1 Feb 2020
I would like to describe my experience of how I unfortunately became a victim of a common scam in Istanbul.
I was a tourist and stayed in the Sultanahment area, Istanbul, Turkey for 5 days. I was approached by a Turkish man on a Monday evening, who spoke exceptional English and Turkish. He appeared to be quite knowledgeable with regards to tourist locations and the history revolving such places. He was dressed in fashionable clothes. He offered to be my guide for around 1-2 hours showing me the major landmarks. As I had no particular plans that evening, I let him accompany me.
We soon arrived at a local cafe and had two cups of chai (tea), which I offered to pay for. At this point I recall the man looking into the contents of my wallet, possibly to assess how much money I had. I didn’t think much about it at the time. The man then bought a cheap loaf of bread. As the evening drew on, he suggested that we go to a bar for a quick drink. I didn’t want to be disrespectful, so I said I would join him only for a short while (in hindsight this was a major mistake on my part, I should have been more vigilant).
We arrived at a bar located in Taksim square, the entrance to the building was quite narrow, and it had a title “tattoos and piercings”, we went to the top floor (3rd floor). There was a bar and girls and mature women parading without much clothes on. The man “offered to buy me a drink”, and I initially declined. When he kept on insisting about a drink, I said a fruit juice would be good. He ordered a beer for himself. We were soon accompanied by a couple of girls along with a bottle of champagne. During this time the man leaves you with the impression that the drinks are entirely on him!
The champagne bottles kept on arriving (I don’t drink alcohol), so the champagne was consumed by the girls and the guy that brought me to the bar. At this point it looked very suspect, and I asked where the toilet was, as I really wanted to escape. I was told the toilet was out of order, (the toilets were on the ground floor), and I was told that I couldn’t leave until the bill arrived (again more alarm bells ringing).
The bill was brought and the amount was for 4, 400 Turkish lira, around over £500. I disputed the bill, and said to the owner of the bar (who was about 6’ 2”, and well built), that the man brought me here and offered to buy me a drink. At this the owner pushed the man who fell onto a comfy sofa cushion (it was obvious this was nothing but drama, a well scripted pantomime being played out). The owner then looked towards me as if hinting to do the same to me. There were many other staff around who were blocking my exit to the building. In order to prevent any form of further altercation, and possibly also prevent sustaining bruises at least to myself, I very reluctantly had to hand over the contents of my wallet. This was 300 Turkish lira and cash of £60, so in total about £100 cash (i.e. British Pounds).
Whilst they were counting the cash and security checking the £60 notes, I discreetly slipped my debit card into my pants and fortunately they didn’t get me to strip! Once they were satisfied the cash I had was legit, and once they gave up on looking for any debit/credit cards, only then was I allowed to leave the premises.
The morale of the story is, if a complete stranger approaches you in Turkey, please just kindly say “no thank you”, and promptly walk away. I promise you, it will save you at least £100 in cash!
P.S: the above was definitely a scam. After I excited the building I attempted to take photos of the man that lead me to the bar. He kept on blocking the camera on my phone. I managed to get a photo from the side of his face and took a photo of his back whilst he was briskly walking away from me. Essentially the man gets a big commission from the bar, for swindling unsuspecting tourists, hence this explains the modern trendy and expensive clothes he was wearing.
If you don’t look Turkish then you will be a prime target. These fraudsters prey on tourists.