had just had dinner at a restaurant about halfway down Las Ramblas. When I had finished I noted that I had 15 minutes to get to the station at Plaza Catalunya where I had to catch the train back to the hotel. Since it was a moderate walk to get there I decided to take the subway, which would get me there much quicker – I didn’t want to miss this train as I would have to wait another 30 minutes for the next one, and it was already almost 10 pm.

Fate has strange twists, and I ended up losing far more sleep than if I had simply missed the train. As I was getting on the subway train somebody who I took to be some demonstrator or mentally deprived person or some other weirdo bent down beside me, started shouting and grabbed my ankle, shaking it up and down. There was quite a crush of people at the time and I was completely taken aback, not knowing what to do. This wasn’t helped by my slightly inebriated state either. He stopped just as the train was about to go and stepped back onto the platform. 5 seconds later I realised my wallet was missing. It had all been a carefully planned operation to pick my pocket.

Luckily, my passport was back at the hotel, but I lost all the cash I had plus the credit cards, plus all those other cards and things that cost time to get replaced. Since I had cancelled the credit cards as soon as I could, the week after that the bank phoned me to see what, if any, of VISA charges made that day were fraudulent. These robbers were professionals. In the hour between 10 pm, which was when the robbery occurred, and 11 pm, which was when I was able to phone VISA and cancel the card, they notched up over $1000 at a bar/nightclub! Goodness knows what they did, but my suspicion is that the nightclub owner was in cahoots with them and they shared some large cash withdrawal.

Contributed by Peter Maxwell

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18. I, too, was a victim in the Ramblas. This event occurred in broad daylight. 2 young men walked up to me, smiling, one guy wearing a nylon sports outfit, and started to say something regarding “Futbol”, which got my attention since I play soccer and know that soccer is really popular in Spain. He proceeded to show a soccer-like move (a ball-dribble move), which put his body close to mine. This quickly alerted my instincts, as well as my friend. In a matter of seconds, I saw my wallet dangling from my jeans. Fortunately, I was wearing a wallet with a chain connected to my belt loop. Having noticed that the wallet wouldn’t budge, he left with his partner and brazenly approached an older couple. At this time I was just astonished at the boldness with which they try to commit this crime. This was my first time in Barcelona and this experience has really soured me. Can the US State Department do something about this?

Contributed by mobile1

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19. In reference to the thin woman with long hair who claims that her bags were stolen..your photo is correct. I have been going to Barcelona for over 15 years. She has approached me numerous times, in fact 4 times in one day last Feb. I started a conversation with her. Her name is Susan, and she is very intelligent. She no longer approaches me for money. Now she just waves, & gives me the peace sign. She is a part of local life.

Contributed by Roger Allgeier

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20. My wife recently witnessed a pickpocket with a different technique in Seville. She was in Rota on business last week and went with a group of colleagues over to Seville to shop, see a bullfight & dine. While they were walking near the bullring, they saw saw a man move up behind another and reach into the pocket. The pickpocket utilized some sort of thin plastic tweezer about 10 inches long. The group my wife was with all yelled, the thief dropped the wad of bills and he ran. The startled the victim chased him out of sight after picking up his money strewn on the sidewalk. The pickpocket was an older gentleman who was tall, dark and thin and was very well dressed in a suit and tie.

Contributed by Bob Vernon

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21. We just returned from a visit to Barcelona just two weeks ago and the scams you describe here are very familiar to us. One day four of us took the metro to the Picasso Museu in Barrio Gotico. When the train arrived, we lined-up two-by-two to board the train. Two of us got on the train, however when our friend Ken tried to get on behind Virginia, two gypsy women cut in front of him, forcing him to slow down. In the mean time, two other gypsy women got behind Virginia and tried to unzip her backpack. Fortunately, Virginia felt the bag being unzipped and glared at the women. Because Ken was concerned about getting on board, he didn’t see the commotion in front of him. Once we were all on the train the four women made such a show, as if Virginia hurt them or something. Needless to say, the four women got off at the next stop. Surprisingly, the women who tried to pick pocket Virginia were very young. I believe one of them was as young as 16 or 17 years old.

We had another incident that day involving gypsy women in the Gothic Quarter, however, I’m now sure which scam it is. I remember reading your website about scams in Barcelona before I left, but I don’t remember this one. It was the day before the St. George festival in Barcelona and we were walking down a street in the Barrio Gotico when a band of three or four gypsy women with flowers were trying to offer one to us and saying the flowers were for the “festival”. Because of your warnings, I told everyone in our group not to accept and I said in my broken spanish to the women that the festival was “mañana”. They kept repeating that the flowers were for “no money”. What would they most likely have done to us if we did accept the flowers?

[See elsewhere on this page...... Terry.]

Your website and your effort to warn people of these scams have actually helped us enjoy our vacation more rather than scare us off. It just made us more aware of our surroundings so much more. Even though we are on vacation doesn’t mean robbers are as well. Thank you once again.

Contributed by Wendy Louie

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22. I would like to confirm the scam that has appeared on your page involving the gypsy women offering the flowers. My girlfriend and I went to Barcelona from 4/17/98 – 4/25/98 and had the time of our lives. As it happens, the festival of St. George falls on 4/23 so we drank it all in. We were walking on Passeig de Gracia near our hotel when we were approached by 5 gypsy women offering carnations. The one woman holding the flowers approached me and tried to stick a carnation in my lapel. I tried to refuse but at this point they had surrounded us. She asked for 1 peseta and I tried to give her a 100 peseta coin but she kept refusing. She insisted it had to be one peseta. I knew I didn’t have a single peseta in my wallet so I didn’t bother to take it out but my girlfriend tried to find one. As soon as she made a move toward her pocket, she was surround by them. I started to get alarmed and in hindsight I probably should have taken off with her but they all seemed so nice and my New York instincts were so relaxed that I just watched. While she was looking in the change portion of her wallet for a single peseta, one of the women tried to “help” her. With her right hand, she took her index finger and started poking around. Her left hand, shielded by a piece of paper, was up by the wallet. When my girlfriend couldn’t find a peseta we gave back the carnation and started walking. They also started walking away and I suddenly realized what had happened. I asked my girlfriend to check her wallet and sure enough they had stolen 25,000 pesetas (approx. 170 american dollars). I was so infuriated that these people had just ruined our perfect week that I lost it. They were only 20 feet away and hadn’t noticed that we realized what had happened. I ran up to the one with the flowers and grabbed her by the shirt. she spun around and almost hit me but stopped. She must have realized I was about to pummel her. One of the other women then thrust a wad of bills into my hand and told me in broken english that I had “dropped” it a few feet back. As I discovered later it was only 20,000 pesetas but I was so relieved that I let it go. They quickly hopped into a taxi and left.

Contributed by Jamie Weinstein

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23. Yes even as long ago as 1985 when I was travelling in Spain I fell prey to a scam in Barcelona. In an American Express office – no less…

I was checking mail, leaving a message for a friend, etc at the front counter. My bag (in retrospect very stupidly) was on the counter. Someone tapped by back. I turned around and found an innocent looking girl pointing at my back to indicate some gooey liquid on my jacket (oldest trick in the book – often adapted to backpacks, etc I found out later).

Within seconds after the girl has engaged my attention (the pigeon English helped distract me) it dawned on me that something wasn’t right. By the time I turned around to the counter, a man had grabbed my bag and was making for the door. I ran after him but he ran on to the road and into heavy traffic. Not even the bag was worth my tangling with Barcelona traffic.

That was the last I saw of him.

The really important part of the story, however, was the reaction of the AmEx staff.

Even after I ran after the guy, nobody in the AmEx office took any action, eg grabbing his accomplice.

When I went back to the office, I found the staff standing around like a pack of zombies saying “Yes, they looked suspicious. They had been hanging around in here for about half an hour”. It was most reassuring to know how vigilant they were.

AmEx took no action to assist me – even though I was using their travellers cheques and therefore was a customer. They just pointed me in the direction of the police station.

Fortunately I met a very nice Spanish woman at the police station who translated my robbery report to the police and gave me enough money to get me back to the hostel.

As it was my last day in Spain, I lost little cash. The thieves spent Australian$500 (quite a lot then) on my credit card (it was difficult to put a stop on them in those days and shops did not have online authorisation systems) but got little else of value except my address book. My major valuables were in my security pouch fortunately.

And the lesson … don’t think you’re safe in an AmEx office. But maybe times have changed.

Contributed by Philippa Brear

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24. My wife and I returned recently (June 8) from a two-week stay in Europe (Paris, Barcelona, Mallorca). Fortunately, I had scanned the web before going on our trip and came across your website. Other than being caught by the Spanish air traffic controller’s strike which resulted in a 7-hour-plus delay at Charles DeGaulle airport our trip was relatively hassle-free. However, your information and that provided by Rick Steves (Europe Through the Back door) concerning various scams helped us out during our stay in Barcelona and Mallorca. In the Placa Reial in Barcelona I was approached by a tall, thin woman with long hair tied in a ponytail who asked, in unaccented English, “Excuse me, sir, but do you speak English?”. I shook my head that I did not (I debated answering in German or Russian but decided not to do so) and she simply walked off. I turned around to watch her approach another couple but could not overhear their conversation. I took two photos of her, one from behind and a profile, using a telephoto lens and was trying to get a full frontal shot of her but she had disappeared by the time I was prepared (had to change film). Of course, she could really have been someone in trouble and with a legitimate concern, but I elected not to get started in a conversation.

The second incident, which was definitely a scam, occurred on our last day in Mallorca. While walking on the Paseo de Maritimo near our hotel (Hotel Mirador, an excellent hotel by the way) we were approached by two gypsy women one of whom attempted to put a carnation in my pocket, requesting a donation for “Santa Maria”. I carried only a few thousand pesetas in my front pocket, which was deep and buttoned, but the woman was quite insistent (my wife was watching the other gypsy woman who had begun to work her way behind me–all of our other valuables and money had been left behind in the hotel safe so I was not concerned about an end run). She put the stem of the carnation in the left portion of my buttoned pocket while simultaneously putting two other fingers in the right portion (all this was done quite quickly, as you can imagine). I immediately brought my hand up and was successful from preventing her from taking anything out of the pocket, but I realize that had my pocket not been as deep as it was and buttoned, I could have lost a little money (I would have chalked it up to the tuition of life). In any case, having been alerted to such scams was a big help. The two gypsy women went on their way (my wife–who is fluent in Spanish– threatened to call the police). Both incidents provided us with some amusement. I would also say that, as a general rule, we found the Spanish people very helpful and courteous. Many offered help without trying to carry out any scam. We hope to return. If you would like a copy of the photos I took of the “Barcelona Woman”, let me know, but, again, she could really have had a legitimate problem. Perhaps next time, if there is one, I should hear her story.

Contributed by Dale E. Arrington

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25. I was lucky enough not to get anything taken nor to not really have any actual attempt of theft made but that was only due to the vigilance of one of my companions. We were there on a very busy weekend last September, U2’s pop mart tour was playing at the Olympic Stadium and the Catalonian motor cycle grand prix was on on Sunday. Having been out all night Friday and intending to go to the concert on Saturday evening I needed some rest. We had planned to sleep on the beach but due to a woeful misreading of the metro ended up at Columbus on the Ramblas. We then decided to take refuge outside a Cafe just off the Ramblas on a side street leading to the Gothic Quarter. I soon fell asleep but kept my bag both strapped my shoulder and in my arms. When I woke up my friend told very quietly not to let go of my bag, in fact he had noticed a group of four young moroccans, each standing as if at separate corners of an imaginary square. I subtly caught a glimpse of them all over a couple of minutes and after about ten minutes they realised we had seen them and they started to move a bit but really only rotated position. Thankfully nothing happened but they gave us that look you talk about as we left the cafe. It just felt a little unnerving being watched like that but apart from loosing my bag I never felt in any actual physical danger.

The most unfortunate victim of petty crime I saw in Barcelona was a poor guy who at five in the morning fell asleep on a bench after all the night clubs closed down at the olympic port. Some guy came up stood beside him for a moment and then searched through his pockets till he found his wallet and then had the cheek to stay standing there and a minute or so actually wake the guy up and talk to him. I don’t know if they knew each other or what but I couldn’t believe such boldness.

Still I have to say that it is one of the most fantastic places I’ve ever been and having only been there for a weekend I fully intend to return and explore more, fully informed on heaps of scams of course.

Contributed by Aidan O’Callaghan

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26. Many thanks for your info on the website re Barcelona Street Scams. My daughter and I really enjoyed the couple of days we had, although our hire car (in an underground car park) was found to have been attacked – possibly the first night. The main other surprise entertainment came from being approached by the 50-year-old thin (American-sounding – maybe) woman near Placa Reial whose opening gambit was “do you speak English?” – by the second line of her story I said “do you know you’re on the Internet?” and she walked off..I thought it was a great stunt to have this happen on the first evening, and am grateful for your warning.

Contributed by Stephen Ind

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27. Last trip to Barcelona, one of our usual 2-3 visits per year, I experienced a near miss with a pickpocket.

Here’s how it went.

We were walking down the Diagonal, stopping in various shops. I had seen a large, Spanish looking man previously, although he had not made any impact other than being tall, with a beard and looking every bit of a foreign tourist due to clothes and map.

Roughly 10 minutes after I first saw him, he reappeared and spoke in Spanish, pointing to some terrible looking stuff that had “appeared” on my wife’s dress. I looked like a cross between bird poop and vomit and caused me to become totally focused on how revolted I knew my wife would be if she could see it.

He suggested that we step around the corner to get water and also said that it was on me also.

The only time an alarm bell got through my revulsion with the mess on my wife was when I saw that there was no water and the building was closed for the day.

However, he produced a small bottle of water, suggested that I clean off my wife’s dress while he cleaned off my shirt/trousers.

To make a long story short, he hit me very hard as he “cleaned” me and managed to remove my wallet without me knowing it as I was so distracted with the mess.

The ONLY reason that he didn’t get away with my wallet was that my 12 year old daughter saw him holding it and asked why he had her dad’s wallet.

This brought the scam to an end, he handled it over and left quietly on the assumption that he only wanted to help in the first place.

The whole incident made me sick and I felt so vulnerable, especially as I am quite an “experienced” visitor to Barcelona.

My advice is to stay aware, never let a distraction over-ride ones alarm bells and assume the worst.

Only a 12 year old child and some luck saved me the loss of credit cards, cash, my self esteem and possibly my life had he been violent.

Contributed by Steve Roberts

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28. I’ve just stumbled across your page and could not believe my eyes! I was trying to find a street map of Barcelona in order to find the Pellicer Joyeria Hospital because the thieves of my wife’s VISA card used it there to the tune of UKL398.20.

Here is my story of 13th January 1999.

My wife and I were just off La Ramblas near the Cathedral when we were approached by two gypsy looking women wailing and crying. They were holding large pieces of cardboard with writing on and begging for money. One started bumping into me and the other focussed on my wife. Needless to say, my wife’s purse (complete with VISA card and cash) was taken from her handbag which was zipped, secured by a flap and press-stud and carried across the front of her body. She felt nothing and the whole episode took less than 30 seconds. Within two hours, the credit card was fraudulently used at the Pellicer Joyeria Hospital and her signature was badly forged. Most places in Spain don’t even bother to check that signatures tally with the one on the card. No wonder there are so many robberies on the streets. The local police had a massive file of photos of suspects. Barcelona is a beautiful city, but until the police find a way of cracking the problem my advice is “stay away”.

Contributed by Martin Broadley

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29. BEFORE OUR FOUR-DAY TRIP TO BARCELONA I HAD ALREADY READ UP ALL YOUR RECORDS CAREFULLY. THEN I STARTED TO WORRY DUE TO ONE BAD EXPERIENCE I HAD IN PRAGUE. THERE WERE ALTOGETHER SIX OF US MAKING A FOUR-DAY VISIT TO PRAGUE IN 1997 AND, THROUGHOUT THOSE FOUR DAYS, WE WERE TAILED BY A GROUP OF THIEVES WHO DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH LUCK IN STEALING ANYTHING FROM ANY ONE OF US. THIS TIME, ONLY MY GIRLFRIEND AND I WERE TRAVELING TO BARCELONA. I WAS HOPING FOR BETTER LUCK.

EVERYTHING WENT ON PERFECTLY AT THE BEGINNING; THEN IT FINALLY HAPPENED, THE DAY BEFORE WE LEFT BARCELONA (APRIL 18, 1999). WE COULD HARDLY FINISH THE UNAPPETIZING DINNER IN A RESTAURANT ON THE STREET (NEXT ALLEY TO PLACE RIEL) AT AROUND 10 P.M. SO WE DECIDED TO GET SOME DONUTS FROM ‘DUNKIN DONUTS’ LOCATED JUST SOME 100 METERS AWAY AND WITHIN 3 MINUTES’ REACH. MY GIRLFRIEND, KAREN, WAS STANDING ONE STEP BEHIND ME. JUST AS I TURNED AROUND TO ASK HER WHAT FLAVOR SHE LIKED, I HEARD HER LET OUT A CRY AND SHE STARTED RUNNING OUT. IT DAWNED ON ME IMMEDIATELY WHAT HAD HAPPENED. A ROBBERY. THE FIRST THING THAT FLASHED ACROSS MY MIND WAS WHAT SHE CARRIED IN THAT BAG – PASSPORT, SOME CARDS AND– FLIGHT TICKET BACK TO HAMBURG TOMORROW. AND THEN THE FRIGHT OF BEING STRANDED IN AN UNFAMILIAR PLACE.

“HELP! SOMEBODY HELP US!” I YELLED DESPERATELY AS WE RAN AFTER THE ROBBER. SEVERAL PEOPLE SHOWED UP FROM THE STORES ALONG THE ALLEY WHEN THEY HEARD OUR SCREAMS AND SAW TWO HELPLESS ORIENTAL WOMEN. THEY JUST LOOKED ON, PUZZLED. I WOULD LIKE TO BELIEVE THAT THEY DID NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT TOOK PLACE RATHER THAN THAT THEY DID NOT CARE.

SUDDENLY, SOME ONE WAS RUNNING AHEAD OF US AND WE SAW HIM APPREHEND THE ROBBER. HE WAS SMALLER BUILT THAN THE ROBBER BUT THIS DID NOT SEEM TO DETER HIM. HE GRABBED THE ROBBER BY HIS NECK TO FORCE HIM DROP THE BAG. WE QUICKLY RETRIEVED THE BAG AND COULD ONLY SAY “THANK YOU!!”. THE ROBBER FLED WHILE WE EXCHANGED GREETINGS WITH OUR HERO. BUT OUR HERO LEFT US AGAIN AND WENT AFTER HIM.

WE WERE STILL RECOVERING FROM THIS SEVERE SHOCK WHEN TWO OTHER MEN WHO LOOKED LIKE TOURISTS THEMSELVES APPROACHED US AND OFFERED HELP. THEY, TOO, HAD BEEN RUNNING AFTER US AFTER HEARING OUR SHOUTS.

FINALLY WE REACHED THE STREET “LA RAMBLA” FEELING A LITTLE RELIEVED BUT STILL SHAKEN. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE THAT I HAVE WITNESSED A REAL CRIME. IN THE PAST THREE YEARS I HAVE BEEN TO OVER TWELVE COUNTRIES BUT HAVE NEVER FELT MORE THREATENED OR PITIFULLY HELPLESS.

THEN OUR HERO APPEARED AGAIN SUDDENLY, JUST LIKE WHEN HE APPEARED TO HELP US. “SORRY, I CANNOT FIND HIM”, HE SAID. “ARE YOU ALRIGHT?” I ASKED HIM. I WAS EAGER TO KNOW THAT HE WAS NOT HURT. THIS IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN CATCHING THE ROBBER. “I AM OK” – THEN HE JUST LEFT.

WE COULD NOT SAY ‘THANK YOU’ ENOUGH FOR THIS ACT OF BRAVERY. HE WAS ACTUALLY RISKING HIS OWN LIFE IN FIGHTING WITH THE ROBBER. IN GOING OUT ALL THE WAY TO HELP US HE ALSO RESTORED IN US THE CONFIDENCE WE HAD IN PEOPLE.

WE WERE VERY FORTUNATE TO HAVE MET A HERO IN BARCELONA. AND THIS IS SERVE TO HONOR HIS CHIVALRY.

AMANDA IN HAMBURG

Contributed by Amanda Wu

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30. I didn’t see much in the way of actual bag-snatchings on this page, so I thought I’d throw one in.

Last year (1998) I was sitting with some Aussie friends in the Placa Reial, in the late afternoon, sitting on one of the many benches surrounding the square, peoplewatching. As we watched we slowly became aware of the brazen nature of the pickpockets operating in the square. They were being quite open about it all, obvious to everyone in the square except of course to the tourists who were snapping away and not at all aware of their surroundings. We of course were hardened, hungover backpackers, and were therefore above the tourists :).

Anyway, we were sitting over in the corner next to Kabul when halfway across the square toward the fountain one guy made his play, snatching a backpack off a middle aged woman and fleeing off in the direction of the Nine Cats. The Aussies paused a beat, looked at each other, and were after him in a flash. I was too muddled from my hangover so I sort of stumbled out after them, but they told me later that they caught up to him on Carrer Ferran, tackled him, and pretty much proceeded to beat hell out of him until a Guadia came up and pushed them away, screaming at them and demanding an explanation, to which they only picked up the backpack and dusted it off. The cop looked at it, looked at the guy on the ground, gave him a quick kick to the midsection, and walked away. The Aussies were laughing so hard they didn’t even care that the guy got up and hobbled away. Pretty horrible story, I know, but the amount of stored up rage one develops toward the pickpockets is a dangerous thing once unleashed.

Contributed by Luke Robinson

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31. While in Vancouver, BC, Canada in 1998, I was in the Gastown district. There was a young chap who as casually dressed, well spoken and polite. He explained that he had just arrived from eastern Canada (Toronto) and had applied for social assistance in obtaining accommodation in Vancouver. He would not receive an answer until the next day and needed some money for a room. He had a printed paper with a letterhead on it and it appeared to have been photocopied. I declined and walked on. It nagged at me that I may have turned down a legitimate request until, two months later while visiting with a friend, I saw him again with the same piece of paper and the same request.

Contributed by Stephen Oaks

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32. I’ve just returned from a week in Spain and wanted to thank you for your informative page. It helped us quite a bit in noticing all of the “local color” that was going on around us. During our stay in Madrid and Barcelona, we were extra careful everywhere we went, and did indeed see several things that you mentioned in your pages. In particular, on many occasions we noticed the “flower women” who were handing out flowers, and then asking for money (we walked right past them). There was also a guy putting stickers on people who was up to the same thing. We were also accosted by a pair of young girls thrusting cardboard at us, but we just pushed them away. Finally, at about 10 PM one night on Las Ramblas, a teenage girl came up to us and started speaking to us in Spanish. My girlfriend would only answer her in Hebrew, and she wouldn’t leave us alone, so I turned around and glared at her looking like I’d smack her if she didn’t go away (I’m a pretty big guy). She pointed to some guy across the street like it was her boyfriend who was watching out for her. I don’t know what the deal was, but I was on vacation and didn’t want any trouble, so we just walked away.

Having said all of that, I can also say that you provided us with our biggest disappointment. We were staying at a hotel near Liceu and were really looking forward to meeting the American woman who hangs out there with the hard luck story. Alas, with all of the times we passed by, we never did see her. Oh well, I guess that means we’ll have to return to Barcelona someday.

Contributed by Sander

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33. The most outrageous scam I ever heard of was attempted on my mother who lives in Greece. After the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Greece received a very large number of migrants and refugees from Albania. Due to the nature of their former regime, many of these people had no qualifications and could do only unskilled labor or petty crime. They account for over 90% of all crime in Greece for the past ten years.

My mother (then aged about 70) was approached in the street by a man who emerged from a pickup holding a baby. He held out the baby to her and said: “Can you hold on to this baby for me a moment while I go into this shop for something? You look like a good-hearted person, I can’t leave it alone in the car.”

My mother, an incredibly good-hearted person, actually reached for the infant but suddenly noticed two other people in the car.

“Why don’t you leave the baby with them?”

“No, you hold the baby, here, take it.”

There was some push and shove as my mother realized there was something quite wrong with all this, she stepped away as quickly as possible, with the man following and shouting at her. She immediately took the story to the police station around the corner. The scam turned out to be as follows: The man (or other times, a woman) “gives” the baby to the unsuspecting good hearted passer-by, then vanishes. A moment later a woman appears, screaming that her baby has been stolen, and there it is in the hands of this person, an obvious kidnapper. The distraught mother is always accompanied by two others who are “witnesses” and “saw everything”. In my mother’s case they were the ones sitting in the car. The only way out is to pay them off, because it is not possible for a normal person to simply put the baby down and move off.

This particularly cruel scam has been operating for years, and the police are quite familiar with it. If it is attempted on you, act sensibly. Do not hold on to a total stranger’s baby, no matter how cute, without a real and unmistakable emergency.

Contributed by Michael Tsoukias

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34. My name is Mike McCready. I’m an American and have lived in Barcelona/Catalunya for about 9 years. I’ve seen your page about street scams and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. I was once taken by the three cups and the pea. It happened just as you describe. I have trouble believing the Pans & Company scam however. Do you think this is a company wide policy or simply a renegade franchisee?

Contributed by Michael McCready

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35. I came across your web site the other day and enjoyed reading about the scams particularly in Barcelona. Some of them really made me laugh. I too was in Barcelona last year. My husband was involved in a job rotation which brought our family to live in Spain for 1 year. We visited Barcelona many many times. On two occasions I visited Barcelona alone. I walked all over Barcelona carrying a video camera. I never had any trouble with anyone. In fact I was very surprised that no one had approached me, since I looked like the tourist with the video camera. My opinion of Barcelona is it’s an extremely safe city. Barcelona has the most beautiful architecture we have ever seen. The churches are breathtaking. The people are very conservative and very family oriented. We thought Seville was more dangerous than Barcelona. I truly hope that we will be able to visit Barcelona again.

Contributed by Lou Ann Kalily

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36. I haven’t seen any mention of this particular scam that happened in Madrid, perhaps it was just a crime of opportunity. I was with a group a people who flew into the airport at Madrid. Since only one man in the group spoke much Spanish, he approached a taxi driver and told him we would need enough cabs for everyone, and negotiated a price. We all piled into the different cabs, there were five I believe. When we got to the hotel, our leader gave our money to the taxi driver he had originally talked to, intending for him to distribute equally among the drivers. Of course, he promptly hopped in his cab with the money and drove away, and we were faced with four other angry cab drivers demanding their money, so we had to pay twice. Of course, I’m sure that was probably an act for our benefit, they probably knew the first driver well and split up everything. Not a good start to our vacation, beware, travelers!

Contributed by John Lange

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37. We arrived Barcelona last Friday, August 20th, 1999. On Saturday, near the Cathedral, three young women came rushing up to us with newspapers extended and speaking in Spanish. They had us cornered before we knew it. I had my wallet and passport in a “fanny pack” around to my front. I quickly thought and pushed the newspaper down and away and found that they had already unzipped my fanny pack but I was fast enough to keep them from getting anything from us. They retreated and awaited the next victim.

On Sunday, we were transferring from the Northbound L4 line at the Verdaguer Station. In front of us on the up escalator a tall man dropped his cigarette at the top of the escalator. He bent over, then grabbed hold and would not let me pass. As soon as I passed I grabbed for my wallet and passports which were in my back buttoned pocket and they were gone. I yelled as load as I could “Police – Police”. A young woman behind us pointed out the man who had put my wallet in his pocket. The blocker and the pick pocket looked at us and smiled as if saying what is bothering you. TMB security then quickly approached from down some adjoining stairs which lead to an exit at which time my wife grabbed the man that had our wallet and I went after the “blocker” who started running when security approached. In the chase he got away however he dropped his back pack which I turned over to security. The first security guard had quickly apprehended the man with our wallet and passports and gave them back to us. Security did not speak any English however a passerby translated that he wanted to know if we wanted to press charges. We said absolutely yes. TMB Security did a great job!

This took about two hours as we awaited for the Barcelona Police to arrive, we went with them to the police station, and we answered their questions and filled out the forms. We saw them take our pick pocket off in handcuffs. Hopefully he will be off of the streets for awhile.

Contributed by Ryland Scott

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38. I visited Barcelona in Spring of ’99, and I got hit by the “Futbol” scam at the Plaza de Catalunya in front of the Hard Rock. As a precautionary measure, I never exchanged more than $20 US at any one time, so he only got 2,000 pesetas, and two credit cards. Unfortunately for him, he also grabbed my hotel key. Since I was on my way back to the hotel, I knew I had been picked in less than 10 minutes. He was so smooth, I still laugh about my own carelessness.

I experienced another scam that I haven’t seen addressed on your website. This one is focused on lone males. I was walking down Las Ramblas about 8:30 in the evening (20:30) when a well dressed man in a blue blazer came along side of me and declared in clear English, “I know you from the hotel!”

Since everyone was new to me (including the people I had come to do business with), I had no reason to doubt him. He pointed to his watch and said, “Time to get off.” He asked me what I was doing, and I replied that I was going to eat. He tapped his watch again, and said that it was still too early.

He told me he knew the people at one of the better restaurants, but we would have to go through the back door. We turned at a road (Escudellers Street?) across from the theater, into an area I later found out to be the Barrio Chino – a sort of red light district. We passed a restaurant (that had actually been recommended to me by business associates) with a line of people in front of it, and I followed him through a door covered by a beaded curtain into a bar. At first glance, the door seemed adjacent to the restaurant.

Immediately, the barmaid put two beers on the bar, and a woman slid into the seat next to where I was standing (I didn’t even have time to sit!) and asked me to buy her a drink. Lights and sirens went off in my head. I had seen this same scam as a Marine in Okinawa in the ’70s. When I asked how much three drinks were, she said “Only 5,000 pesetas.” Roughly $ 35 US. I was saved by my policy of never exchanging more than $ 20 US, because they did not stop talking long enough for me to think. The only thing I was sure of was that I did not have 5,000 pesetas.

Frustrated with the incessant chatter, I slid the untouched bottle of beer that had been set in front of me over to the girl, and quickly (and rudely) left the bar.

Contributed by Tim Young

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39. Not sure if you are still updating your page on Barcelona scams, but here is one that I have seen twice, 3 years apart. On the escalator coming up from the metro, two young men, one in front, one in back. At the top of the escalator, man in front pretends to stumble, drop something, etc., causing you to stop, man in back picks pocket and both are gone.

The first time, I was with a group and we were scattered on the escalator. The victim realised what had happened and grabbed the theif, who dropped the wallet and ran. The victim picked up the wallet and after a few seconds opened it and noticed that the theif had already taken out the cash.

The second time, I was alone, and noticed the scenario, so I turned sideways on the escalator, back to the railing. (not that I had anything in my back pocket worth taking ) Sure enough, at the top, the guy in front of me dropped something and paused for a second, but the guy behind me muttered something to him in catalan and he quickly picked it up and they were off, glancing back at me, grinning at them.

Contributed by Eric Enholm

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40. I just read your street scams. I was hit by the two gypsy women in 1993. I lost $35, but my husband said it was worth it just to be able to tell the story. Plus it taught us to be more careful, probably saving us alot more money in the long run. We did report it to the police. A young man from Belgium was there who also had been hit by the same women. I honestly feel like the police don’t care or they would do something about it. How hard would it be to send a decoy out and begin to catch these thieves? I felt much safer in Italy because the police were all over. I love Spain, and we are returning there this summer, but it is frustrating to hear so many similar stories and see so little to correct the situation.

Contributed by Lauren Robinson

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41. I was just reading your page about the streets scams of BCN (you’ve got a cool “pedagogical” web page here, mate!) and I felt like I could contribute with another experience.

I am living in Helsinki (Finland) due to work reasons but I am from Cambrils (Tarragona). Last Christmas holidays I went to visit my family. Usually when I go there first I spend at least one day with my sister who lives in BCN and then we take a train down to Cambrils. That time we took the train at Passeig de Gràcia Station. I was carrying a big suitcase with me. When the train arrived, there was the usual crowd near the doors and, because I am from BCN and I am suppose to know that people use to get robbed at this precisely moment when they are about to get into the train, I was holding my suitcase and I wait for being the last one getting in. But somehow I forgot to check on my backpack..( I know, I know.First rule: never put your wallet in a backpack.) When it was my turn to get into the train a Moroccan guy asked me very politely if I wanted him to help me with the suitcase. While I was saying “no thanks, it’s ok” and he was still insisting to help just to keep me busy and distracted, a black guy tried to take my wallet from my backpack. I swear I never noticed him behind me. I didn’t even see him. But a girl from the station saw what was happening and started to shout. Then I turned over and caught the guy with his hand already holding my wallet. I pushed him away and somehow he dropped the wallet and started running along with the other guy. Everything happened in few seconds and this time I was lucky.Then the ticket inspector came and told me that they know those two guys but they’re so good in vanishing and they haven’t been caught up yet!! So, if anyone is planning to take a train in BCN check out if you see a thin and tall Moroccan-looking guy with glasses and a round-faced black guy nearby…and don’t be as naive as me and hang your backpack on your chest instead!

Contributed by Judith Thomas-Crusells

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42. I read your homepage because we are going to Barca soon. My twin-sister has already visited it and almost got robbed. Here’s the story, see if you want to put it on your page.

She was drinking a drink on the Ramblas with her friend. She had put her little foto-camera-purse in front of her on the table so she would be able to keep it in sight. (As an Amsterdammer she knows something about tourist being robbed). A map-vendor approached her and her friend to sell them a map of Barcelona.He spread a fan of maps in front of them. She refused, he persisted but as she refused he went away. In the process he dropped one map and my sister naievely wondered why he didn’t come back when they called out to him to give him his map…

Until…

she saw the shoulder-band of her little camera-purse dangling from underneath the maps… She went after him shouting and simply grabbed her purse back and said some nasty things in various languages. So: when approached on the Ramblas by a person selling maps, be careful and watch what he is doing underneath the fan of maps.

I live in Amsterdam, also a tourist-attracting and thus tourist-robbers attracting place. A few tips on Amsterdam:

Watch your wallet (put it in your inside pocket) and bags very carefully at all times in the following places:

– In and near Central Station – even if some humbugs attract you attention by a fight or a street-show.

– On the Leidsenplein (also when watching a street-show), Damrak and Dam.

– On the Albert Kuyp-day-market

– On every tram or metro – the busier the better for pickpockets- special care in tram number 5. Always keep your luggage in FRONT of you were you can see and reach it, and do NOT politely put it out of the path so no-one will stumble over it in the metro, tram or train.

I once escorted an american tourist to the police: she was on her way to the airport by train and put her suitcase (tickets and money) behind her between the seats, out of the path. That was the last she saw of it. On another occasion I was waiting at a tram-stop in the center when I watched a man boarding a tram. Because you have to go up a few steps he reached with both arms to the grips on both sides of the steps, leaving his trouser-pockets very open to the (last- boarding) man behind him. This man already had his hand in the trouser pocket when I yelled something at him. His reaction was “what,what, what” and a spit in my face. I warned the tram-driver who called out a general warning for pickpockets in the tram. So watch your stuff when entering a tram. Pickpockets often are slim young men, slightly tinted skin, with short black curly hair and a (black) leather jacket. BUT not ALL pickpockets look like that AND not ALL people looking like that are pickpockets!

I don’t hope to become a victim of a Barcelona-scam but if I do I will certainly tell you about it. Thanks for your info and the nice text about Calle Leona (very atmosphere-full).

Contributed by C. Coucke

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43. I was in Barcelona for 2 days before cruise. Walking the Ramblas at 10 in morning looking for an optometrist to repair glasses, I was approached by gypsy woman carrying a flat box in one hand and a wrapped up “baby” in the other. It was chilly and I was wearing a carcoat with front unzipped, a fanny pack zipped and in one hand I had a plastic bag with articles bought at pharmacy (mirror and brush). the woman pushed the box against me under my bust and begged for money for the baby. I asked to see the baby and she said NO. I said NO loudly and backed off from her. She kept pushing me and I turned and walked across the street to where the flower stands were. A vendor had watched and said to me “No baby, just rope, be careful”. Then the gypsy was back with my mirror, brush, room key and 2 pairs of glasses in her hand. She said I had dropped them on the sidewalk and wanted a reward for returning them. Now she had retrieved them from my fanny pack (zipped) and the plastic bag (in my right hand). She could not get to my wallet because it was in the bottom and too large for fanny pack and she would have had to wiggle it out rather vigorously which I would have felt. I screamed “BASTA”, the vendor screamed “POLITZIA” and she left. I usually travel with a metal whistle around my neck and when I feel the least uncomfortable in a situation, I blow as loud as I can. People usually ignore a yell, but a shrill whistle gets everyone’s attention. I will be going back to Barcelona soon WITH MY WHISTLE. This woman works the street everyday according the flower vendor. I you see her, don’t let her within 10 feet of you. She is GOOD.

Contributed by Sandy Scott

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44. Having returned from Barcelona a week ago, I pulled up your website on street scams today. In my case, violence DID result. It was about 11 p.m. on 6/25/00 and my husband and I were walking back to our hotel after a lovely dinner at Los Caracoles on Escudellers. I was being “careful”, having my bag in front of me with the shoulder strap across my body. Next thing I knew I was face down on the street, spitting blood, with 4 loose and broken upper teeth. The purse snatcher (we think there were 2 of them) had apparently knocked me to the ground in hauling the bag off over my head. The police were very helpful and took me to the hospital for head X-rays. We were able to leave town a little later than planned the following day, and I am now sporting a set of orthodontic braces on my broken upper teeth in an attempt to reposition the loose ones, with plenty more dental work ahead of me. Needless to say we had too many documents in the bag, and will know in future to leave most of them in the hotel safe. My advice would be not to even carry a purse in the evening if you can avoid it — just put a few essentials in a pocket. The thieves didn’t know whether my bag contained valuables or only make-up, etc. but that didn’t deter them from robbing me.

PS The rest of our visit to Catalunya was great.

Contributed by Valerie Sutton

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45. Hi Terry! I just came across your Barcelona crime web page — what a great idea. I, fortunately, have no such stories to share about Barcelona (though I was ripped off by a Gypsy in Cordoba, completely due to my own stupidity and was completely avoidable!), but I would like to tell everyone my good news. I travelled all over Spain last summer. I was hearing a new “I got ripped off in Barcelona” story every day from other travellers I’d meet along the way. When I got to Barcelona, I was a little paranoid, but I always kept me backpack on my FRONT, with little travel locks on the zipper. Yeah, it takes a few more seconds to open when you need something, but in the long run, you save a LOT of time and peace of mind. At one moment, however, I came close — I was in that beautiful park near the Arc de Triumf, (I can’t remember what it’s called) in broad daylight; I was a little tired — I was trying to shove my wallet into my pack and I must have looked slightly vulnerable — a man almost fitting your description, except a little shorter and fatter, quickly approached me. I zipped my bag, and looked straight at him as if to say, “yes, can I help you? Perhaps you wanted my wallet? Better luck next time!” HAHA! So there you have it. Wear your bag on the front, lock it up, and be aware of your surroundings. I absolutely loved Barcelona, and I’m planning to move there in January. Happy travelling, everyone!

Contributed by Vanessa Rodrigues

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46. hey good web page. All people should read it before coming to Barcelona.

I have been in Barcelona for a bit and have seen 3 people robbed (too late to catch them). But the latest one I have seen happen also happen to me, but I´m very careful so I was not robbed.

The large intersection at the top of the La Rambla to the left, I was in the car waiting at the lights (my doors are always locked). In front of us about 6 cars up, with in 3-4 seconds a guy walkup to a car open the back door and stole a bag, that fast. In 5 lanes of cars with cars all around you what can you do. So people chased the guy but I don’t know what happen.

A week later at 11pm I was driving along the beach front (cars all around) just before the bottom of the La Rambla. At the lights waiting to go green (doors locked always). There was 3 of us in the car. 1 guy walked up to the front passengers door and one guy walk up to the back door and try to open them. No luck, I beeped my horn on and off, they walked away slowly, with a look of (how dare you not let us rob you). I felt like getting out and smashing there f#@ing faces in and I could have if I got hold of them. But this does not help you at all. Instead I continue on knowing that because I´m careful and always lock my doors I will not be robbed in my car. People have to be more careful when traveling, trust no one you don’t know, and any one who comes near you tell them to F#$% OFF, ALWAYS.

If you are walking around at the top of the La Rambla you will see a group of guys watching the cars till they see one and then, BANG rob them. Remember trust no one you don’t know.

Contributed by scott renner

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47. Hi, Terry.

You are exactly who I’ve been looking for! My name is Radislav, I am from Moscow Russia. One month ago I returned from all-Spain trip (Barsa-Tarragona-Valencia-Kartahena-Granada-Malaga-Tarife (Gibraltar)-Heres-Sevilia-Madrid-Barsa) where I was robbed by three young bastards.

It happened in Barcelona, I stood on my rented Seat Ibisa on the square near Barcelona port (if it matters I will check the map and give you the exact place) on the red light when young guy came and pointed under my car saying “You have a leak down there”. I unlocked my doors (damned system which unlocks all 5 car doors at once by one button!), left the car and looked underneath. In that moment my girlfriend start crying “Radik, the camera!!!” Then I saw 3 thieves running away with my camera bag. (Notice: there were lots of cars around, daylight, July 1, 2000, 15:00). I felt impossible to run after them three, leave my unlocked car on the road, and fight them in dark&narrow streets to catch knife there, my plane would take off in 2 hours, so I let them run.

There was no camera in the bag, just its power adapter and remote control, three video cassettes and my old pants (!) as a present to the fools! After that I parked the car and searched for all the trash cans around trying to find my empty bag thrown by the thieves (with a hard iron thing in my hand). Tourists jumped away from me! No-one saw anything, nothing was founded. My plane was about taking off so I did not claim the robbery in police nearby and drove away.

Now I am very upset because of 3 Hi8 videocassettes filled with Spain.

Contributed by Radislav Khairetdinov

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48. I have two interesting personal experiences to tell.

In Italy I was met by two gypsy ladies in front of Castel St. Angelo, they told me they wanted to read my palm and tell me my future, I told them NO but they told me it would cost me just pennies so I tried, One of them was young and grabbed my right hand while the other, who looked like her mother, was carrying like a baby under covers and got close to my body, she started to say: you will have a bright future, you will have a great and long life you will have a great fortune, suddenly I feel her hand in my right pocket and I grabbed it and took it out and started to walk away and she began saying, come I haven’t finished telling your fortune and I yelled, sure what you want is to take my fortune.

Three years ago I was in Paris waiting for the train to arrive at Opera station at10PM when the door opened, my brother went in, then I and then a tall , dark skinned,curly hair Moroccan young guy dropped like a piece of paper in the floor and started looking for it and grabbed my legs and reached inside my socks and run out just before the doors closed, just a matter of few second. Thanks God I always carry everything inside the front of my trousers where nobody except my wife can stick their hands in.:)

Rule Number One for tourists: Never carry money, cards nor passports in a bag, socks nor pockets. carry them inside your clothes where nobody can reach them. You will have peace of mind and will enjoy your trip without worries. When you are taking the metro,just have your ticket ready before going inside. I congratulate you on your web page, because it warns the tourists of the real dangers they will encounter on their visit to any mayor city and I hope they never say “That won’t happen to me”.

Contributed by Gabriel Cutino

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49. I have just been reading your scams page prior to travelling to Barcelona tomorrow with my 80 year old mother and my sister. I have been before and came across such a situation.

My husband and I were walking mid-afternoon back to our hotel situated a very short distance off the Ramblas. A white van was parked half on the pavement, half on the road with the bonnet up and a collection of your tall curly haired friends about making it very hard to pass. As we walked passed one went in front and one behind my husband and jostled him. I was behind and saw what was about to happen and screamed a warning. He rose up to his full height (he is 6ft and fairly large and powerful looking) and roared at them. They scampered down another side road. If we hadn’t been walking in single file we would not even have noticed that the wallet had gone! It gave us a fright but fortunately we escaped with our valuables and safe!

Contributed by Ginny Wilson

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50. I stumbled upon your page while looking for a map of Spain and I have to hand it to you, its excellent. Its something everyone should read before going to Barcelona. I spent the Summer of 2000 in Barcelona and I had two unfortunate experiences.

The first was the peas scam. I was caught, I was a naive tourist and it didn’t take much beckoning before I handed out money, the adrenalin pumping through me because I was sure where the pea was and was only thinking how much money I will make. Its easy I thought but suddenly my money was gone, I was in a state of confusion, anger, tears rolling and your man was gone in a second, everyone dispersed very quickly.

My second experience was even worse. I had a small purse and on one particular day I had 8,000 pesetas in it (about £40 irish money). I was going into the city to buy gifts. I was on my way to the metro station in Catalunya square at 10a.m. when this boy poked my shoulder from behind. He asked me in Spanish what time it was. Even though I could have answered him in Spanish, I stupidly said 10 o clock in english pointing to my watch. The boy was young 14, 15 yrs.? I walked down the stairs to the metro station not passing any heed on him even when he followed me down the stairs quietly. There were not many people around, the metro station was dead quiet. Not a bit uneasy or wary I went to the ticket machine to buy a ticket for the metro. I was taking money from my purse, when the boy in a split second ran up to me grabbed my purse and sped off. I stood in shock. It was the first time I was robbed in my life and it all happened so fast and it was so easy for him when I look back on it. I ran out but he had disappeared. I was left with an old lady trying to console me in Spanish and I couldn’t believe it. As well as being upset I was very angry that this boy got away with it. Don’t let it happen to you.

Contributed by (Name withheld)

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51. I really enjoyed your web page on Barcelona street scams. I lived in Madrid for awhile, and most of the same scams seem to be operating there. Here’s one that isn’t really a scam, but is certainly something to watch out for! If you are carrying anything like a purse, camera bag, etc. on your shoulder watch out for someone-usually riding a motorcycle-to pass by, swerve over by you, and grab the bag off your shoulder. It almost happened to me in Seville. Luckily I had my hands stuffed in my pocket and the camera bag didn’t fall away easily. It threw the motorcyclist off balance and he was forced to let go.

I’ve been to Barcelona several times and fortunately never had a problem there. The worst experience I’ve had in Spain was in Seville. Besides the motorcycle guy I had two others grab my camera bag also, but luckily no one ever got away with it. One trick I use that helps a lot is that whenever I sit down and take off by camera bag I put my leg through the strap and wrap it completely around. That way I’m not relying on my eyes alone to alert me. Spain is definitely one of the countries where I would never put any bag or backpack down and “watch” it. The thieves are just too quick and too good. That includes children also. I had a friend who was robbed by two little girls in Madrid. They were about 6 years old. She managed to grab one of them, and instantly was surrounded by several older women who had been watching the little girls. Even though she had the thief in her hands her wallet was immediately passed off to an older woman who disappeared. The other women hit her and yelled at her until she let go of the little girl.

Hope all your collected stories don’t scare anyone off. I’ve been to a lot of places, and Spain is one of the ones I enjoy the most, especially Barcelona. My advice is leave your jewelry at home, carry your money and credit cards in a neck pouch under your clothes, and enjoy!

Contributed by Sharon Bussert

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52. Your scam page is very interesting. This is what happened to me last week.

We’ve just returned from Barcelona. I had my handbag stolen from a The Tucan Bar, a very small bar just behind Placa Real. It was on a hook attached to the bar in front of me with my coat over it and I was on a bar stool – my partner was next to me. I went to go home at 2 am and my bag was not there. I cancelled my cards the next morning but the strange thing was although my bag had been stolen on the 8th, the withdrawals from my credit cards had been made on the 6th and 7th at a place called ARUAL (my credit card company tells me it’s a massage parlour!!) I don’t know how the withdrawals had those dates unless they were taken from my wallet earlier than my bag had been stolen, but I don’t think so. Anyway, the police were very helpful and the credit card companies, but the thieves had managed to take out £6,000.

Contributed by Stella Spawton

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53. We got off tourist bus at Port Olimpic . We had to waste time waiting for restaurant to open. Walked over abandoned parks towards Zoo. Man called us, said we had problem. Problem was smattering of food substance over husbands coat and trousers. Helped us go to nearby bar which unfortunately for him was run by guy from UK. When his ‘help’ became too obvious, had someone to call for assistance. Not end of story. Waiting at nearer Tourist Bus stop, much shaken, was approached by two men in smart suits and raincoats who said they were Passport control. No-one around, (December) Yelled at my husband to move away. Both men, together with man who sought our help with his Map, melted away. Glad none of our ‘friends’ were violent in any way.

Contributed by Mrs A. Hancock

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54. I was in Madrid this Summer and was approached in the Plaza Mayor by two Gitanas who said they were selling carnations for a festival which was taking place that afternoon. Apparently to attend the festival you REALLY needed one of these carnations and they offered to sell them to us for English coins. This sounded a little bizzarre but I gave her a couple of English coins in exchange for this carnation. I looked round to see the other Gitana rummaging through my friend’s purse (as she protested) looking for english coins. My friend gave her some english money and we went on our way. Surprise, surprise, there was no festival and my friend discovered that a 5000 peseta note was missing later on in the day. Also, in Seville, we were approached by another gitana who offered to tell our fortunes. She then grabs onto your hand so tight that you can’t get away, tells you a lame account of your future, (you will have two children and marry a tall, rich man, etc) and then demands 2000 pesetas. She then got quite offensive when we said she could have 200 pesetas and like it, shouting and screaming and the like. This also happened in Cordoba and Granada but luckily we were a bit more wise to it by then.

Contributed by Sarah Hilton

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55. I just read your web page and didn’t see the scam that happened to me, so I offer this story:

John and I were driving our rental car by Las Ramblas and decided to pull into an underground garage of a nice hotel so we could check into our hotel on a nearby pedestrian street. We didn’t know how parking garages work in Barcelona and it was an expensive lesson. We had not yet even set foot on Spanish soil, since we had driven in from France.

Inside the garage I saw two men hovering in the back, and initially thought they worked there. But quickly I got a bad feeling and insisted that we leave the garage immediately. There was no uniformed attendant. When we tried to leave we were stopped by an automatic gate. In order to get a ticket to get out, you had to go by foot, up the stairs to the second floor, to a machine that dispensed tickets and took payments.

We backed out of the exit way and meanwhile one of the men was gesturing to us. He didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak much Spanish, but he said we had a flat tire. I said to John that we certainly didn’t have a flat tire, but soon he confirmed that we did. I was very wary and locked my door and kept the window up while John got out of the car. He carefully removed our luggage from the trunk to get the spare tire and put it immediately in the back seat. The man stood talking to us and held the flashlight for John, since it was dark in the back of the garage. After awhile I became less wary and rolled down my window about 1/3rd of the way. Then the man said I’d have to hold the flashlight because he had to go. I got out of the car, stood next to my door, but had my back slightly turned. I thought I watched the man leave but I may not have. When I got back into the car my purse, which had been flat on the floor of the car, was no longer there. I don’t know how the man got my bag through the partially opened window and walked away with it!

Needless to say, he got my wallet, credit cards, passport, registration papers for the car, a spare set of keys, camera, etc. Within the hour before we notified AmEx and Visa about the credit cards (we felt compelled to move the car), several hundred dollars’ worth of cash withdrawals were made on my cards, though they didn’t have my pin numbers! And our tire had been slashed — it was no accident.

People really should know about the parking garage situation. It is common to have no attendants. Every 20 minutes or so a guard walks through, but the thieves probably know the schedule, and garages take no responsibility for robberies.

We experienced two other robbery attempts (of the types described in your examples) in the next two days, but fortunately neither was successful. It made us very uncomfortable for the rest of our time in Spain.

Contributed by Carol Skyrm

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56. Hi Terry, Great web site by the way.

I was wondering if you would be interested in an incident that happened to my wife and I in a Chinese restaurant situated on the Ramblas at Easter 2000.

We visited the restaurant as we arrived on the Thursday evening, and had a very good reasonably priced meal for 2. During our meal we witnessed an argument between a solo German tourist and the Chinese staff, it seemed the argument was about the bill. Eventually the German left in an angry and flustered state. The young Chinese guy running the restaurant explained to me that they often had this kind of trouble with tourist. His English was excellent as during the conversation he mentioned that he was Hong Kong Chinese. We left thinking ‘what a nice man’ and ‘ bloody German tourists’.

On the Sunday we decided to eat at the restaurant again. After the meal our bill was presented it was around 7,500ptas, I dropped 2 x 5,000ptas notes onto the plate an awaited my change. After a rather lengthy frustrating wait my change arrived it was 1,500ptas. I told the waiter there was a mistake, the only English he seemed to know was “no mistake”! I called over the guy I had spoken to on the Thursday evening to explain to him the problem but to my amazement he could only speak Chinese and Spanish not English. After a heated and animated exchange in Chinese in which we were surrounded and intimidated by the staff, The penny began to drop that this is what had happened to the German tourist. I decided there and then to stand my ground and not get ripped off.The Chinese guy said in broken Spanish that I had paid with 1x 5,000pta note and 2x 2,000pta note and that the cambiar exact.I replied in my very poor broken Spanish that soy pagar 10,000ptas(diez mill) and that he was Hong Kong Chinese and could speak English( usted H.k. Chino y usted habla English)! and then in a very calm firm modulated manner I said in English “if you don’t give me 1.000ptas I..WILL…PUT…YOUR..WINDOWS..THROUGH.( sorry to say typical English reaction) at this point he made a hurried till count said there had been a mistake, refunded my money and wished us goodnight.

It would have been explained to anyone in the in the restaurant that they often had this kind of trouble with tourists. But to me it was a well worked scam with all the hallmarks Intimidation, confusion and feigned innocence. The money involved wasn’t much but the principle is the same

Contributed by Paul Hawcroft

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57. My wife and I went to barcelona in the summer of 1990. We were New Yorkers and thought we were something.

We were hit twice in our first hour.

We put our bags down in an empty part of the subway to look at the map. Not close to the entrance, by the way.

This space was empty when we got there.

It was empty when we left, one bag short and not a little upset.

It was empty except for us the whole damn time.

At least they hadn’t got my walkman.

I checked again on the bus twenty minutes later (to hell with the subway!)

No walkman.

1. After that, we organized ourselves military style. We were going to be in B for five weeks. We needed to take action. We developed code words, which grew more sophisticated over time, describing the oncoming strategy, which we learned to discern. We had several different styles of walking, relative positioning, etc. and we didn’t get hit again.

2. Happy ending: we believe that we saved ourselves on several occasions in London and New York, possibly saving our very skins, because we had learned what we needed to defend ourselves in the Barcelona nonviolent boot camp for the unsuspecting.

Contributed by Peter Jones

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58. I just came back from France and here is my experience in Barcelona :

My wife and myself travel a lot and I also lived three years in France so I am well familiar with Europe (or at Least I thought so). Two weeks ago my wife and myself rented a car in Paris and started a journey to southern France. We then decided, unfortunately, to enter Spain and visit Barcelona, since we have never been there and were curious about this city. We arrived on Sunday at about 8 PM, we drove around looking for a Hotel, we also decided to take a look at the Ramblas while driving. There, stopping in red light in a well lit avenue full of cars, a guy approached my driver side, knocked on the window and pointed to the front left wheel,trying to keep us distracted, while his friend opened the back door and pulled one of our bags. They quickly disappeared in one of the side street.

Here is the outrageous part : There was no police in sight, we drove around trying to find a police station, we found one that was closed , and only after about two hours we managed to stop a police car who took us to an open station, where we waited another hour to report the crime. Later we understood that everybody in Barcelona, from the Hotel receptionist, to the policemen we talked to, the US and Japanese embassy employees, were well aware that tourists are being systematically targeted in Barcelona, especially at the Ramblas. The US embassy had detailed statistics on the walls, which said that 218 tourist were robbed at the Ramblas in the year 2000, in addition to other locations (shops, trains). I estimate the total by 400-500, which means more than one case per day !! We also heard a lot of horror stories while at the embassy, and cases much worse than us (including injuries).

My question is, why don’t the authorities in Barcelona do something to protect the tourists visiting their city? Why don’t they do the basic thing, and station policemen at that dangerous location?

Myself and my wife have visited may so called ‘dangerous places’ like certain areas of New York and Israel, but we never felt unsafe as we did afterwards in Barcelona.

In conclusion, this was my first and certainly last visit to Barcelona. The city after all wasn’t worth it, but If you still want to visit Barcelona, keep the car locked while driving, don’t get out no matter what, and don’t stop in red lights at night.

Contributed by Ronen Totonchi

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59. Hi:

I found your interesting web site from a link on the Fodor’s Europe message board. I don’t know if you are still adding new stories but I read all your stories and what happened to us the last time we were in Barcelona (this was in 1996) were not mentioned on your web page (similar things but not all that close) I thought you might add our Barcelona pickpocket stories to your site. We were in Barcelona for 1 week and different pickpockets targeted my husband (never me) 3 separate times. I thought it was interesting that they always went after my husband who is a big man and not me (I’m petite ).

Briefly………one night we were on the Ramblas (in Barcelona) and my husband bought some postcards (a tourist thing which probably alerted the pickpocket) then we walked away…he was walking ahead of me a few paces and a guy tried to stop him by speaking to him in various languages then actually pushing on his shoulder and spitting on him but my husband pushed him back, hard and we quickly left.

A few night later two guys followed us out of a subway car into what turned out to be a deserted underground subway station………they first whispered things about drugs (in Spanish) then they said they want to help my husband with something but I was already running up the stairs by that point so he quickly followed up the stairs and back at the hotel found they had sprayed shaving cream all over the back of his pants.

Two days later my husband was wearing a big backpack (very top heavy) and we were just coming out of this small mom and pop type store with water bottles in our hands and I see this suspicious looking guy outside move over to the doorway. Before I could say anything he sticks out his foot and trips my husband who fell forward, but luckily didn’t hit the ground. Then the guy starts screaming in Spanish at the top of his lungs at my husband and pushing him HARD…….Husband replies in Spanish and tries to sidestep the guy but he keeps getting in husband’s face and screaming insults. I look behind me briefly and see the Filipino store owner with a *very* cold look in his eyes standing right behind me, clearly not interested in helping and seemingly in league with the thief. I felt SO scared…….I thought we would be robbed or worse for sure. But I guess there really are guardian angels cause *just then* a police car comes right down this small, quiet side street. The creep took off like a shot when the cops were a block away, and as we were in a rush to catch our train to Paris we didn’t speak to the cops (who I doubt would have been of any help anyway).

Contributed by (no name given)

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60. Found your site regarding scams in Barcelona and I’m sitting here thinking I must be one lucky soul! My husband and I were in Barcelona in March 1997. We arrived in the city around 7 at night exhausted from a long drive from France in our rental car. Of course we had no idea were our hotel was and kept driving in what seemed like circles when a young man knocked on the car window while we were stopped at a light. I became very worried thinking the worse, but he kept pointing to our rear tires. With my limited Spanish I realized he was telling us we had a flat tire. I didn’t want to get out of the car and didn’t want my husband to either. The young man insisted and finally my husband got out and yes we did have a flat tire. The young man offered to help change the tire and also told us how to get to our hotel. The good Samaritan refused to take any money for all his help only wished us a good time in his city. I just wanted to share a good story, however, I do realize it could have gone the other way. We are going to Barcelona in September for only 2 days before we take a cruise. I’m even more anxious now then I was years ago. My son told me of the gypsies with the baby scam in Rome and his friend’s wallet was stolen. They actually chased the gypsies down and retrieved the wallet.

Contributed by Eileen Harris

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61. I wish to take you for putting up those “universal ” scams it helps to know your “enemy”.

We travel every year to Europe and have been robbed only once in Madrid. To make a long story short so it can help others,here it is how it happened:

Our rented 5 doors car with French plates , was parked in a parking lot. When we left the parking lot we rode a few blocks along the Castellana, when we had flat tire. While changing the tire, someone came, and told us a lot of incoherent things ( we speak Spanish) , he checking what could be stolen, we asked him to leave, and he left.

Later he came and kind of push me, in order to catch my husband’s attention, in that very second another guy who we didn’t see took whatever was in the car, not much thank you, but he got my husbands jacket and he could have gotten an elephant had we had one in the trunk of the car, …the guy run, seeing him run I realized what was going on, …too late!!! I saw him half a block down the street getting in a red car.

Contributed by Graciela Cattarossi

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62. Hi there,

10 days ago I was in Barcelona with my sister. We had walked along The Ramblas and it was very busy, on a sunday, so we went into another street; The Carrer dels escullers. As we had walked that street for a bit, we were starting to feel uncomfortable somehow, later I thought that must have been because we had been watched. Just after that, a boy of about 15 years old came straight at me, tore a little bag that I had attached to a leather strap around my waist off me (I had no idea it could come loose like that, he really had to pull vigorously a few times) and ran off with it. It contained my money, credit card, passport. I got so angry, that I went after him. Then number 2 came out of the crowd, ran after me and let me fall. My sister saw it happening, that of the second person coming. Luckily they didn’t take one of our rucksacks! I had bruises on my legs, and my trousers tore of the fall. We went to the police, but they couldn’t care less. Us tourists are welcome to spend our money there, but we shouldn’t expect anything back.

Compared to for instance Lisbon, where we went last year, I found the people of Barcelona very unfriendly on the whole.

Contributed by Jannie de Vries

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63. wow good stuff. i was just reading all he theft stories in barcelona. lol. i love barcelona, it’s the one of the most interesting cities in the world. i’ve bee there 7 times already. in 98 i stayed there for three months, i brought my motorcycle with me (kawasaki ZX7R) from Toronto Canada. i use to hang out on the las ramblas alot when i was bored. it was interesting watching scams being perfomed right in front of yours eyes, in true disbelief. in the summer of 97 my buddy and i went to bcn for two weeks vacation. cut a long story short we met these three girls from their at port olympic. the next day we hanged out with two of them. we ended up at the arcade upstairs next to the las ramblas. anyways i was playing a racing game against my friend and my fanny pack was in the way (containing my passport, camera and video camera) i handed it over to one of the girls (Susanna) thinking she would stand next to me and watch the game. she actually walked away and started playing air hockey. the next thing i knew was she was bending down and trying to look for my pack. then she darted off down the stairs (one way out) and i chased her and swearing like a sailor. we ended up in the alley and she did not see who took the pack. off course i was flipping out and pissed. then i thought to myself, if i was a thief i would stick around inside the arcade and unload the stuff. so as i walked back into the building, i saw a lot of people exiting off the escalator. then i noticed for some reason or another a middle age man on the stairs by himself with a large black bag. then it clicked. “what the hell this old guy doing here?” as soon as he stepped off the escalator i grabbed him and took away his bag. as i opened it, there she was my beautiful green fanny pack in side. well the next thing you know i threw him down on the ground and was about to kick him. but i did not. i was just happy to get my stuff back. so i let him go. what can you do eh? i consider myself pretty lucky and stupid that day, it was an eye opener indeed. well i was just in barcelona in april (01) and to this day Susanna is still my good friend. lol crazy eh! but thats Barcelona for ya!

Contributed by (no name given)

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64. Thanks for your page – I think you´ve prepared a lot of us for our visits here, and probably saved a lot of people from being scammed. But how’s this:

I was violently mugged this past Sunday, July 8, 2001, at 10AM at the side door to the Cathedral, with perhaps 20 people looking on in dumbfounded silence! I was just walking near the chapel entrance when someone´s arm was suddenly around my neck, choking me. I screamed and screamed, and being from New York City thought I was being killed by some nut case. Only when I saw everyone staring at me did I realize I was being mugged. A second guy ran in front of me and tore my little daypack off my shoulder, and they ran off. I later met another woman who had been mugged with the same choking method the day before, also in broad daylight but just off the Rambla, but since her bag was strapped diagonally to her chest, under her jacket, they took out a huge knife and cut the strap off! She said that she had just talked to a group of three women who were mugged together.

So, it seems that robberies may be taking a turn from “petty theft” to “brazen violent physical assault” this summer. Luckily, because of sites like yours, I had only cash (around 10,000 pesetas, and only because I had to break a 10,000 note that morning) and my water bottle in the daypack. In fact, for my first week (I´m here for three weeks) I was so paranoid that I only carried a small bit of money and my water bottle in a plastic shopping bag. I bought the cheap daypack so I could have both hands free. Now I´m back to the shopping bag! I´ve lived in New York City for over 20 years, so am very careful of where I go and what I carry. But if someone puts a choke hold on you and is ready to cut your bag off of you in broad daylight in a very public place, there´s no amount of street smarts and common sense that´s gonna help you!

Still love this city – such amazing spaces, and the natives are very kind, but I have to admit this has changed my view of the place.

Contributed by Jan Hagiwara

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65. One new neat trick that I’ve seen recently (in a Borne restaurant) was tried by a guy who tries to sell you some postcards with a note describing his bad situation). He leaves them on the table and later comes to collect money or take the postcards back. Funny thing, he always puts it on top of a mobile phone. He then stays by the table for quite a long time trying to talk you to buying the postcard, all the time having his hand over it. Eventually you decide just to ignore him. He then takes the postcard (with your phone) and casually walks away.

I have seen lots of the metro and escalator guys in action. (Sants, Espanya). Mostly Magrebies. I actually thought it would be cool to photograph them in action. Next time I see them I will send you some picture, ok?

Contributed by Marek Fodor

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66. Found yr site entertaining but was astonished by yr first listed scam…. The German lady in Barcelona and Madrid.

Thought you’d like to know that she tried it on me last October in the narrow streets behind the Cathedral in Palma de Mallorca.

I was struck by how well she was dressed and the high quality leather shoulder bag much favoured by our continental cousins. In my basic German I told her to go to the Police and then get help from the German Consulate in Palma.

Business must be good if she can move around all of these locations. She certainly had a lovely tan!

I’m off to Barcelona for 5 days in October so I’ll watch out for the scams highlighted. Standing sideways on the escalators seems a good idea.

I was saddened to read how most of your contributors can only manage to eat at Planet Hollywood or McDonalds in Barcelona. What a waste!

Contributed by Alex HIGGINS

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67. Read (most – so far) of your site with interest. Another thing to watch out for is if you have a pram or pushchair. Myself, my husband and our (then) 18 month old daughter were in Barca last year and because I was pushing the pushchair I was targeted when we got blocked in by a crowd of, mostly, tourists. Now myself and my husband are both fairly tall, tattooed and pierced – most people avoid us as they think we are up to no good ! Just goes to show, eh……..

Contributed by Cath Dudley

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68. I’ve just returned from Barcelona and I’d just like to warn your readers against stereotyping the pickpockets. I was targetted by a woman and two men. I was standing at lights, waiting to cross the road when I felt a slight pressure in the small of my back. I tensed and turned round in suspicion. The area was not crowded and the woman who had touched me looked apologetic as though she had just fallen against me.

I held back and followed her at a distance where she met up with two burly men to whom she described my reaction. They were obviously a team and I watched as they worked round the square, splitting up and regrouping. She felt for the wallets while, presumably, her colleagues did the business. I even saw one guy exercising his ‘dipping’ hand as he was walking.

These people were middle aged and respectable looking. She carried a carrier bag from an expensive store and one of the gang was carrying a camera to make him look like a tourist. Most of the time they walked apart or as a couple.

Trust nobody and keep your valuables in a place where to steal them would be sexual assault. I have also taken to carrying plastic cards that look like credit cards so that they think they have got something. They have never been stolen. Do they have x-ray eyes?

Barcelona is a wonderful city. Go there but be careful.

Contributed by Peter M – UK

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69. I loved reading your web site. I am off to Barcelona in a few weeks and I hope it keeps me and my Mom out of trouble. But I just wanted to say, this will be my third trip to Spain and I just love the place. I have wandered all over, usually by myself (female traveling alone) and never had a problem. The people are warm and friendly and I never felt unsafe. Then again, I don’t feel unsafe in my husband’s neighborhood of Spanish Harlem New York! Again, having lived in New York, Paris and done a good bit of traveling, I have a good internal alarm system. Unfortunately, my personal system was not fast enough to protect a friend in Italy.

A girlfriend and I were in Naples some 10 years ago (I feel old now). Having been warned of the street crime, I carried all of my belongings close to my body. My friend was not so wise. She had most of her things in a backpack, however, she was carrying a small bag, which contained only toiletries, with the strap wrapped around her wrist (really bad idea). A very well dressed boy on a motor scooter approached us as we were looking for our hotel. He passed us but we heard him turn around in the street behind us. As I turned around to warn her not to talk to him, she screamed. He had grabbed the bag and accelerated off down the street. My friend could not untangle her wrist from the bag and was drug about 25 feet. A crown on her front tooth was knocked out and she received a few bumps and bruises. We laugh hysterically at what transpired next. Of course it was not so funny when it happened.

Cindy (my friend) started screaming “HE STOLE MY TOOTH!!” (with a lisp caused by the missing tooth!) no one would help us (I am sure we looked like maniacs!) and we do not speak Italian! We finally found an open bar, where we proceed to try to explain to the bar maid what happened in really bad French. We think the pub owner misunderstood, because when police did arrive and we got to the hospital, the doctors kept trying to take Cindy’s cloths off! Add a nun who was yelling at the doctors in Italian to Cindy trying to keep her clothes on and my hysterical crying, and it was like something out of a bad movie! Finally, a police officer that spoke English showed up. To keep a long story short, we managed to get onto the NATO base to see and American Naval dentist, who fixed Cindy’s tooth, fed us dinner and let us sleep on his floor! He was a wonderful man, I wish I could remember his name because I could never thank him enough.

It was scary then, but it makes a great travel story now!

Contributed by Paige Strait

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70. Hello Terry,

Thanks for including my comments. I would like the e-mail address removing – good idea. I get enough crap coming through as it is. You could also add that the police seem to be putting the pressure on crime to some extent. (see below) July 2001.

I was on La Ramblas when I noticed the usual crowd gathered round the bean under the cup scam. I watched for a few moments, waiting for the inevitable pickpockets to relieve the onlookers of their wallets. Suddenly it looked as though a fight had broken out between the crook and a punter but it soon became apparent that the assailant was an undercover policeman disguised as a tourist. He wrestled the culprit to the floor and put the cuffs on him. His partner gave the forty strong group in the audience a lecture in street safety.

More strength to their truncheons!

Contributed by (Name withheld)

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71. Pretty much read thru every item posted, and in my year and a half in BCN, I have witnessed the majority of these scams happen, and had a few personal experiences myself:

– Have German plates on my car so ‘they’ believe I am a tourist. After the 1st incident (Pza Catalunya) where my periferal vision and a rear view mirror saved my backpack from being stolen (w/ passport, residence permit and all), I learned to drive around (when I rarely do) with doors locked.

Next time around on the corner of Arago & Taragona, one attempted to open my car door (which was locked), and in the rear view mirror, I see the other waiting to open the boot, hoping to find a string of luggage. No such luck. So the guy on my side attempts to tell me there is something wrong with my tire…. lights about to change, I’m blocked in between vehicles so I can’t go anywhere, I just mouthed off for him to stay away from the car, and gave him a friendly wave as I drove off.

For some reason walking down Plza Universidad toward Catalunya, the faces of these two guys waling in the opposite direction stood out, I turned to keep an eye on them, and sure enough, they picked up speed and dodged out into the street to open the doors of a car that had a couple sitting in it at the lights. The one on the drivers side will be the distraction, so that the other comes up quietly behind on the passenger rear door, opens it, and is off with packages or whatever. I started whistleing loud and pointing to them, other people started screaming, so they were cut short.

Had to walk the Rambla home every nite after work. Groups will gather around to watch the street artists, and theives gather around the spectators. One blocking the view while the other dips his hand in a back pack. Somehow this one time these guys looked out of place, it’s not likely that locals or ‘the problem immigrant’ stop to watch the artists, so that alone was a tell tale sign. I snatched the guy by the wrist, and squeezed hard, while yelling at him. He and his partner walked off stunned. The tourist about to be robbed looked at me as if I was the thief!

On Monjuic (the fountain show) it can get pretty crowed up on the escalators. Two weeks ago noticed a group of about 5 Gypsy girls, pretty young most of them, make a bout face to follow someone who was wearing their backpack in the back. A minute later, they pass again… I knew something was up, keeping an eye on them the entire time. Sure enough, another bout face to follow a gentleman: I yell out, Robonas Gitanas, tachentiev, pishe-pock… they looked up startled… but I and my friend had them marked and they had to change locatation. Happens they were working with a group of guys, who were doing the same thing!

Walked down the stairs to a traffic officer and sure enough… unless you catch them in the act, you cannot arrest them because ‘you think they were going to do it’. What a crock of sh*t. If you know it happens, in a place crowded with tourists, at least show a police presence, two guys waling the beat can only help.

Living here and feeling for the tourists and what happens multiple times, on a daily basis, I am now always on the alert. The anger it stirs up in me is aweful. The thing that bothers me the most is how the locals do not get involved. I get involved whenever I see something going down, but am begining to think that it will only end up causing me harm, and ‘they will go un punished anyway.

So with all that, here are the things I plan on doing to ‘help the cause':

– Work in an international company here in BCN, with colleages from all over the world, who have visitors, such as I do, that come to visit BCN. Will see that your URL is posted in our coffee corners, and in our monthly newsletter.

– Write an email and forward your URL to as many government agencies in BCN, especially those that deal in the cities tourism. This city thrives on tourism, and though they have really begun to crack down, they have a long ways to go.

– The next time I go to the fountain show, I will carry a big flashlight with me, and if I see the same type gangs, they will find themselves in the spotlight!

Thanks much for the work you have put into maintaining your site. You have helped a lot of people by spreading the word alone.

A BCN transplant, and now consider BCN my home.

Contributed by Daniel Guido

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72. You site is right on target. Thanks for doing it. This thing should be expanded to cover all cities.

I’m a 71 year old geek who just spent a month living in a cheap hotel (right off the Ramblas near the central market). My wife and I loved our adventures in Barcelona which were, thank you very much, 100% crime free.

But we saw plenty of street pickpockets successfully hitting on tourists. In almost all cases the “marks” are an easy hit. They’re like people who drive and talk on cell phones: Distracted.

My rules:

Hang back in a crowd; avoid groups.

Money and credit cards belong in a money belt. No backpacks, fanny packs or purses. Buy a money belt–keep it under your pants.

Be the very last to board a metro; then suddenly change your entry door.

Overcome your anti-racest tendency. Avoid Gypsy women and North African men.

Dress like the locals. Don’t look like a tourist.

Learn some Spanish.

If you are “marked” duck into a store, talk to a clerk and point to the bad guys.

Be alert; take your time; avoid crowds.

Contributed by Bob Payne

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73. I read your site about scams happened in Barcelona before my trip there. I learned a lot and decided to be prepared. Since most of the stories were about pickpocketing, I was prepared for those. I had my wallet in a chain, camera’s strap around my wrist all the time and I was checking my back once in a while, etc. So I didn’t have any problems with the pickpockets. (Actually, I met a Swedish lady at our hotel one day and she told she had been robbed in La Ramblas. It was that typical you’ve-got-a- stain-there-let-me-clean-it and her wallet was gone from the other side.)

But: on the last night of our trip (on sunday the 16th of Sept.) me and my friend decided to go to the Port Olimpic to shoot some pics of the port at night. We took the metro to the nearest station and started to walk. It was getting late (10:30 pm) and I still needed to call my friend to arrange our meeting at th! e airport next morning. We sat down on a bench in a park. The park was half dark and there were some other people sitting on the next bench. I called my friend and after the call I was typing a text message. Suddenly these two Moroccon looking young guys were standing in front of us. They asked for cigarettes, we said “Sorry, we don’t smoke”, so they asked for 10 pesetas. I said “Sorry, I don’t have my wallet with me, it’s at the hotel” and tapped my rear pocket, which was empty. I knew that they would have stolen my wallet if I had taken it out. The wallet was in my front pocket of my jeans. The guys were talking about something (not in Spanish) and I was sensing that something was up. I was collecting my cell phone and my camera in my left hand and my friend’s phone was in my right hand. Then the guy standing in front of me pulled his knife out. Scared the poop out of me. The guy started to feel my pockets and found my wallet. He forced me to take it out and ! was going thru it. I asked him only to take the cash (about 8000 ptas), not the whole wallet. He took the cash and took our cell phones. He got my cell phone without the battery, but unfortunately my friend’s cell phone (with my card in it) was still on when the guy took it. Then he was taking my brand new compact camera. I didn’t want to lose the camera because of the almost full film and was holding to it. He put the knife close to my stomach; my friend shouted “NO!!!”. I asked him to let me take the film out and he let me do it. To my surprise, when I got the film out, he didn’t take it after all, although I was acting like take it if you want to! As they left with our 16000 ptas and two cell phones (the other without a battery and SIM card) the other guy wanted to shake hands with my friend. They didn’t even run away. We started to search for help and saw a couple. The guy could luckily speak both Spanish and English. They called for the cops and I called home and told my dad to get my SIM card cancelled. It was cancelled after like half an hour after the robbery. The cops came and they took us around the park and Port Olimpic in the police car. We didn’t see the guys anymore though. We made a report at the police station and back at home (in Finland) on tuesday morning I reported my cell phone on the black list at the local police station. This way, nobody can’t use the phone anywhere even with another SIM card. To think back, it wasn’t such a good idea to stop in a half-dark park. When we saw the area in general afterwards, there were almost only hookers on the sidewalks. At day the area is more of a business quarter, but at night it’s scary.

My advice:

Don’t sit down in a dark park where there’s not much people around. First look around you and estimate how dangerous the area is. Don’t even walk in suspicious looking areas of the town. Better to stay for example in the centre of the city where there’s a lot of people even on week nights.

Don’t keep all your money in the “usual places”. For instance, this thief searched only thru my wallet’s bill and coin pockets.

Keep your 9-mil with you. It’s scarier than a knife.

Contributed by (Name withheld)

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74. Hello, you have a great site. It should be compulsory reading for anyone visiting this beautiful city! I moved to Barcelona from Holland in the beginning of September. Hardened with living in Amsterdam for 6 years, and being robbed on a number of occasions in Australia, London, Paris and the Netherlands during my travels, I believed I had enough experience NOT to be robbed this time…but I was wrong. My compliments to the thief, I have never seen something as smooth as what this guy did.

I was enjoying our dinner at a great italian restaurant with my girlfriend and a friend when we asked for the bill. We were sitting outside on a terrace in a lovely small square with nobody else around. The bill came, and I got my wallet out of my bag. Reminding myself to be careful, I left my hand on the wallet when I put the wallet on the table. 10 seconds later a guy appears, who wanted to sell us postcards. I kept my hand on the wallet, and told him that we were not interested. He then focussed his efforts on our friend. (I still had my hand on the wallet) Even though we told him at least three times to *&^$# off, he kept trying to sell the cards. I got irritated (which he obviously wanted to happen) and I moved to get up from my chair. This was the moment he waited for! He spread out all of his postcards in front of us, hiding my wallet and trying to show them one more time. At this moment, the restaurant owner comes outside and tells the guy to bugger off. He mumbles something and is obviously irritated. Then he finally wanders off in an alley. I sat down and was amazed about the guys persistence. After 30 seconds I realized the wallet was gone. So I get up and run after the guy. He was gone…He only got 15.000 pesetas and 2 credit cards which I immediately blocked. I was amazed with his talent though! As a final note, Barcelona is really not dangerous at all. I lived in Amsterdam centre for 6 years, and I have seen much more theft including violence there. It seems that the crimes here consists merely of petty theft, without any real violence (knifes, guns, molesting people). I do share the opinion of another reader though: the police was nice and friendly, but why is it so hard to arrest most of these criminals and keep them off the street? Everybody knows where they are and how they look. It cannot be too hard to infiltrate these ‘gangs’ and arrest people. I am sure it would give this lovely city a much better image.

Contributed by Peter Horsman

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75. Hi, I recently spent a while in Pamplona for the San Fermin festival and flew in via Barcelona and spent a couple of nights sleeping under the stars. The first night was spent outside the train station with a lot of other backpacker types, I am 30 now and when I was 17 and 18 spent time travelling round europe and so have seen more than a few scams and I am embarrassed to admit that I fell for the pea under a walnut scam in Berlin. By about 2am the usual types had arrived at the station, groups of men being loud and trying to intimidate the backpackers sleeping there. I twice woke to see the people either side of me being accosted by them, and later found that they had had money/valuables taken, I was lucky and prepared. The key I think is to look like you are not going to be intimidated, I had a two foot length of hose pipe which I kept in my hand. In all instances I have seen the scamsters will leave if they think they are going to get a hard time and move onto an easier victim. Its a way of life for a lot of them and they make and easy living from it, the police just don’t care, so its up to individuals to prepare. Having said that Spain is a great place and I’ll be going back again. Wonderful site, next time I’m in Barcelona I will be spending a few hours people watching and trying to spot the scams going down.

Contributed by Dean

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76. Great website — But what is funny to me is how careless (or maybe sometimes clueless) these tourists who submit their stories can be. I have lived here for 6 months and have heard the whole gamut of scams and semi-tragedies — but have experienced nothing myself.

If one walks along the Ramblas and the Barrio Gotico looking like the typical British or American tourist (with fanny packs, shorts, trainers, and valuables) they can expect certain elements to pay extra attention. These same people ignore strangers on the street in their own hometowns (Chicago, Atlanta, Boston) but yet they stop and trust completely suspicious folks here in BCN.

God help them.

Contributed by Terrence McNeely

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77. This is a scam in Rome that maybe you can use.

I met a buddy of mine at the train station in Rome (April 2000) and we went downstairs to catch the subway. He had a small duffle type bag and I was wearing a backpack and a fanny pack. The subway was crowded and two Gypsy women crowded in behind us and the door shut. One woman was holding a baby and both of her breasts were fully exposed although the baby wasn’t feeding. She stood right between us. She was probably a foot shorter than us and as we stood there smiling at each other, she was going into my fanny pack and stole my wallet. Also, a guy was behind me who kept shoving my backpack as if I was bumping into him and he was pushing me back (he was with the ladies).

So they got off train and I realized I had been robbed. I went back to that stop and found FOUR wallets by the tracks (none of which were mine) but I did find mine at the Lost & Found the next day minus my cash but with all other credit cards still inside. In the meantime I had gone to American Express and they gave me a new card in one hour.

I had seen two separate purse snatchings in Barcelona on a street just off of Las Ramblas the week before.

Contributed by Chris Fuller

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78. I was interested to read the experiences on your page – if only I’d read it before going to Barcelona last week! Although to be honest, I did behave a little stupidly and left myself open to crime. My rules when travelling are: don’t carry much money, stay where there are plenty of people, don’t advertise the fact that you’re a tourist – but I guess after a while it’s easy to become complacent and think it will never happen to you. So on a busy Saturday afternoon I was walking around the Barri Gotic, close to the Cathedral and wandered off alone into an empty side street clutching my camera. Two young men were sitting on a doorstep, I noticed them look at me and then speak to each other – warning bells went off then but I continued in their direction. Walked past them, suddenly an arm came around my neck from behind and started tightening slowly. I blacked out, when I opened my eyes the two men were helping me to my feet and talking to me in Spanish (which I could not understand) and acting in a very concerned manner. I speak a little French and asked them why they had attacked me. They also spoke some French and told me that a tall man had tried to steal from me but had run away down the alley. But I remember quite clearly because I’d been looking around, that the narrow street was empty and they were the only people there. My camera (a cheap one!) was lying on the ground and they’d obviously searched me because some postcards and my purse containing a small amount of cash, which were in my left jacket pocket, were now in the right one. I tried to act as though I believed their story about the other attacker but I’m sure they knew that I was aware of what had really happened. And… in the strangest and most bizarre twist to this story….. they had returned what little I had been carrying, both men then politely apologised to me, kissed my cheek, shook hands with me and went on their way.

I was extremely lucky in this situation and it certainly taught me a lesson I will not forget. Hasn’t put me off travelling and I would certainly return to Barcelona but next time I’ll be more on my guard.

Contributed by Ann Gillan

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79. I remember being annoyed by the arab petty criminals around Placa Real, in 1995, when I was in Barcelona. But I luckily never had any problems. I plan on heading back to Barcelona this Feb. (2002) I love the hospitality of the Catalonian people. The locals are wonderful people. It seemed to me when I was there that it was the arab and gypsy element that was the source of most of the scams. My main suggestion to tourists is try to not look like a tourist. Walk with confidence and look like you know where your going, even if you don’t. In my experience, Istanbul makes Barcelona look like Disneyland in the sophistication of tourist scams. From the rug salesmen to the shoeshine boys.

Contributed by D S Tietjen

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80. I was in Madrid in December 2001 and your web page really prepared me for Madrid. On my second day in Madrid I was near the Reina Sofia Museum trying to buy a scarf from an Asian street vendor for 1500 ptas when someone came up to me (a Spanish man ) and said “oh, it is bad, look” I had mustard all over my backpack and my jacket. I had all my money under my clothes so there was no way to get anything. I had my backpack locked with a small travel padlock. I took the bag off and held on to it tight and walked away quickly and went to the Dunkin Donuts nearby (across from Atocha Station) and wiped it off. The guy realized I wasn’t an idiot and ran off fast. A little later two Gitaines did the I am lost, help me find the way on this map scam. They asked me in Spanish if I spoke Spanish and I said “no” (even though I can speak Spanish), then they switched to asking for help in English. I yelled “NO” at them and then they disappeared very quickly.

Even though I had a padlock on my backpack (which contained my camera and film only) it seemed like it was slightly apart a few times like people had tried to open it as I walked.

The chestnut seller to the right of the stairs coming down from the Reina Sofia sold me chestnuts for 250 pesetas two days in a row and on the third day tried to not give me back my 50 ptas change. I told him I wanted my change and he did return it to me but from then on I bought them from another chestnut seller down the street.

I love Madrid and want to go back again soon despite the mustard attack

Contributed by Dorothy Paige

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81. Today I got home off a splendid stay at barcelona. Only one thing was not so nice, when I left a bar yesterday evening in the neighbourhood of Place Espagnol,I was walking on the sideways when suddenly two men where holding me and asking me for my money. I don’t know what happened to me but i was suddenly very pissed off. I knocked down one man and the other one was holding a knife in front off me. When he tried to stab me I started shouting very loud and very angry.He only hit me once but it was on the side off my arm which is now bruised.After he finally noticed that he would never ever could have my money he ran away. The other man in the mean time grabbed some money that had fallen out off my coat and surprisingly gave it back to me.and he ran after his buddy.I think that I was very lucky that I had to deal with amateurs.I am still shocked that people do this to other people and in the mean time a lot of people had seen what was happening but they were doing nothing at all.

It’s nice that I can write down some of my frustration on your site.

Contributed by Frank Weltevrede

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82. Not sure if you are still updating your site, but boy am I angry about this one – only two hours ago too! I read your site, and was totally prepared for avoiding most of this. So I thought!

I was on La Diagonal, walking down to a Gaudi exhibit. This guy came up to me & started asking me questions… a very dodgy looking guy. When I said I don´t speak Spanish, he asked me the time in English. When I said I don´t have a watch, he said he was trying to get to a certain street and was lost.

Said I couldn’t help him, when these two guys in suits came up, saying “Policia”, and pushed him against the wall. They asked both of us for identification – he gave his, and I showed them my drivers license… then he asked for my wallet, and leafed through it. I only carry cards in it, and watched him quickly fan through them. What I didn’t see was him palm one of them. The harassed the other guy, asked me where my passport was, etc. and then kicked him away. They said to me that this is a bad area, that you can’t trust people, and that the guy was a heroin dealer… not to be trusted. I actually said thanks…

Contributed by Sarah Sweet

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83. A great site, and certainly worth reading before a trip to BCN. I’ve been several times, and only been the victim of an attempted handbag snatch (I chased him off with by shouting loudly) once.

I wondered if you’d heard of a scam which caught a friend of mine in Sitges last year?

A slim plastic pocket is placed in the slot of an ATM – of course when the next person puts in their card, it doesn’t work and can’t be ejected from the slot – you think it’s been swallowed.

A helpful spanish speaking person is on hand with a mobile phone. He kindly phones the helpline number on the ATM for you (but of course it’s not really the helpline, it’s his friend round the corner).

He gives you the phone so that you can talk to the ‘ATM helpline’. They then ask you for all your details, including your PIN number and when your helpful Spanish friend goes with you to report the incident to the Spanish police, his accomplice comes and fishes out the plastic pocket, containing your cash card.

How clever is that? My friend’s account was emptied in a matter of hours.

I’ve also heard of this happening in London.

Contributed by Debbie Tinsley

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84. Most of the scams that you describe are really quite common and in fact child’s play. I used to live in New Orleans, where all these things just become a part of the city, and especially during Mardi Gras. Now I’m a fan of scams, in fact, I think it to be a very specific art form, but what I saw in Barcelona really made my jaw drop. Here is a simplified account of things.

My last visit to the city was in September of 2001, I was there predominantly for vacation purposes, and being the social animal, I was staying in one of the many Youth Hostels around the Gothic Quarter. One fine early autumn evening, myself and a few Hostelmates decided to go for a drink at Placa Catalunya, at Cafe Zurich, im sure alot of people will know where that is. Now I’m a big spender and so are many of my friends. And this attitude tends to draw many eyes, and on occasion some women. As it happened a catalan woman with green eyes, who shall remain nameless, was invited to our table by my friend Joel. We drank, and Joel spoke to this lady, she really was quite gorgeous. Anyways… being exhausted, i retired to my double room, and Joel went with this woman to Tibidabo on her vespa, she got him intoxicated, then later went to his or should I say our, hostel, where the receptionist would not allow her to stay. They later went to another Hostel, where they proceeded in some sexual acts, Joel, came home home satisfied, but later discovered that he was lacking his wallet. Surely he had lost it, she would not have stolen it. But Joel couldn’t stay for the weekend he needed to get back to Paris, there was a shoot he was doing, so futy called and Joel departed.

Now as hostels are, you meet people, and the same day that Joel left for Paris, I met a young american man, by the name of Greg, who turned out had the same affinity for spending money as both Joel and I. Well as the pre-bars go, we went back to Cafe Zurich, and who was there, why my dear woman, who had enjoyed Joel’s company so much, she had asked about his well being, and I informed her that the poor sap had lost his wallet, she seemed truly empathetic. As it turned out, my new found american friend Greg would wind up receiving a very similar fate to that of Joel’s, with the difference being the hostel in which this harlot worked her magic. But Greg as joyful as ever, and particularly so to the fat that he had gotten laid, didn’t really care much that he had “lost” his wallet. Nor did I tell him he was scammed.

I later wound up seeing this woman, who met my eyes, and in the same innocent tone as ever, felt quite empathetic that poor American Greg had lost his wallet as well. She asked me if I had seen Tibidabo, and I replied that I had, as she got up to leave, I told her to be careful. Her last words were, I always am, and she smiled.

After returning to Rome, and reestablishing myself in the everyday monotony of work, I told a colleague of mine about these incidents, and to my surprise he informed me over a pesto plate that Gian Luca another one of our co-workers had fallen victim to this scam as well, all with the same woman.

Quite amusing really.

Now all accounts here are true, the woman is approx 5’7 or 170 cm she has green eyes and a round face, drives a dark “vespa” and is quite attractive. Possibly in mid to late 20’s. She speaks fairly good english, and seems educated. And is usually waiting for her friend to arrive. Last I saw her he had brownish/blonde hair.

Do take notice of who you chose to sleep with in Barcelona, you may get more then just a good lay and a stolen wallet if you know what I mean.

Contributed by (Name withheld)

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85. I really enjoyed reading your stories of street scams. Thanks for the opportunity to learn about these scams the easy way, and avoid a future disaster.

My wife and I saw the shell game in Venice, on the Acedemia bridge, using match boxes and pieces of wadded up paper. As an amateur magician (I have a book about the shell game), I knew better than to join in the game, and instantly spotted the shills. As you described, the victims were allowed to “accidentally” see the box that contained the ball of paper.

I would like to point out a slight misconception in your description of the game, though. Once the “correct” match box, or shell, or card has been “accidentally” pointed out to you, it is NOT necessary, as you seem to say, for the operator to then misdirect your attention and re-arrange the items. If someone believed this, they might erroneously think that by watching carefully and/or stopping the final re-arrangement they would have a hope of winning. They most certainly would not. Any shell game operator out of diapers can let you clearly see which shell holds the pea, or which card is the queen, etc, and then still have the pea appear under a different shell without any re-arranging of the shells and with no need for you to look away.

I would say (to misquote Damon Runyon, from “Guys and Dolls”) that if one of these operators bets you that the ace of spades will jump out of the deck, sing the national anthem, run up your arm, perch on your shoulder and pee apple cider in your ear, and you make the bet with him, then as sure as God made little green apples that’s exactly what the ace of spades is going to do.

Thanks again for the excellent site and for the grief you are helping so many people to avoid.

Contributed by Bob Posey

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86. I’m not planning to go to Barcelona, but my nephew is moving there for his third year of college. I sent him your URL!

My wife and I took a tour of Italy while I was a third-year medical student. We were not very well off, and stayed in the cheapest pensiones you could imagine. One of our favorite places was Naples, where we stayed near the train statione- later to find the guidebooks advised not tarrying in that “bad” neighborhood for a minute. We stayed three days, and despite the fact that some of the others in our pensione looked like “professional” ladies, never had a problem.

Except when we went to the fancy part of town to a very nice park. We weren’t there for ten minutes when two very young boys on a motorscooter whipped by and grabbed my wife’s camera from my shoulder and were GONE! I gave chase, but couldn’t catch them.

My favorite scam, by far, is what happened to us when we tried to find a bus to Pompeii. A man in the metro station told us we couldn’t take a bus or train there, we had to take a taxi. Fortunately, his friend would be HAPPY to take us for only $50 American. At the time, $50 was about three day’s expenses. It didn’t seem right to me that you couldn’t take public transportation from Naples to Pompeii, so I asked a uniformed guide at the metro. No, he assured me, there were no busses or trains. He did know someone, however, who’d be delighted to take us there for … yep- $50 American. Now remember, this was a uniformed guide for the city in the metro.

I looked over his shoulder, and THERE WAS THE BUS TO POMPEII!! I pointed to it, and the guide just shrugged and smiled.

Still, I loved Italy and would love to go back. I feel I’ll be much better armed after reading your website.

Contributed by Russ Palmeri

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87. Me and my Girlfriend went to barcelona last week. We saw all those streetgames and quite soon we saw that they pick up the ball in the hand, so there’s really no pea or ball underneath any of the cups. Then they slide it under the one that their friend picks. I guess it´s some variations to that, but it´s a loosing game.

We were approached in the metro station one stop from liceu by a proper english guy (excellent english speaking) with two large bags and with a anxious look on his face declaring that he´d been robbed on the metro and had to get to the airport. He asked us if we could help him out with some Euros for a ticket. As the nice guys we were we gave him 3 euros for the ticket. We did not realize it was a scam until we saw the same guy 2 days later. As we went after him he scurried away pretty fast. 3 Euros is not much, but i guess he makes a good living on it.

He has a grey bag in which he claims loosing his wallet, and he has a black case on his other shoulder. He´s dark haired and has everything combed back in a slick way.

Contributed by Andreas

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88. Hi Terry. I know I’m not the first to tell you this, but thank you very much for your website. I will strongly recommend every visitor to go through it before coming to Barcelona.

I’ve have not seen in your site any posting from someone who’s 100% from Barcelona, so I decided to send you my impressions an try to answer some questions some of the “victims” had.

We have always had petty thieves, but lately it is becoming a real annoyance for everyone who lives and visits the city. Locals are also targetted by these people but, of course, unwarned tourists are much easier and normally their wallets are much more interesting…

I’ve been involved in several of this scams but luckily never was the target of any of them. Well, I say luckily, because me and my friends could easily be confused with a bunch of Rugby players (we are quite bigger than the average spaniard). We normally hang out around La Ribera (El Born), el Gotic and Las Ramblas as some of our favourite restaurants and clubs lie in such area, so we have seen a lot of the tricks described in your website. Here are some of my experiences and comments I would like to share with you:

– The “Soccer” trick: once around el carrer Princesa a couple of Moroccan boys tried it with one of my friends who happens to be a really skilled player. Of course the three of us knew what the Magrebian guy wanted was his wallet, and not giving my friend a master lesson on “dribbling”. In three seconds the guy was running with my friend’s footprint marked on his ass, after having been asked in advance if he knew the “Stoickhov’s” trick ( for those of you who do not happen to know or to remember him, he was a famous Bulgarian player who played for FC Barcelona several years, and was really famous for being “nice” and “kind” to his opponents and referees). The other guy did not move an inch as he got the message from the look the other two of us gave him. Then we did the wisest thing you can do, disappear. My advice is never use violence, and if you use it, get out of there as nothing had happened (even if it was something as silly as what we did). These guys never go alone and they surely have some more of their colleagues wandering around. They will not come back for you but better avoid a second “encounter”.

– Car opening: I’ve seen it happen in front of me twice. First time the two guys were too fast for us, so the driver of the car in front of us did not even realise what had happened until we told him that the guy he could see running some 50 meters from us had taken his jacket. He could not believe it !!!! I guess it was because of the shock, but he did not even thank us for trying to catch the guy…. The second time we reacted fast and were able to scare them before they could even open anyone’s car door.

– Cell phones: a new “trick” I’ve seen a few days ago. I was with two friends in a bar in the upper part of Barcelona (close to carrer Mandri). One of them decided to go out to make a phone call as the music inside the bar was loud. It was around 19:00 hrs. A motorbike, a small scooter, with two guys suddenly appeared from nowhere and started going fast towards her. She did not even see them coming, but the guy who was not driving just hit her hand while she was speaking and the phone started flying. He just caught it in the middle of the flight and disappeared without even reducing speed. It was done in one second and in two more seconds they have disappeared up the street. The guy was really good !!! I wonder if it had something to do with the visit of the Cirque du Soleil to our town, but it was just something to be performed in a circus. It was a brand new phone so the annoyance was huge. Another guy staying at the bar just showed us an article on that day newspaper describing this new practice. My friend was just talking to her father when suddenly the call was cut, but he could hear everything. He called again and a teenager voice told him “Forget it man, do not waste your money calling this number. She has not the phone anymore….” What a nice detail !!! Well, everyone knows we Catalans are famous for not being big spenders, so I guess the guy was from here too.

– Annoying the tourist (What can we do?): one of our friends has a club at one of the streets bottom of las Ramblas. One week after opening he decided to hire a couple of guys to keep the door safe. If you keep an eye through the windows you will see every few minutes a Magrebian fellow running with a wallet or a purse in his hands. We are very disappointed to see they are constantly bugging tourists, but what can we do? We were planning to start stopping them and scare the s..t out of them. But would that really be a solution? The point is we would put in danger the integrity of our friend and his business. We are sure if we would act against them we would surely find all the club´s windows broken the following day (or something worst). Of course we have talked to the police and they have showed up a couple of times and arrested a few of them, but as Spanish laws are so tolerant with petty thievery (whenever there is no violence or weapons involved) they are back on the street a few hours later. And this takes me to the following point…

– Neighbours, Police and Spanish Laws: believe me, all honest neighbours and business owners of the tourist areas of Barcelona are really pissed off with the situation. They have even created some street patrols and warned the “bad guys” they do not want to see them around. But local authorities have stopped such practice immediately. Well, officially they will not allow anyone to take justice by their own hands, but police will not seriously bother neighbours if they decide to catch someone and kick his ass (as long as the guy is not seriously injured).

One of my relatives is a very well respected cop in downtown Barcelona. He has been working in the area for years, normally patrolling “undercover”. He knows everyone dedicated to scamming people and is also known by all of them. He and his colleagues are really frustrated because they cannot do anything against petty thieves. As I told you, laws here are very tolerant when violence is not involved. They are really tough though when someone uses a knife or hurts someone as they know then the guy is going to spend more than just a few hours locked, and the effort and risk of catching him is worth it. I am not saying they are not willing to stop the situation, I am just saying that while laws do not change, there is not much them or most of the judges can do. I agree though that some more police presence in the area will reduce this type of crimes, but thieves know if they are caught the consequences will be minimal as they will be free in a few hours and violence is one of the last things cops are allowed to use. I read some time ago there are not more than a hundred people “performing” in Barcelona regularly (maybe now they are some more). Of course this population grows when tourist season arrives. The average of times being arrested is around 10 times each (and if I remember well the record was 48 times). What shall we do with them? Throw them to the see? Maybe a wise solution would be sending them on government financed vacation to a nice “camping” during tourist season as we did during the Olympics in 1992.

Just to finish I would like to include here a few sentences from a very prestigious travel guide you might find about Barcelona: “Spain’s second city is now the country’s hippest town. Summer gives way to periodic lapses in sanity with week-long fiesta fun. But year-round the city cooks – it’s always on the biting edge of fashion, architecture, food, style, music and good times.

The buildings, many of which feature the work of an eccentric genius named Gaudí, will blow you away. The art, with significant collections by Picasso and Miró, will make you clammy all over. The people, with their exuberance, their duende, their persistent egalitarianism and clamour for a separate identity, will fascinate you.

Barcelona is one of the most dynamic and exciting cities on the western Mediterranean seaboard, … It is a city that is inconceivable until you get there, unbelievable while you walk its streets and unforgettable after you’ve gone.”

I’m deeply in love with my home town and I think it is one of the most wonderful cities on Earth to live. Because of my job I’ve been all around the World and I know what is feeling unsafe when visiting a “really” dangerous city (has anyone been to Mexico DF? , L.A? Rio? Caracas? Moscow?). Barcelona is definitely not a dangerous place. Violent crimes are very rare. And I strongly recommend everyone who has not yet visited us to come and enjoy our lovely town, its food, its people, its architecture, its LIFE!!! Petty thieves are just another part of the experience, so visitors should keep in mind the advice everyone can find in your website and they will have the time of their life. Will anyone miss it???

Contributed by David R.M.

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89. After a whirlwind tour of France, Monaco & Italy by car (rental from Barcelona) we returned to spend our last day on vacation in Barcelona. Tired and frustrated with the map of the city we were making our way to the street of Las Rambla when we were unwittingly became part of the Las Rambla street scam.

While waiting for the light to turn green a man urgently knocked at the window on the driver’s side. My husband was concerned as the man was pounding on the car with his hand near the bottom of the rear door. I yelled at my husband that nothing was wrong with the car but it was too late. He opened his door to see why this man was pounding on the car.

Now someone was knocking on my window frantically trying to tell me that the back door was open in Spanish but I do not speak Spanish so I did not understand. My husband understood and asked me if I had my leather bag in my lap. I turned to look and saw the back door ajar. We then realized that the second member of this scam had reached in and grabbed my leather bag from the back seat with my purse (credit cards & cash) and several electronic devices inside the bag. My husband saw the thieves running toward the stairs of the metro with the black leather bag in hand. Fortunately our passports & plane tickets were still in his nylon bag that the thief had not grabbed from the back seat.

We had a cellular phone with us and immediately called to cancel the credit cards. I flagged down a police car and tried to explain what had just happened. The policemen seemed very nonchalent about the incident and politely led us to the tourist police station. The station had close to 40 people waiting to fill out reports. The wait was estimated at 2 hours (actually it was 2 hours before we were given the paperwork to fill out). I walked nervously about and stopped to speak to anyone that spoke English. An elderly couple from Holland had just arrived today and thieves took the wife’s purse with money, credit cards, plane tickets & passports. The thieves had pushed the husband to the ground when he tried to follow them. A couple from the UK had all their money taken from them while they were walking down Las Rambla. A female student traveling alone had her backpack taken. Two different couples speaking German were waiting to fill out their reports. Two very young South African students were there. I heard the police woman asking a Latino gentleman about his address which turned out to be in Barcelona. It seems that not only tourists are targeted by the thieves of Barcelona.

This unhappy ending to our vacation has not completed soured my view of Barcelona but it will a long time before I feel strong enough to brave the streets of Barcelona again.

Here are more recommedations:

Keep your car doors locked at all times. Put everything in the trunk (or your hotel room) that you possibly can do without. Keep anything you must carry under your shirt or jacket in something that zips. Do not carry your wallet in your pockets. Separate your credit cards and cash so if you do get robbed you will still have something left in another secure area. Don’t be polite when approached by anyone you don’t know-just get away quickly.

Barcelona should consider taking training from Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix, Arizona. He has posses on horses and bicycles as well as on foot to deter and/or apprehend petty thieves during the Christmas season at the shopping centers in Phoenix. His no-nonsense approach to criminals is well known here. I hope the law enforcement in Barcelona will change their approach so more tourists can enjoy the city of Barcelona in safety.

Contributed by Jeanne Omar

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90. Having looked at your site the night before we went I thought I was prepared. Credit cards would be in shirt pocket underneath pullover and wallet with just enough money in front jeans pocket.

Unforutnately my plans started from the hotel and I was scammed at the airport. Coming through the exit door of Terminal A there was a young man stood in my way as I pushed the luggage trolley. He ungraciously moved out of my way but then a women walked past me shouting at me and hiting me on the shoulder as she walked past. I looked over my shoulded to see her disappearing into the terminal still shouting at me. When I turned round again my black bum bag had disappeared from the basket of the luggage trolley. I immediately went back into the terminal but of course they had disappeared into the crowd. Fortunately I had already removed my credit cards, cash and passport so all they got was my compact camera and house keys.That was bad enough but it could have been a whole lot worse. I think the moral is you need to be on your guard the minute you land and not just when walking the Ramblas or the Gothic Quarter.

Contributed by John Scholey

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91. I love your web site on the pick pockets in Barcelona. Here’s my story from my first trip to England.

My wife and I were visiting a friend of hers that had been living in England for about a year. We were taking in the sites in Picadilly Square when our friend said she needed to get some cash from the ATM. While my wife and her friend went to the ATM, I walked a little further away from the ATM and leaned up against a lamp post. As I watched them get cash from a distance, I felt that something about the people around the area wasn’t right. They all seemed to look similar in their skin tone, dress, hair cuts, height, etc. I’ve seen alot of shows on pickpockets and didn’t feel comfortable. There were two couples, and two guys on cell phones looking away from the ATM. All of them were spread out in a semi-circle, away from the machine.

As my friend put her card into the machine and withdrew her cash, a man approached from her left. He proceeded to ask her for directions and distract her. While they both were looking at the man on the left another man on the right approached the machine and quickly removed the card. Without my friend or my wife seeing him. He tucked the card under his jacket, which was draped over his arm. The pickpocket walked quickly in my direction, not knowing that I was with the two women.

As he approached, I slammed him up against the nearby wall and pinned him there. (No. I did not know what I was doing, and I don’t recommend anyone doing what I did.) As he was squirming, the semi-circle of accomplices quickly scattered, except for one of the couples. The guy left his girlfriends side and quickly moved over to me, and asked for me to let his friend go.

I told them to drop the card, and they did and I let him go.

My wife and her friend were startled and didn’t know what the hell I was doing. So they came over to me in shock and I handed her, her card. She still wasn’t aware it had been taken. My impression is that most people just think they put it away already and don’t think twice about it.

I guess the moral of this story is that you should play close attention to your surroundings. Also trust your instincts. If an area is too crowded, don’t try to get cash out of the ATM. This happened in broad daylight, so don’t believe you are safe.

Later that night the London police had signs up warning of extreme pickpocket activity in the area. Of course, it would have helped to have known that before hand.

It made for a great story when I got home.

Contributed by Keith Sink

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92. I recently went on holiday to Tenerife and saw a new twist to this scam. The shuffler and ringers were actually a distraction for pickpockets working the small crowd.

While some people stopped to watch (they wouldn’t play because it is such an ‘obvious’ scam) the pick pockets were cruising this group.

I quietly spoke to one woman whose hand bag was held in a way that was asking to be robbed. But was to afraid to make a big hoo-haa as there were also some heavies keeping watch/standing guard.

Later the same evening I saw the aftermath of an arrest of some scammers pulling the same stunt. The police had handcuffed 3 people and had laid out quite a number of wallets and mobile phones and were searching the box/stand that had supported the game.

Maybe they had become so complacent that they didn’t even ‘pass them’ off to be kept somewhere else.

Hope this helps people being drawn into a scam by watching the other one.

Contributed by Matt Lambert

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93. Hi there, I have two stories which I thought might interest you, both occured in Madrid.

I was sitting in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor with a friend when suddenly a man, who was clearly Spanish started asking my friend directions to Puerta del Sol (a very central point about 2mins away) in English. We thought this was weird, and my friend vaguely pointed in the appropriate direction, while he continued to look puzzled and keep on asking her. Meanwhile I glanced sideways to see a arm reaching for my bag which was beside me. Naturally I grabbed my bag and started yelling at the man asking for directions and his new found friend. They eventually left, meanwhile my friend couldn’t understand my rage for a pair of strangers seeking directions!

On another occasion I was walking down the main street with my friend and heard the clasp of my bag open. This bag was slung over my body and I normally have one hand on the clasp. They caught me unaware! When I heard my bag open I spun around to see a band of about 8 gypsy women walking behind us. I shouted “What?” in Spanish to her and then she tried to tell me that her friend had simply dropped her lighter (to explain the noise, however this was very badly timed!!) I then proceeded to yell at her in my poor Spanish and they basically ran away!

Beware!! If you’re a tourist, you probably stand out, so look after your property! You don’t have to be paranoid, just very careful at all times!

Contributed by Shiranthi Fonseka

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94. Read your website, excellent. My own experience is similar to many of the others.

In 2001, in mid-afternoon in August I was walking alone along one of those streets that run through to the beach( about 5 minutes from La Ramblas). The street was empty and I was walking along, almost absent-mindedly, on the pavement. I became aware of 4 young men some distance behind me but did not think it odd, in a short time they closed the distance between us and then one of them went past me and even then I didn’t see any reason to be alarmed. Then all of a sudden as we approached a parked car I realised what was going on, I think I may have been alerted by the fellow in front of me slowing down slightly and all of a sudden the plan seemed obvious, one was in front,three were behind and in another 5/6 steps I would be alongside the parked car and boxed in.I continued at the same pace and when I was about a step from the car I suddenly ran out into the middle of the road and from there on towards the beach. Luckily they made no real attempt to follow, I am convinced however that I was within an inch of being robbed.

Contributed by Sean McCarthy

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95. I found your site really interesting. We nearly fell for a scam some years ago in the main town of Mauritius. We were walking along looking for a restaurant when a very pleasant young Mauritian man approached us in a familiar way, saying, ” Hello – are you having a good day out? I work at the hotel where you are staying – do you recognise me?” to which we replied, apologetically that we didn’t. He said “oh, yes, you are staying at the, um, at the…..” and looked forgetful so we (foolishly) said the name of our hotel and he said, “yes, that’s right”.

Then he told us that he was trying to visit his mother who had been in hospital and he needed what amounted to about £100 for the airline ticket which he had to buy today, while he was in the town. He said he would pay us back tonight at the hotel.

We were ready to go to the bank and cash a travellers cheque when we just suddenly got suspicious and said we couldn’t help. Of course, we never saw him again.

Contributed by Jenny Leman

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96. I lived 4 years in New Jersey making frequent trips into New York. I rode the A train and the C train in the Subway and NEVER had a pickpocket try me. (I am a paranoid who keeps his eyes wide open and my back to the corner!)

While I ran into suspicious “situations” in Rome and Florence I successfully avoided being hit.

In Barcelona, within 24 hours I was TWICE forced to grab some guy’s hand as he groped for my wallet. (No finesse! I kept it) Once, on the Rambla, I was jostled HARD by a confederate and as I turned in confusion felt the hand groping. The other time, in the subway as the the train doors opened I was body checked HARD and as I regained my balance felt the grope.

The Picasso Museum was good, but I will not be going back. Kingston Jamaica is less lawless.

Contributed by Ken Clark

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97. Thanks for the article on Barcelona. It is good to let others know what one may encounter in their travels. I was told to be aware and one day while walking down the street i saw a group of people standing on a street corner. As i aproached to pass I heard them yell in my direction and felt someone grab my shoulder. I turned on my heels with my fist clenched ready to knock someone down when in the same step out of the corner of my eyes i saw a movie camera and actors and suddenly realized they were just trying to prevent me from spoiling their movie.

Thanks again and continue good works.

Contributed by a leig

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98. Great page on tourist scams… although there are so many reader contributions I found it overwelming. I was reading it to make a mental list of as many different scams as possible, and had to stop because I didn’t have time to sift through all the ‘yeah, i saw that too’ stories. They were interesting, but maybe you want to collect them off the main page. One page for ‘pea-cup’ stories, one for ‘flat tire’ stories, and so on. Just a suggestion to make your great site even more helpful.

[I agree. I wish I had the time... Terry.]

And if I may contribute my own experience:

My wife and I honeymooned at a resort in a relatively low-crime area in the caribbean. Shopping at a local market, a man recognized us and said, “hey, it’s my friends from [name of our resort]. I’m Alfred, I was your bartender last night.” I didn’t remember him, but it was dark and I was drinking, so… yeah sure. He reminded us of the resort’s no-tipping policy, but said if we wanted to do something nice we could buy some jewelry that his neice made.

It was really cheap stuff, but we game him $10 or so just out of courtesy, and slight paranoia about being blacklisted by a guy who makes our drinks.

Needless to say, we never saw him again. A few days later we realized (ie. embaressingly addmitted to ourselves) that he must have known our resort from the bus we took.

Contributed by Greg Girty

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99. Beware of your surroundings and protect yourself and your belongings especially while on a public phone. I’ve witnessed and I’ve had it happen to me one time while calling home on a phone on La Rambla. A group of teenage boys huddle around you and come up to you all playful and festive as if they’re celebrating something but all the while one of them is feeling up your pockets to try and get something from you. Luckily I had nothing on me of any value but I’m sure there were others who may have had something snatched from them. With all the people walking down and partying during the night it’s hard to notice a site like that as being unusual. But it’s what it happening within that huddle that is not right. People just see a group of guys jumping and celebrating and they are shielding you from being seen. Can be a dangerous situation since they try to out number you. They don’t hang around you long though. They try to get something and move on as not to be too suspicious. Keep your back to the phone and watch what comes your way.

Contributed by Neri Garcia

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100. I lost a rucksack as I was travelling by lefthand door of train from the airport to Sants . (Main station in Barcelona). I has a suitcase and coats with me as well.

Seemed to be surrounded on train by fellow travellers apart from one man in his 40’s sitting opposite with a beard and hat. He seemed to be helping a visitor with directions rather than waiting for a victim.

There are two stops before Sants. The train stopped at Bellvitge. This has an island platform. The man tried to open the wrong door by me — so I tried to send him using a hand tap, to correct door, which he went to. He also had some small denomination coins which he looked as if he might drop. Found my rucksack down by me feet had gone as we were pulling into Sants. Other travellers said a man had come down gangway and picked up my bag at Bellvitge and left. There was another train leaving Bellvitige on the other side of the island platform, so they may have used that.

Fortunately service at the Sants Station Police Office was efficient once you find it and I had a stamped and completed loss form within 30 minutes of the theft. For the record, the Police Office is on left side of station near a metro entrance and escalators down to platform one from the Roadlies/Regional transfer area.

On my return journey through Sants Station I found there was a man “helping people” with the ticket machines. Not far away was the man who could do the grab and run whilst you were distracted. Security moved him away from the machines, but not out of the station once or twice.

Contributed by Malcolm Peddar

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101. Just been on your site, I didn’t have time to read all the accounts so sorry if someone has already mentioned this. I lived in Barcelona for a year in 1998. A group of us were sitting at a table outside a bar in Plaza Real and a guy came up to us asking us if we wanted to buy a map, in order to show us the map he opened it out and spread it on the table in front of us. We told him no several times, eventually he gave up and gathered up the map and left. About half an hour later one of my friends realized that her purse and camera were no longer on the table. She was the only one of us that had it out on the table. It soon dawned on us that the guy with the map had gathered up her purse and camera when he took the map away. The moral of the story is never sit with your valuables out on the table, always put things away in your bag and keep an eye on your bag too!

Contributed by Sarah

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102. If we had read your site in advance… we wouldn’t have entered a car on the Madrid Metro with people pushing toward the door but not making any move to get out. When my husband and I simultaneously found two girls with their hands under our shirts (who then pretended to be deaf), we wouldn’t have bothered to appeal to the people around them for help. We couldn’t understand why the guy sitting in the seat by the door acted as if we were some sort of crooks ourselves. Nobody made any response to our shouting in German and English that there were pickpockets on the car. We think that at least six people were part of the pickpocketing crew, and we felt lucky to get out with no losses, especially since the zippered fastenings of our “secret” under-shirt pouches had been opened, and my fanny-pack (worn in front – under my jacket) was also unzipped. Afterward, I kept my outdated AAA Card in a conspicuous location as a decoy, while hiding the actual credit cards in the deepest pockets, and my husband used his pouch only as a decoy, while keeping his valuables in a hidden pocket behind the regular pockets of his shirts. All we lost was the value of our unused multi-ride Metro tickets, because we just didn’t feel comfortable on public transit after that experience, and our daughter flatly refused to try the Madrid Metro again under any circumstances (even though she was the one who could speak Spanish).

We ended up being very untrusting, so we waved away the women handing out sprigs of rosemary, told the postcard-sellers and CD vendors in the restaurants to go away, refused the services of the shoeshine guy at a sidewalk cafe, and even scowled at a sweet little old lady in Seville who came up and said to our daughter, “do I hear someone speaking English?” (She darted away when I glared at her, and I felt guilty about being such a monster.) If we had realized that these were come-ons for well-known schemes, we would have spared ourselves some bad feelings about not being “nice.”

In fairness to Barcelona, though, we were approached by a guy in the train station there who was quite pleasant, gave us brochures for a Hostal (small hotel without restaurant) in a nice area close to lots of things we wanted to see, and didn’t seem to be involved in any scams at all — Mario, working for Hostal Eden, which was a nice place in a good location and really did have free internet. (Yes, we did erase our “history” and make sure not to use any financial services sites.) The only scams we were approached for in Barcelona were the ones with the rosemary sprigs, and those also showed up everywhere else we went. The Barcelona Metro and the bus seemed friendlier than those in Madrid. Maybe the local authorities actually did something in response to all the complaints (and pushed the local talent to Madrid and Seville, where we certainly did see signs of them).

Contributed by Mary Arneson

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103. I’m a tour guide working in Barcelona and have just read your page on the “crime scene” in Barcelona and many of my customers had experiences such as the ones you tell about. And I have presenced and prevented many incidents myself. Still, I appreciated your last paragraph about the feeling of safety one does experience here -besides petty thefts.

The “origins” of this petty crime wave (which is largely over by now) were a law thing: small theft -as long as no violence was involved- was legally a minor offense which carried a fine penalty. (I sometimes wondered then if those thieves paid less in fines than a regular professional in taxes and social charges, during one year of professional activity!!!) This situation attracted a lot of “specialists” and experts from many places.

Now the law has changed, and reincidents are considered as more serious offenders and actually face jail terms and quick trials have been implemented.

Still, petty theft does exist, but not in the degree and intensity you could see by the end of the 90s. The situation has improved a lot. But the reputation will last for a long time.

[I agree with this comment... Terry.]

Contributed by Patrick Ducher

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104. [Another comment from Ken Clark... Terry.]

Several of your comments about American cities sound like a wee bit of European condescension toward the “cowboy American” stereotype. I now live near Los Angeles and there are several stats you might find of interest. LA has a high murder rate, but on closer analysis you find that the City of Santa Monica (which is basically a very close-in suburb of LA, you could walk to the LA airport in about an hour) has a violent crime rate very similar to most European cities. South-Central LA has a murder rate closer to Bogata Columbia-because of wars between street gangs-There was a period last year when there were 14 killings in 2 weeks! In LA county, more than half of the outstanding warrants for MURDER are for illegal immigrants from the South. We have literally millions of people who have come here, mostly hard working low wage decent folks, but the wide open border invites the drug criminals to set up shop in the poorer parts of town. So in many places, crime is highly localized–people aren’t really too frightened to go outside unless they are in the “war zone”. As an ex-Canadian, I have lived in the USA for 5 years now and I can honestly say I have NEVER witnessed anyone pull out a handgun. We subscribe to the symphony and the opera so we frquently spend the evening in the downtown cultural core in LA as we did in New York when we lived in NJ. The opera house in Barcelona is on the Rambla, and one of my pickpocket experiences was across the street!

Contributed by Ken Clark

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105. Like many others I found your web site really interesting, and going to Barcelona with my boyfriend in a few weeks I would think very useful too.

I have also had a few encounters like those on your web page. Down in Seville I was surrounded by gypsy women wanting to give me sprigs of heather. When I said I didn’t want it they kept saying it was free. They kept pestering me and in the end I took a sprig just to see if they would actually charge me. She didn’t – but she did insist on then reading my palm which would cost me. I told her that I didn’t believe in palm reading, smiled sweetly and sat down to place an order at a little cafe. She started shouting at me though and demanding I return her heather. I did of course give it too her, just before the waiter threw her out. Luckily I never got my wallet out or it may have been gone…

Another time I was in Madrid by myself and I was getting the metro from the airport into the city. 3 men got into the metro, but they looked really suspicious because they had got on with no luggage etc, and as they got on the 3rd guy said nothing more to them and just walked to the far end of the carriage where he stood on his own. I watched their hands intently and saw them, quite obviously, reaching for the wallet of some unsuspecting business man. I shouted at the thief to scare him off and to alert the man, who looked really surprised by it all. The two men, however came marching up to me and stood ever more close to me to the point I was squashed up against the wall, and they just stared angrily at me. I’m disappointed to say no-one offered me a hand, not even the guy whose wallet I saved (shouldn’t have bothered maybe!!) – you’d think they’d come to the rescue of a 21 female!. I was in a corner with no where to go, so decided to just stand up straight and stare back angrily.

The problem is that the same sort of thing happens in all the large cities around the world. I think it would make their lives a lot easier if people stopped making themselves such easy targets! The point about learning a bit of Spanish defo helps – I speak it fluently and as soon as you talk back to them they soon leave to find someone more vulnerable. On the subject of not carrying around too much money – may I suggest that if, like me, you want to carry a reasonable amount around (meals, drinks and the odd bikini soon mount up!) wear a money belt under your clothes with the majority in and then just put a little in your wallet. That way if you do get scammed you won’t lose as much and you have the money you need tucked away safely (just go to the loo or something to get more out…as they know where it is you might as well just hand it to them!). Wish us luck in BCN!! Will be looking out for the American woman…

Contributed by Jac Burgess

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106. First off, I really think this is one of the most useful sites on the net when planning a trip to Barcelona. Thanks for that. I’ve been to Barcelona a few times now and over the years I’ve never been robbed, mugged or scammed (at least not that I know of and considering I never lost anything I might be just right about that). Anyhow, reading all the intruiging stories I scanned through my memories to see if I had ever been in such a situation. And guess what, I think I have been!

I’m not really sure if this really was some sort of scam because the person involved was very convincing and he didn’t look like the thiefs described by you. But hey, maybe foreigners pick on foreigners too!!

Anyway, me and my girlfriend were on the last day of our stay and were headed towards the airport. At Cataluña station we had to make the change from metro to train, but since we had never done that before, we were searching for a way to get to the center platform (where the trains stop and go). A man probably saw us wandering around and approached us. I saw him coming so there was no surprise. He wasn’t very tall, had some sort of backpack and spoke the English language with a bit of an irish accent (I think). He looked a lot like that guy from the Blackadder, Baldrick, but a bit more modern. He offered to help us out and showed us where to buy the train tickets and how to get to the center platform. I thanked him and was about to be on my way but then he asked us for a favour.

He told us he was on the train too and that they stole his bag by cutting the straps with a knive while he was sleeping. All his stuff, including his flightticket, was in that bag so he asked us for some money for his flight home. Since I didn’t have any change (just bougth me some tickets remember!) I had to disappoint him. He didn’t follow us or anything and he was very polite, even when we didn’t give him anything, but he immediately turned his attention to the station hall. Afterwards I found it a very strange story because he was carrying a backpack. Why didn’t they steal that too? He was asleep after all.

Well, that’s my story. Like I said, it could be a scam, but than again it could be just an irishmen trying to get home. Just thought I’d let you know in case someone else has had the same experience (I didn’t read all the stories so I don’t know if something like this one has been submitted).

[Yep, sounds like a scam to me... Terry.]

Contributed by Freek Hol

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107. [Note: The following actually took place in Naples... Terry.]

Wow, it’s surprising that there is a page on scams in “Barcelona”! I guess it’s because it’s a big city or something.

Also I’m surprized I didn’t find a camera/videocamera scam, as I thought it was pretty popular.

Ok, here it is: As we walked down a street some guy on a scooter drove up to us and said something in either Spanish or broken English. He had a video-camera in his hands and was handing it to us. My friend thought he wanted us to take a picture of him, so he tried doing that. The guy repeated what turned out to be “I want to sell it to you” with a heavy accent, yet I understood it this time, but friend still didn’t. Finally I told my friend that the guy wants to sell the camera to us. Also, the guy was on a SCOOTER (immediately a red red flag for me), but my friend again (after being scammed already before in Ukraine — another story) was still in his adventurous spirit I guess. Later he told me he was being cautious, yet never expected what happened. The guy had a bag, in the bad he showed us the video-camera he had, there was also a small Sony camera, the one that fits on a palm of your hand. He also showed us wires for the camera and documentation he had in the bad. The guy wanted 300e (Euros). We barganed that we’ll give only 100e. The guy said 300e again, we said no and kept walking. Friend constructed an idea that the guy stole the cameras from somebody else and was trying to get rid of them. (later we thought about this more and we don’t think he stole the cameras, as where would you steal a camera WITH wires AND documentation still in plastic bags ?).

Anyway, after this there was a process of barganing, that went like this.. bargain bargain, we disagree on the price and then me and my friend keep walking. The guy kept calling us back, saying he’d sell it for 200e, then 150e. Friend offered 120e for the whole bad with the cameras in them. Again, no and we keep walking. Finally the guy agreed, and before he handed us the bag, he showed us the small Sony camera IN the bag. He zipped the bag up (the camera bag) and then put a blue plastic grocery-like bag over the camera bad (???), and tied the blue bag VERY VERRRY tightly(???), I could see him strain while doing that.

My friend handed him 120e and we took off, and the guy took off. During all the times we were walking away from the guy we were talking back and force. I was saying it’s a scam, you don’t need that camera, we already HAVE one. Why do you need it? My friend kept promoting the idea that it was a stolen camera and the guy is just trying to get rid of it.

Anyway by the time we were done with the deal and the guy took off we had a pretty good idea that we may have been scammed again. We were laughing about it. However, my friend sais that he SAW the small Sony camera in the bag before it was zipped up, and if that’s all he was getting he’d be satisfied. Okay, we decided to check. We couldn’t open the blue bag, as it was tied SOO tightly. Finally, I just ripped it open, then unzipped the camera bag. Guess what ? Inside there was a bag of sand, and a big wad of folded up newspaper. Nothing else what so ever. Taken again. I wasn’t really surprized, I guess I already accepted the possibility that we’d be and were taken, and seeing it was just a confirmation of that fact.

My friend, however was somewhat surprised. He said he expected to see the small Sony camera in there, but it wasn’t.

Apparently the guy switched the whole bag on us during one of those times when we kept walking away from him while bargaining. And then he showed us the small camera (Sony U20 kind — fits in your palm), he put the camera in the bag, and then apparently palmed it and pulled it out. Otherwise, how would it NOT be in the bag ? So that’s it.

Contributed by Krissy

108. My wife and I can’t thank you enough for your website. Because of your website my wife and I were able to foil a robbery attempt made on us. We returned yesterday from Barcelona.

We were on the escaltor going up at the Para.lel. Before us on the escalator was a man and behind us was another. Yep, you guessed it. At the top of the escalator the first man “dropped” his cigarettes. My wife and I reacted immediately. I jumped to his side before he could bend all the way over and my wife gave him a good push from behind. He almost fell over. Then she jumped to the side. They could see that we were prepared to deal with them. (Believe me, nobody wants to deal with my wife when she is mad and she was furious). His accomplice knew that the game was over and they disappeared.

Really though, the worst scams are the legal ones.

We went to a place called Mickeys on the Ramblas. We looked at the menus and ordered. It looked a little pricey but we figured that if you want to sit at a terrace on the Ramblas then you can expect to pay for it. The waiter then asked what we wanted to drink. We ordered Sprite and he asked, “Large or small?” “Large”, we said. The Sprites appeared in at least liter sized glasses filled with ice cubes. There was some Sprite(?) in the glasses too. We paid ?11.25 apiece for the sodas. We didn’t like it but who can you complain too at 9PM on a friday night? The lesson we learned (again) is ask the price before you order anything!

Contributed by Claverie

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109. another one bites the dust…yes my husband. we have just come back from Barcalona after spending a few days there. we were on the metro in catalunya when a youth came up and tapped my husband on the shoulder asking for directions?????, swiftly he turned to look but even more swiftly did a youth snatch the large holdall which was at my husbands feet. my husband gave chase caught the lad asking for directions…”wheres my effin back”says my husband…”no bag no bag.. no speak english” the lad says, who was then joined by another one. the lads legged it through a doorway which they obviously knew welland split up. they were wise to the back exits. we spoke to security who were about as much use as a chocolate kettle, and didnt really want to know..be aware…with ur cases they know that you are on your way home..

Contributed by Doreen Cope on 5 May 2005.

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110. I’m not sure if you’re still posting new street scams, but here’s two I’ve been witness to in New York City, where I grew up. No theft was involved in either, just deceit to get a pitying person’s money.

I was travelling on the 7 train with one of my friends when, a small man dressed in dirty brown clothes entered the train car. He told everyone on the car that he was down on his luck and was staying at a local YMCA and just needed a little help paying for the room, just for the night. He even held up his room key to show us that he was legitimate–yeah right! I was of course skeptical, but my friend gave him a few dollars despite my warnings that it could be a scam with someone else stealing my friend’s wallet. Thankfully no one did take his wallet, but a few months later I saw the same man on the same train with the same story–he needed a few dollars to stay at the YMCA for JUST ONE NIGHT.

The second case was a black man I frequently see in Grand Central Station. He has no legs, and moves about on his hands while somehow also carrying a cup for donations. Well, when he’s not in Grand Central or making his way down the length of the 6 train, he’s in the front car in a wheel chair with his girlfriend wearing more gold chains than Mr. T. I’ve never otherwise noticed the woman, so I think the scam is only voluntary donations and no theft. It’s a shame that this man, who is both smart and physically capable of integrating into society, instead chooses to take advantage of others and give people with disabilities a bad reputation.

Ooh, and I just remembered another one! This one was in Paris, France, in Motmartre, at the bottom of the trolley up to Sacre Coeur. I was there with another woman and two men, and we came down the stairs on foot just after dusk.

At the bottom, a few black men approached myself and my girlfriend, saying they were selling some sort of holy fake-flowers to pin on your shirt. We waved them away and they quickly retreated, but then I noticed that my guy-friends were no longer beside us.

I spun around and my friends were surrounded by some 4-8 very tall black men. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but they looked somewhat menacing and my friends were holding up their hands in front of them in non-threatening gestures, as though trying to placate the strange men. I’m not that big a woman, but when my friends are threatened I get really angry. I plowed right through the strangers and grabbed my friends’ arms and dragged them out. I might’ve yelled something at the scammers, I don’t remember, but they backed off immediately.

Thinking back on the incident, I’m not sure whether the strangers were going to steal my friends’ money, or simply indimidate them into giving more money. But I find it amusing that these big men were threatening my passive male friends, and it took an angry girl to scare them off! I think all it takes is an attitude that you won’t let them bilk you, and the con artists will back off.

Contributed by Andria Schwortz on 10 May 2005.

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111. I have just returned from a most enjoyable 3 days in Barcelona marred only by a mucked up hotel booking by The Times/Lastminute.com. I should have stayed at Miro’s birthplace the Rialto Hotel but had to move to a noisier but nominally better hotel at the other side of the square in the old city.

But back to my tale, I was on the metro from Diagonale towards Espangna? for the Mies van de Rohe pavilion and the Miro gallery. I was dressed (as a tourist by virtue of the shorts?) in brown loafers (no socks) chino shorts and a smart self coloured polo shirt no bags, back pack or camera and standing holding the vertical grab post a girl in jeans, hazel eyes and shoulder length hair came up and stood between me and my wife and held the grab post with her hand above mine. The first thing i noticed was a slight contact of hands so I moved mine down a little. This was repeated until I decided to leave my hand when she increased the downward pressure at which point I glanced at her and began to wonder what was up.

At that point the train came to a station and my wife who is of a different race and perhaps therefore not obviously with me, indicated that seats behind me had become vacant and so we sat down. The girl, who my wife later indicated was “smelly” looked round and moved quickly down the car and out of site. I looked for her when I got out 2 stops later but did not see her. I did not see an accomplice.

I assume that this was an attempted pick pocketing though it might have been a sexual scam since I am middle aged, but fit!

Incidentally I never keep my wallet in my hip pocket and do check for it frequently.

Contributed by Peter Dunlop on 21 June 2005.

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112. This is actually a very funny story. I went to Barcelona in the fall of 2001 with my brother and parents. At the moment the whole world had two minutes of silence for the casualties of the 9/11 disaster, we were taking a small intercontinental flight from Holland to Barcelona. You can imagine the tension onboard, especially since the cockpit door wasn’t closed and the toilet was behind the cockpit. Everyone who went to the toilet became the subject of extreme scrutiny. Anyway, Barcelona. It’s a beautiful city! We were walking over the Ramblas and I was amazed at all the people who were gathered around some people doing a nice trick. My little brother is a young policeman and I asked him about pickpockets and scams. We walked along and he told me about all kinds of schemes. Then we saw your nr.4, the pea-scam, which we knew was a scam. We watched for a while and the guy was moving his hands very slowly. We started guessing and we were correct all the time. When my brother pointed at the cup to tell me which one he thought the pea was under, they all responded and asked us to bet. We were certain about the pea, so we paid. Instead of lifting the cup with the pea, the dealer lifted another cup and removed it! We protested but they all spoke Spanish quickly. Now there were only two cups and now he was moving his hands at triple speed. We guessed incorrectly of course. We had lost 50 dollars in 30 seconds. Then suddenly the whole scheme dissapeared like you said. Very organised and quick. Afterwards I laughed at the irony of the situation.. I asked my brother about cons and he got conned within 10 minutes.

On our way back to our appartment, we we’re taking the subway. Somewhere in a small part of the underground a group of five or six men run towards us, laughing, as if they were running away from some kind of childhood prank. While they ran past us, they came real close to us and although I didn’t feel anyone actually touching me, I’m quite positive they were trying to distract and grab anything worthy. Too bad for them we all wear belts with our wallets.

Contributed by René Dijkhof

113. There is one distraction method used by pickpockets that I haven’t seen here. I was walking on Las Ramblas late at night to see what it was like, despite the advice in the guide books. I was confident that my years of living in New York would be enough to keep me out of trouble. When I was out of the worst of the neighborhood, a young, attractive woman came up to me and asked me in heavily accented English if I was British. I replied in Spanish that, no, I was an American. Despite signalling that I understood Spanish, she kept talking to me in a garbled mix of English and Spanish. Also, common to many of the other stories on this site, what she was saying didn’t really make sense. Perhaps keeping victims confused with a meandering line of patter is a effective technique for these pickpockets and con artists.

She did, however, finally tell me clearly enough that she was a hooker. I said that I wasn’t interested, and moved to pass her. Without warning, she cupped my crotch, and gave it a brief, gentle massage while repeating her offer! Interesting technique: for that moment, I simply could not think! I stammered that I was truly uninterested, and moved on towards the hotel.

A few steps away, a friendly male came up to me to tell me that the woman had been reaching around to the back of my jeans while I was completely distracted with the goings-on in the front. I couldn’t say if he was right or wrong: she could have done anything in that couple of seconds without my noticing it.

After a short conversation, he offered to go get a drink with me. I’ve never known if he was a confederate who was looking for me to quickly check where my wallet really was, or if he really was an ordinary Barcelonan. My guess at the time was that he was crooked, too, and so I returned to the hotel, where I had left my wallet on my bed as a matter of safety.

It’s a shame about all the crime there. It’s a lovely city; I’d love to go back.

Contributed by Travis Winfrey

redstars

114. Here’s a scam that I haven’t found listed. My wife and I had been touring Spain in a rental car from Bilboa to San Sebastion to Aigua Blava and finally made it into Barcelona. We were driving to the old part of Barcelona in horrific traffic. While waiting for the traffic to move, someone on the sidewalk tapped on the window and pointed to what I thought was where the gas cap was located. I had just filled up the car earlier and thought that maybe I had forgotten to put the gas cap back on, so luckily I ignored him. Well, when the traffic started to move, I realized that the back right rear tire was flat, but I couldn’t stop moving because of the traffic, so I rode on the rim until I found a parking garage.

I pulled in and saw that the back tire had been punctured with a knife and realized that the person tapping on the window was just waiting for me to get out of the car so that he or one of his accomplices could try to pilfer whatever we had in the car. To make a long story short, one of the attendants in the parking garage had lived in California for a year and spoke very good english. She got another attendant to change the tire and called a cab that we followed to a garage where the flat tire was replaced.

We immediately left that town. The only bad experience we had the whole two weeks we were in Spain – el paiz tiene mi corazon.

Contributed by Thomas Cole

redstars

115. I just wanted to say what a great page you have. I stumbled onto your street scams of Barcelona page while looking for safety information while travelling. I’m about to leave for a backpacking trip in the UK, and while I’m not going to Barcelona, I certainly am going to be much better prepared and more observant now! I was really surprised, too, at how many of the scams on the page I have seen in US cities. Scamming, it seems, really is universal. I live in Boston, and probably the most common one is the scam where some woman tries to give you flowers or something, while trying to rob you (in fact, I’ve seen that one at least a dozen times in different parts of the city). There’s also a theft situation I’ve seen that happens here in Boston that’s very similar to some of the other stories on your page, where someone (usually a male in really raggedy clothing and unshaven), will stand in the entrance of a store or food place and open the door for people. He’ll then try and get them to tip him, and harrass them on the way out, often blocking their way and/or feeling their pockets. Best thing to do in any city, I think, when presented with a situation like this is just be rude and push past them, keeping a tight handle on all bags. Many of the scams can be avoided with common sense and some beforehand precautions. Anyway, thanks for making such a great page; I’m sure that my own trip will be a lot better because of what I learned from it. :)

Contributed by Zahra

redstars

116. I first arrived in Barcelona on a boat from Tenerife in 1970. A Spanish family and I stood looking over the railings at the crowd milling at the dockside below. “You’re in Barcelona now”, said my Spanish friend, “Watch your bags, they will come up behind you and slice through the strap with a razor”.

But I experienced no thefts at all during the following year. I taught English at the University, lived in the Ensanche and loved the city. Things were equally quiet during the following year when I returned for a long visit, staying in the Plaza del Pino. The annoyance in those days was the men who would try and ‘cop a feel’ as you walked past – especially if you strayed near any dodgy areas.

I and three family members returned for a short holiday in 2002. Having read further warnings of pickpockets with razor blades, we were careful. It was Easter and the Ramblas were relatively empty and nothing untoward happened at all

EXCEPT when we first arrived at the airport.

Now I am a very careful lady and always keep in close physical proximity to any of my personal possessions. My husband is less cautious and, to my amazement, has managed to travel all over the world and never had anything stolen. But at Barcelona airport, he collected the key to the hire car and when we had found the right car, he put down his luggage in order to open the boot.

Well, I would have put any luggage of mine down between my legs and the car but my husband just put it down and then walked forward to open the boot. I looked around and a young guy was coming very swiftly towards us with his eye fixed on my husband’s shoulder bag sitting on the ground just behind him. I managed to grab it seconds before the thief. The others barely saw him as he sped past and moved off down the rows of hire cars looking for more likely targets.

I’m contributing this incident because I didn’t spot a similar one amongst the many other ‘beware’ stories.

Contributed by Sandra

redstars

117. Hi Terry !!

Here goes – Is it a scam, isn’t it a scam?? My gut instinct tells me it was very much so, but the full extent of the sting involved – I just don’t know to this day ??

My boyfriend and I decided to hire bikes to travel quickly and easily around Barcelona. We only wore our travel purses around our necks, tucked away into our trousers and never carried any bags, just in case. It felt quite safe and on the odd occasion where we saw ‘dubious’ characters we just cycled away. We were warned never to take our eyes off the bikes even when they were locked, as it was quite easy for a thief armed with the right tools, to snip the lock and steal the bikes. Finally upon returning the bikes to the bike shop, which was close to the ‘Llacuna’ Metro Station, I lingered about in the shop looking at clothing whilst my patient boyfriend waited outside. Finally when I came out of the shop, a very attractive young dark haired ‘French girl’ was talking to him. She had stopped to blow her bicycle tyres up at the shops pump (By the way, my boyfriend had helped her with the pump and told her that her tyres didn’t need any air!). When I came out of the shop, she was bending over towards him displaying her full cleavage in her low cut t-shirt, right under his face, as she was tightening her wheel valves. She was surprised to see me, as she had assumed my boyfriend was alone. Immediately she introduced herself as a French student who was studying psychology in the university. (Strange she didn’t sound French to me!). She had already managed to ask my boyfriend where he was staying and told him there was a very nice apartment up the road if he wanted to stay in the city longer and the rates were very good.

As he explained their earlier conversation to me, my curiosity got the better of me and I said that I wished to see the apartments, as we needed to find another hotel. How strange from when our journey commenced, how the apartments changed from good and reasonable accommodation, to rooms run by an older couple but when we finally got there (Two/three blocks up from the bike shop, possibly on Almogàvers), it seemed that it was shared rooms in an apartment two floors up, in a very very old rundown building, with a very dubious Peter Sutcliffe look alike (Black curly hair, looked like a gypsy and extremely dirty looking), as the resident landlord. The rooms were something from the 1920’s and the bare mattresses could have belonged to a Youth Hostel from decades before! He could not speak English, but she told us that people were desperate for these rooms for rent and could we make our minds up soon. After a quick look about the apartment (which had no locks on any of the doors, dirty kitchen and grimy bathroom) I promised to phone her soon with our decision and we quickly left. Unfortunately I ripped the mobile number up that she had given me, with the ‘rates’ on (18 euros per person per night). Now to this day I am not sure if she was a prostitute plying for trade and using this accommodation for such a purpose OR did they plan for us to move in complete with luggage, to then change the front door lock and steal our possessions. All I know is that she changed her friendly manner to one of a sense of urgency as she saw our disinterest in her plan. We had never felt under threat with these people at any time, just the whole incident felt so bizarre. Has anybody else come across such an incident? I would LOVE to know!!

Contributed by Gill

redstars

118. I think I may have barely avoided problems based on Mrs. Hancock had to say about “Passport Control” guys. I was walking back from the Zoo to my hotel near Catalan Square, when a car pulled up and the man in the passenger seat asked if I spoke Spanish (which I don’t). When I said I did not, he flashed some kind of white card (which I was too far away to read) and claimed to be from Passport Control. (Note, this was the middle of the afternoon, and there were some other people on the street, but not close enough to where I was for them to see or hear anything in detail)

There were three men in the car. Two well dressed in front, and one comparatively shaggy looking individual in back. The guy first asked (in accented English!!) if I was from Hungary. Why he would expect a Hungarian in Spain to respond to English queries, I don’t know. I was extremely doubtful about these guys. Fortunately, there was a row of parked cars between the sidewalk and the street, and I never fully emerged from between them. The talker kept trying to draw me to the car, attempting to reassure me by repeating “Only Control” over and over. While he did get to touch my passport, fortunately it is one of the newest “tamper proof” variety, that has a direct-printed, rather than laminated, photo, otherwise I suspect I would have never seen it again. They asked a bunch of “obvious” questions, like did I have a gun, or illegal drugs, and how much money I had. (No, No, and Not much). I did not let my wallet out of my hands, though I did show him its relative emptiness from a “safe?” distance.

Once I got back to the hotel, I did a search, and found your site. Had I seen this before, I wouldn’t even have started talking to them, but in the hopes of saving someone else some potential problems, I wanted to add my story to your collection.

Please do not include my full name or e-mail on your site, as these people did see my passport, and presumably my name.

Contributed by [name withheld]

redstars

119. My friend and I have just returned from Barcelona after a girlie weekend away, and we just wanted to contribute our experience of how we nearly had our passports and bags stolen.

We were walking towards the bus station with our cases to pick up the coach to take us back to Gerona airport, when a white car pulled up beside us on a bridge near the bus station, my friend noticed straight away that they were not parked parallel but parked so that the front end was ready for a quick get away, the passenger of the car wound down the window and flashed a black sort of book and they said they were police looking for 2 Swedish girls who had robbed someone at gunpoint, we automatically said that no we were English, he then asked us to show our passports, at this we both became a bit suspious and asked him to show us the warrant card to prove who he was, at this he slid what ever he had flashed us originally under the drivers seat and got out of the car, as he went to my handbag, my friend slapped his hand away and said in Spanish go away, he then thought he would frighten us and said to get in the car he was going to take us to the police station, we said we would be happy to go to the police station but we would walk, at that he held up his hands and said no hard feelings and got in the car and drove off, if we had been a bit naïve we would have gladly gave him our passports, it was our sixth sense that saved us, we just knew that this was not quite right.

Contributed by Aly and Lynne

redstars

120. This is more for the “experimental” traveller – students and so forth – and is primarily applicable in poorer countries.

Sometimes, you will be approached on the street by a man, usually leaving a pack of friends to come talk to you, cheerfully offering to sell you some “fire,” “hemp,” whatever you want to call it. It’ll probably be just about the right price for the country – not too expensive, because they don’t want you to decline, but not too cheap, as they don’t want you getting suspicious.

You fork over the cash, he supplies you with some legitimate substances. It all seems well and good until a local policeman, having received a “tip” that you may have some suspicious items on your person, decides to stop you, search you, and will most likely find it the first place they look. Justifiably scared witless by the thought of time in the jails of a Third World country, you decide to accept his demand of a large bribe to avoid jail time.

Twenty minutes later, the crooked cop and the drug dealer are laughing together, reliving times from their days in primary school and deciding how best to split up the money they conned out of you.

There are variants on this, as well. Sometimes, all it takes it for you to be lured to a place where the natives are enjoying whatever narcotics they have on hand. The cops show up, everyone splits, and suddenly you’re left “holding the bag,” metaphorically this time.

This very nearly happened to me and a British friend in Africa. We were going to a club, and wanted to “get down” beforehand. I should add that this is a “tourist-y” part of the city – sushi, pizza, and other luxuries – but not very “clean”: it was infested with crime, though it was mostly confined to drug dealing and prostitution.

I should add that I was quite aware of the existence of this strategy, having initially suspected it of several people who approached me who I knew had relations with police, and after that I had read that such encounters are actually rather common in a travel guide.

Anyways, our usual “guy” was up north for the weekend, so we decided to try someone who our other friends had been patronizing for several weeks. We’d dealt with Don Juannie once before, where my friend decided to try to impress the dealer by recounting his own days of crime and showing off his silver necklace, gold ring, and $800 cellphone he’d made doing so.

Note that this is a country where everything you buy must be bartered for, so my friend’s actions were not quite as stupid as they seem – the dealer was, after all, trying to charge a rather high price for what we wanted to buy, and you say what you can to try to bring it down.

Anyhow, a week later, we met him on the street, drunk off about a dozen shots of tequila each, and accompanied him back to the usual empty back-lot where drug deals went down.

He disappeared for a second to meet his superiors, so we sat down and started to get ready to do what we were there to do. During this time, around six or seven young men with large sticks seemed to materialize out of thin air, shouting in broken English, “We know you smoking hemp! The police come and put you away!”

My friend, a rather large individual of Sudanese descent – people in this particular country, on the shorter side, tend to be afraid of tall people – stood up and towered over the men, saying, “Where’s the hemp? I don’t see the hemp!” In fact, he was right – no marijuana consumption was to occur that night.

The thugs, realizing they had little basis on which to extract a bribe, decided to just take what we had by force. Don Juannie, who had showed up by now, talked to my friend, saying, “Give me your phone, they are going to take your phone,” and reaching into my friend’s pocket as he refused. The cellphone spilled out, and my friend reached down, grabbed it, and sprinted to safety – the open-air bar where our tamer friends awaited us.

Meanwhile, I was surrounded by the gang, belligerently drunk, and felt a hand searching in all my pockets. The first thing they took off me, before my cellphone and money, was my recently acquired stiletto blade, so the rational part of my mind screamed at me to escape.

One tried to hold me back, so I grabbed his shirt and used my hold as leverage to slam my shoulder into the gangster barring my path to freedom. I ran down to the end of the street, shaking with anger as I reclined against a lamp post.

After what seemed like twenty minutes but was probably about fifteen seconds, a police car spun around the corner, with my friend and an older, Middle Eastern-looking man in the back.

Too angry to be bewildered, I sat in the back with them cursing out the dealer, oblivious to the probable stupidity of saying such things in the back of a police car. The police – a completely worthless organization in this country – feigned interest in our plight while driving around, asking us if we saw the thieves. We said no and they dropped us off.

It turned out my friend had run around the corner and to the bar only to see the police car sitting right there in the middle of the street. We had been to this area dozens of times in the month or so we’d been visiting the country and had never once seen a single police car.

My friend reached the bar amidst the police’s shouts of “Hey! Come here! Let us help you!” (Help us with what?) As he was fluent with Arabic, he spoke to the bar’s Lebanese owner expressing his suspicion towards the police, and the Lebanese man agreed to accompany him in the police car.

I can’t remember ever having been so angry in my life; I was far too intoxicated to recognize my luck in having escaped bodily injury. I nearly provoked several fights on the 10-minute walk to the club, some with the owners of some streetside shops angry that I was venting my rage on their stands. (My hand still doesn’t flex properly.)

The next day, I was emotionally dumbed; the anger of the previous night had proven so overwhelming that by the morning I was a zombie, unable to do much but replay the incident in my head.

We were incredibly lucky that night. I could have been beaten, stabbed, or worse: spending time in an African jail – probably the closest earthly equivalent to Hell.

The moral of this story? I’d like to say, “Don’t buy drugs in third-world countries,” but travellers have been doing that for years and years and probably won’t stop any time soon. If you want to learn something from my experience, keep this in mind: after you buy anything for which you could b e punished for having, keep it tucked tightly in the palm of your hand, ready to toss into a ditch at the first sign of the police.

Here’s the larger lesson: remember that you can’t ever trust a drug dealer, and you can only measure the faith you can place in them by the repercussions they know they’ll suffer for betraying you. So generally if someone’s “vouched for,” that’s better than not – but if they calculate that they have more to gain from betrayal than from their relationships with others, best to trust that’s exactly what they’re going to do.

Contributed by [name withheld]

redstars

121 . [I wasn't sure what to make of the following. Of course it does sound like a scam. Before deciding to include the name and email of the purported scammer, I searched for it with google and found a couple of hits (e.g., this one), so the name is already out there. Of course I have no idea if this person is actually a scammer, but it would be negligent not to include the name and email. If you're looking for an apartment and you get contacted by Carol Brett, you can make up your own mind (and feel free to let me know what happens).

Update, April 18 2006: The Carol Brett scam has now been reported again, this time for an apartment in Germany. See here.

Update, April 24 2006: Carol Brett has just popped up offering a place to rent in Amsterdam. I have no details yet.

Terry]

this may not be a new scam in bcn, but it is not listed on your site so i hope it might save a few unsuspecting decent people from being ripped off. Firstly,i live here and am not a naive tourist wanting to complain about bcn.

OK, this is how it works……………………………..

You are looking to rent an apartment,so you place a want ad on Loquo bcn {the biggest and most used site for property, jobs,etc in bcn} saying apartment wanted in bcn.

your inbox fills up with offers of accomodation at stupid rental prices as is normal here,you view a couple of filthy,tiny,places with prices massively inflated by agencies/administrators and begin to lose hope.All the time you see ads for beautiful apartments out of reach to a normal working couple who can only afford,say..1000e a month.

Then it happens,you recieve an e-mail from a lady wanting to let an apartment which belongs to her “father in law” It is very well written in english,and has pictures attached of a place which looks clean, spacious, secure etc.

She explains that her relative has just retired and is going to tour africa for a year,so you can rent the place for as long as you wish.the rent is much cheaper than everything you have seen so far,and they only want 500e deposit,instead of 2/3/4 months in advance{which is normal here} You get real excited,reply to the ad,to arrange a viewing,and are told,they have someone looking at the place later today,but you can come tomorrow if they dont take it.Obviously you are very dissapointed,they cut the conversation short because they are preparing to take “pops”,to the airport,but at the last minute they tell you that you sound like nicer people than the others and if you want,you can look at it first,and arrange to meet you at Bcn airport,where they are seeing off “pops” who would like to meet the people who are going to live in his house and get the deposit. then they will drive you to the apartment.

The “lady” that sends you the e-mail calls herself Carol Brett and her e-mail address is carolbret222@yahoo.com Fortunately i have seen enough nigerian scams not to have been caught by this.

I have lived and worked in seven large capital cities around the world,some with much worse reputations than here, and i would say without doubt that Bcn is the worst.

I am sure this will be deleted, but i have to say, my advice to travellers is DONT COME HERE!

the police turn a blind eye to visitors being robbed every day, unless you are rich enough to live in a rich, uptown area, it is always a risk to walk the streets, the city is filthy, and you can never let your wife walk anywhere alone. Contract of employment is the only reason for staying longer. There are some great things here, but they DO NOT outweigh the bad. Lets tell visitors the truth.

[I replied to the above asking what would happen next, supposing one did show up at the airport. Bob answered as below. Terry.]

Usually goes like this,

1. meet nice lady and “father in law” at Bcn airport, both well dressed/spoken,give pops 500e deposit,which he gladly accepts whilst imploring you to look after the apartment. You follow “Carol” to the car which is driven by her very large “brother” also very friendly,for the drive to the apartment. Then one of the following.

A. Told to get lost at first quiet corner

B. forced to hand over all cash/valuables and thrown out at first quiet corner

C. taken to remote cashpoint forced withdraw etc.

Contributed by Bob Katie

redstars

122. Our daughter is enrolled in the *Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine* and on a recent visit with her we decided to take her, via easyJet, on a long weekend visit to Barcelona. We are Canadians from Toronto and were warned about Liverpool being rife with crime and violence so were on our guard. We were in Liverpool for twenty three days, less the four days we spent in Barcelona. We were never victimised and, after the initial apprehension, settled in quite comfortably into the easygoing and friendly ambiance of Liverpool. We never once felt threatened and once, when a beggar approached us, a local lady chased her away and warned us about her and “the likes of her”.

Contrast the above to our four day visit to Barcelona which was costly in property loss, emotion and physical health. As a precautionary measure I carry my cash and credit cards separate from other documents and separate from each other. Our first experience was with the cab to our hotel; our documents and my blood pressure medication were in my hand luggage. We paid the cab driver outside our hotel and he emptied our bags onto the sidewalk, hand luggage first with the heavier bags on top of the small bags. It when he was driving away that our daughter noticed that my carry-on bag, with our travel documents and medication, was missing. Of course we hadn’t noted the cab drivers number. We had $370.00CAD taken from our room safe, my wife had her purse, with it’s contents, stolen at the Familia Sagrada and our daughters backpack had been sliced open with a razor and her money and travel documents stolen. On our last night we were sitting outside a restaurant enjoying a quiet drink when three youths approached, obviously slightly inebriated, as they passed our table one pushed another who fell against our table and knocking my wife and I to the ground. It was a scam. My wife’s gold *Maple Leaf* necklace and her *Geneve* solid gold watch was taken, and not to gently. My wife suffered a dislocated shoulder and abrasions to her face neck and wrist.

We will visit our daughter in *”violent”* Liverpool but never again will we visit Barcelona.

Contributed by Patrick Taylor

redstars

123. Some good reading; thanks for the website. :-) Actually I’ve never been to Barcelona, and I’m impressed with the apparent ingenuity of the (90’s-era) street thieves there; in my experience in Paris, Lyon, etc. they don’t bother with the scams, but are quite a bit more brazen and just march up to you with their hands out.

What we travelers need to learn, of course, is to say “no” (or “get away from me”, better yet), and mean it, *without using our hands*. I recall an incident from Rome in the late 80’s in which, although we were wise to the gangs of children with cardboard signs or yesterday’s newspaper under which their cohorts could operate concealed, a woman carrying a baby approached my father on a metro escalator with, as I say, her hand out. One doesn’t want to shove at a woman with a baby in her arms, of course, especially on a staircase, but he didn’t want her close enough to reach into his pocket, either, so he pushed her away gently but firmly with one arm. And, of course, weren’t we two steps out of the metro station when he put his hand in his pocket and said “My wallet is gone.” In the five seconds he’d spent pushing away the woman with the “baby” (which was probably a doll or just a cleverly-bundled blanket), a little girl had hurried up London-bridge style underneath his arm, and managed to get his wallet out of his pocket as she ran by. Spent that afternoon at the police station, where the cops told us they made routine checks of litter bins in many parts of the city — and sure enough, several months later, my father’s wallet, less the cash he’d been carrying at the time, arrived in the mail. The credit cards, driver’s license, etc., etc. had all been replaced by then, but seriously, everything but the cash was totally intact.

My father doesn’t carry his wallet in his pocket anymore — he gives it to my mother, who zips it in her bag — but the real take-home lesson is that when people get in what is now called your “personal space”, the thing to do is hunch your shoulders and body-check them away from you, rather than take your hands off your bag/out of your pocket/whatever. Pushing people away is just lifting your wing, man.

Contributed by

redstars

124. I noticed your site had info on Carol Brett and the apartment scam he/she is running (see scam 121). They had me going for a while, but luckily I called the bluff.

I have an internship in Germany this summer, and have been looking for a place to stay. In desperation, I posted a want add in Craig’s List. The next day a get a rather generic email from carolbrett222@yahoo.com. Looking back at it, it’s quite obvious this is created from some web crawler program that gleans info from the online site. The fun doesn’t start until you reply. Anyway, I reply and receive a great deal, place, etc. However, it seemed just a little too perfect, and the story didn’t feel right (who tours the western coast of africa for a full year?). I did a quick search for the street, and it didn’t exist.

I did reply, asking for contact info to send to Siemens to have them go through the approval process (made that up, but figured they’d run if it was a scam), and asked for the exact address and contact info so I could have some friends in the city check the place out. As you might have guessed, I haven’t received a reply since. I decided to do a quick search on the email address, and found your site. Luckily I wasn’t taken, but someone very easily could be. I’m sending this so you can post the text, and perhaps even the pictures so others don’t get caught.

Run from any email from carolbret222@yahoo.com or frank_castle001@yahoo.co.uk. This is a scam running in Madrid, Barcelon, Paris, and apparantly now Germany.

[The pictures Cris sent me of the apartment he was offered are below. Terry.]

brett-apartment6brett-apartment5brett-apartment4brett-apartment3brett-apartment2brett-apartment1

Contributed by Cris LaPierre

redstars

125. I was interested reading yours and the other people’s experiences. Unfortunately this was after our two experiences on our trip to Barcelona.

The first one was pure stupidity, I still can’t believe it but we fell for the ball under matchboxes scam. The accomplices were so enthusiastic and I couldn’t believe how easy it looked.

The second was much nastier. My wallet was in my front trouser pocket which was quite deep and also pretty tight and I thought there was no way anyone could get at it without me knowing. This was successful for the whole visit until we started our journey home. We arrived at the Placa Espanya metro station platform with two suitcases and sat them on the ground in front of us. I did my customary wallet check by patting my pocket and it was still there at this time. All I know for sure is that it wasn’t there three minutes later when we got onto the train but I’ve got a few suspects:

The blind man who made his way to us and was tapping his white stick round our suitcases.

The young guy with the mullet hairstyle who my wife thought was staring at us more than once on the platform.

The crowd of people who were trying to get in our train door seemed to be much bigger than at any other door. A real pain if you’ve got two big suitcases to lift onto the train.

The guy who was standing on his own right beside me when I noticed the wallet was missing but then later sat down and started talking to another guy who had a big bag with him.

I suppose there is the possibility that it spontaneously jumped out of my pocket by itself but I doubt it.

I’d love to know who it was and when and how they did it. It makes you wonder how many people are at it in Barcelona if this could happen randomly in just one of the many metro stations miles from the centre of town.

So I lost about 200 Euros cash and three credit cards. I managed to get these stopped within an hour but have still to find out if any of them were used. I’ve always felt a bit uneasy that hardly anyone in France and Spain requires Pin entry and they always give you the card back before you sign the slip so there is no way they can check the signature.

Anyway, we loved all our other experiences of Barcelona and won’t let it spoil our memory of the holiday.

Contributed by Kenny Williamson

redstars

126. I was aware of the crime situation before I went to Barcelona this week…..but it still happened.

I was sitting at the tourist bus stop with my wife, at Port Olympic, 3pm. no-one around. man comes up to bus stop, speaks to us in Spanish, something about the hospital. We both ignored him, muttered ‘only speak english’ and that was it. 30 seconds later, a bus stops. the man asks the driver something, driver gestures to bus stop further along the road. The bus doors closed, then opened gain. a lady and the driver shouted to us ‘your bag, your bag’. during a few seconds looking at the guy speak to the bus driver, someone (who we never, ever, saw) put their arm under the back of the bus shelter and took my wifes bag. camera, phone, purse etc gone.

I got up to chase them, but couldn’t eevn see who to chase. probably just as well. I shouted at the guy at the bus stop ‘ you’re involved’, he turned and disappeared. I couldn’t comfront or go after him, and leave my shocked wife alone. we had to let it go.

I was amazed it had happened. We limited the cash we’d been carrying, kept the bag with us on the bus etc. One lapse and that was it. When we went to the police, they said come back later, 9 people here already! If they used decoys, they could do something about this. I had the impression they weren’t interested, and as long as they issued a police report, it was a case of go see your insurance company. We went back in the evening, and saw 7 other couples in the time we were there. All tourists, and bags snatched.

Worse still, having got our police report, walikng home up La Ramblas, a prostitute ‘flashed’ a breast at me. I was with my wife(!) and completely ignored her, but another ran up behind me, grabbing at my groin. It was all made out to be light hearted fun, but I know that as she distracted me by trying to rub my groin, her other hand was on my back pocket. Fortunately, I had learned, and my money was in my top shirt pocket. Almost twice in a day!

I’d say, beautiful city, but until the police show an interest, take your tourist money elsewhere.

Contributed by Andy Keates

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127. Recently visited Barcelona to visit with our daughter who is attending University

Had a great visit and loved the city

One morning at 10 am my wife and I were walking 4 blocks east of Passeo de Gracia on Calle Valencia (a toney neighbourhood) when we were splattered with a brownish liquid from behind or above.A well dressed middle aged man emerged from an apartment building and offered to help us clean our clothes in his apartment-I declined his kind offer which was thoughtfully offered several times-I was a bit suspicious informing him that our hotel was close by and angrily shuffled off

Within two minutes as I was returning to the hotel three well turned out individuals asked for directions in French producing a map suggesting they were lost-I obliged and they were off

Having read some of the stories you have posted I am convinced that we were targets and happily escaped being victimised Having read in the guide books to be wary of pickpockets in Barcelona I purchased and wore a concealed cloth wallet worn under my pants with one credit card and a some cash

Contributed by John Doran

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128. I just left Barcelona yesterday and feel inclined to give you my story. Like most, we knew to be careful and kept our money and credit cards in a chest pouch. Our hotel near the airport, Tryp Hotel, was very nice. We arrived early and requested an early check-in. We were assured that in no way could this happen – NOON was the earliest. So, we proceeded to one of their comfortable couches. We rolled our large suitcases right up to the coffee table in front of us. Since the hotel was wi-fi I pulled out my laptop and started writing home. My purse was stacked on the laptop bag on the coffee table RIGHT in front of me. People came and went and all was well. All of the sudden I felt a tap on my right shoulder and the gentlemen is speaking a foreign language to me. He is pointing to a random pile of candy which appears to have “dropped” from my belongings. The light bulb went off as his accomplice leaned over me and grabbed my purse. Luckily, he did not run and I alerted my husband immediately. He jumped up and gave chase and got my bag back. The accomplice was crouched over across the room so if we did indeed give chase we might chase the ‘wrong man’. I only had my costume jewelry in my purse so the airlines wouldn’t lose it. Still yet, I didn’t want to part with any of it. We had been so careful the whole trip and felt so stupid afterwards. I reported it to the hotel and they cared very little. No one helped my husband either while this was occurring. We were both yelling “Thief”. After I reported it to the front desk and asked again for an earlier check-in since I had now almost been robbed in their lobby, the answer was still “No”.

Contributed by Myra Reneau

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129. Firstly – good site!

Secondly here’s what happened to me yesterday: a subtle variant on the drug-dealer scam.

I was at a street corner two blocks from Plaza Catalunya – a tourist holding map says he is hungarian and asks for directions to the plaza. While i am explaining “you’re here and it’s over there” he’s still fumbling with his map; all of a sudden two other people turn up, declare themselves to be plain-clothes policemen (including showing badges) & demand to see both ID and money (because there’s a lot of drug dealing in the area). being trained to obey instructions from police, and on the plausibility of the argument I do so – & everything is fine after I present the currency exchange receipt. Meanwhile the one I’m not talking to has told the hungarian to take a hike. all’s fine, They tell me “Be careful, don’t talk to strangers, there are a lot of crooks in this town”. I go away, and it’s not until the evening that I think “I’m sure I had more money than that”, & subsequently remember I had two twenty-pound (sterling) notes among my euros when I was discussing with the “policemen” and now only have one. So the scam is that I retained enough notes (both euro and sterling) to maintain the deception.

On balance since I was on my own against three I’m not sure what else I could have done; it’s much less than the average swindle, although crooks posing as policemen is rather insidious. The moral of the story is (regrettably) don’t talk to anyone you didn’t talk to first.

Contributed by Tim Vellacott

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130. In May 2006 we were approached by a man (about 40) who claimed that his Easyjet flight home that evening had been changed to depart from Gerona (about 80km north of Barcelona). He also claimed that his wallet had been stolen and asked to ‘borrow’ 10 Euros for the bus fare.

We saw him again two days later, and so knew it was a scam.

He hangs around Placa Catalunya metro station. He has a Cheshire accent and claims to come from Chester (this may be genuine). He was wearing grey jog-pants and flannel jacket, and had a purple and grey rucksack. He had a pony-tail haircut. He also claims to work for Renault and would reimburse you with Renault car parts if you fall for his scam.

Contributed by Steve Glennie-Smith

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131. My husband and I just returned from a conference in Barcelona. I speak Spanish and we had no problems however, upon returning home, we found out that one of his co-workers was mugged while we were there. He was jumped from behind by three men and choked until he passed out. He came to later and sought help but his neck is broken and he was badly beaten. The rumor is a similar thing happened to someone else attending the conference who we did not know. I believe both of these people were walking alone late at night. Several people were pickpocketed but everyone was warned about that ahead of time and simply let their guard down at the wrong time. Barcelona had a very safe “feel” but these stories about the conference attendees are making me think twice.

Contributed by Caroline McDowell

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132. Hey, great site, here is the story of what happened to me and a friend in july of 05. This is crazy but 100% true. A wandering group of transvestites, five or six of them were waiting for patrons to exit this bar. When we left and as we later observed the head tranny would flash her boobs to a guy exiting the bar as the others would swarm in and rifle through his and his friends pockets.

This happened to my frined the first night we were in town. He lost twenty Euro but when he grabbed one of them by the hair and threatened her with death it was promptly returned. The next night we saw them again, pulling the same crap on others.

It’s kinda funny but, it’s not a very slick operation and borders on assault.

Just beware, because i promise even after reading this, when a “girl” flashes you her boobs in the street you will be distracted for a second, just remember this stroy and instantly secure your belongings.

Contributed by Mike Dombek

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133. This is an account of the incident which happened to us in May 2006. I hope that by publishing this and making it common knowledge it prevents the same thing happening to other tourists. If we had known this sort of thing went on then we would have behaved completely differently.

My husband and I travelled by car from the south of France to Barcelona. As we arrived in Barcelona we had a particularly unpleasant experience which I would not wish on others. Whilst driving into the centre, in a built up, smart, residential area we heard a terrible noise. When we pulled into the side of the road to investigate we found that we had a very flat tyre. A young man pulled up on the pavement beside us on a motor scooter. He motioned away up the street and talked of “mechanico”. When we said we didn’t understand he pulled away. Whilst my husband started to change the tyre I realised that someone had removed my handbag and my husband’s bag from the front and rear seats of the car. We were stood at the side of the car the whole time and did not hear two doors being opened and closed properly. To do this on our car is very difficult as the doors take some closing- but they obviously practice! When we reported this to the police they said that they had 4/5 reports each day at that police station alone – usually targeting British, French or hire cars because they are obviously holidaymakers. They follow visiting cars through the traffic and at traffic lights the chap on the scooter checks what is visible as well as presuming that most women keep their handbags on the floor at their feet when they are passengers in cars. When they decide on a target the man on the scooter has a metal spike fitted to his shoe. He then pulls close to the car whilst at traffic lights and punctures the tyre with the spike. He and the robbers’ car then follow the victims waiting for the flat tyre to be noticed. The police told us that this is replacing pickpocketing because so many people use money belts etc. The gangs usually comprise Spanish and Rumanian men. The police said they target the rear tyres opposite the driver’s door, varying it according to the country of origin. People usually pull in with the problem tyre next to the pavement to enable them to change it and this then leaves the passenger side unattended.

In our case it caused us very serious problems as they took our passports, cash and credit cards. It resulted in us having to return to the UK early.

We thought that we were quite “street-wise” and we were prepared with money belts etc, but of course because we hadn’t even got out of the car then we hadn’t put them on. Whilst we were in the British Consulate on Monday morning arranging for replacement passports there were other British visitors who had had the same experience.

Contributed by Lesley

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WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?

I don’t really like to include this section, but to not do so would be to provide less information than I am able. Try to keep in mind that not everyone who looks like the following is likely to rob you and that not everyone who’s likely to rob you will look like the following. You’ll be best off if you simply reduce the number of opportunities you present and are vigilant about those you do. In any case, my experience has been the following.

Typically, the people I have seen trying the sort of tricks above travel in pairs, or at most three. Of course it may not be immediately apparent that there is more than one of them (or any of them at all). The men are usually taller than average (around here that’s not hard). They are almost always very thin. Except for the gypsy women, they are always male. They usually have short black curly hair. I haven’t heard them speaking in Spanish.

Since I became aware of this sort of thing and started watching for it, I realized that it’s incredibly easy to spot and that it’s going on all the time. These guys are also very watchful. Unless you’re behind them or out of the way somewhere, they’re going to see you watching them. Then you’ll understand what a brazen stare really feels like.

CITY OF CRIME?

Here is my original reassuring conclusion

After reading the above, many people, especially people who live in the U.S., come away with a bad impression of Barcelona. I think they tend to map their ideas of violence and crime onto Barcelona. That’s a mistake. Barcelona is a wonderful and safe city. Granted, there is petty crime around, mainly of the bag-snatching variety. But people walk the streets at all hours, and I never hear of any form of physical violence. No-one owns (let alone carries) a gun. The people are really happy, natural, and friendly. I used to be very surprised to hear from people saying how scared they were to come to Barcelona after reading this page.

Don’t worry! This place is wonderful, I love it. Just use a little common sense to avoid having your bag snatched or pocket picked. Barcelona is nothing like any U.S. city that I have seen in terms of violence and safety – nothing like it. It’s a different world and to translate one’s experiences in (say) the U.S. into expectations for Barcelona is a big mistake. Some Americans that I know who come to Barcelona don’t really even know what it means to be relaxed and unconcerned about personal safety when out walking on the streets. Things are not that way here. But, as you’ve seen, if you present opportunities to people to take something out of your bag, they certainly will.

Here’s an excerpt from an article “Taking the City’s Temperature” by Robert Southon in the April 98 issue of Barcelona Metropolitan, which puts some numbers on crime here. Remember, Barcelona is a city of over 3 million people:

But is Barcelona really so quiet that a traffic ticket can be the most serious intervention for a night-beat cop? Not always. It varies from night to night, and there’s an increase in minor crime in summer connected to the influx of tourists and the party season. But the official answer is yes, Barcelona has a low crime rate compared to other European cities. In the city last year there were 14 murders, while 52 people died in traffic accidents. Every Guàrdia Urbana carries a revolver, but it’s very rarely that it gets used: the last time was three months ago, in a robbery.

SIX YEARS LATER

Now I’m not so sure. I still love Barcelona, but it would be criminal to suggest that there’s really nothing to worry about here. It remains true though that the type of crime you’ll find here in the old center of Barcelona is nothing like the kind of crime you might expect in (say) the U.S. In the U.S. I wouldn’t be too surprised if someone pulled a gun, but it rarely crosses my mind that someone might steal my bag from beside my chair in a restaurant. In Barcelona the exact opposite is true. No-one will pull a gun on you, ever. But if you leave your bag beside your chair and do not pay attention, someone will take it. And it can get much worse, as you’ve hopefully just read.

Please add your Barcelona scams here.