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Warning about fake policemen

Edinburgh
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Warning about fake policemen

I was in Rome recently, and thought I should warn folks about a situation I found myself in. I was walking up the Circus Maximus when a foreign man (possibly Turkish, not sure) came up to me with a tourist map open asking for directions to the Vatican. I pointed it out on his map, and where we were, and what direction to go in, but all he kept saying was "no understand". Whilst I was trying to explain it to him again, two Italian men approached us and announced themselves as policemen. One flashed a badge, but I've no idea if it was real or not. They said they needed to ask a few questions and check a couple of things, as there were reports of fake money circulating. They asked the foreigner first to hand over his cash for examination, which he did, and they briefly looked at it and handed it back to him. They asked to see my cash as well, which I handed over, being suspicious but thinking they wouldn't just run off with it in a public place, although now I realize they could have said it was fake and decided to keep it "for evidence". Anyway they did hand it back to me, and they then asked the foreign guy for his bank card, because there are apparently fake ones being used in the area. Again the guy handed it over, and one of the alleged policemen got on the phone to someone and read out the numbers on the card. They then asked for the guy's pin number, which he gave. At which point I realized what was going on, and simply said "I'm not giving you my bank details" and walked off. They didn't try to stop me at all, just hung around for a minute, then split up again.

I've no idea if real Italian police have stop and search powers to examine people's belongings, but they were fairly convincing, using the foreign guy to show that they would hand back everything they looked at. But nobody, even a real policeman, should ever ask you for your pin number. DO NOT ever give that information out to anyone. If you find yourself in a similar situation, just do as I did and walk away, they won't want to draw attention to themselves by trying to stop you. If they do insist on keeping you back, threaten to call the real police, to check they are who they say they are.

Rome is my favourite place in the whole world, but as with many tourist spots, there are beggars, pickpockets and conmen looking to take advantage of the unwary tourist. Keep your wits about you and you'll be fine.

New York City, New...
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1. Re: Warning about fake policemen

I would never hand my cash over to anyone - I would just say I don't have any cash and if asked for a bank card, same answer: no bank card - then hightail it away from them.

Asking for all of this out in the open - and then asking for the pin number? If they were police officers, I'd eat my many hats.

Sadly, if such outrageous acts didn't bear fruit, they wouldn't continue using the con. Terrible. This is the stuff people come away thinking Rome is about which is a real shame.

Rome, Italy
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2. Re: Warning about fake policemen

That's awful! Glad you knew better than to give them such information! Even if they were real police officers, they would have no right to ask you personal bank account information. And at Circo Massimo too? It's not as if they even bothered to stop you as you came out of a shop, some sort of context that would make more sense.

Edinburgh
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3. Re: Warning about fake policemen

Well, I was by myself, looking every bit the tourist, with no other people very close by. I guess they just walk around that area keeping an eye out for likely marks that they can approach without anyone else interfering. It is a shame that some people will fall for this trick.

Does anyone else think it might be a good idea to have a forum dedicated to sharing stories like this? The last thing I want is to scare people away from making the trip, as Rome really is a wonderful place, but a bit of advice as to what to watch out for could be useful.

New York City, New...
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4. Re: Warning about fake policemen

There have been many threads about the various scams and cons - this one included on this forum. I don't know that a separate forum is needed. I've seen plenty here. There was a thread about just this same type of situation the other day only it took place in a train station - I think in Termini.

Edinburgh
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5. Re: Warning about fake policemen

I guess, just figured it would be easier for people to research if they were all kept in their own separate place. I know the search facility's there, but I'm a neat freak and like to see categories :-) The forum is most excellent though, my thanks to all the contributors.

New York City, New...
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6. Re: Warning about fake policemen

Others may think it is a great idea - I have no idea how one goes about proposing to TA that a forum be set up. You could try to find out if you like.

Montreal
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7. Re: Warning about fake policemen

Scams, including a variation of the fake-policemen scam, are listed in this article in the Rome Travel Guide:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g187791-s206/Rome:Ita…

Giving scams their own forum or even a stickie risks skewing visitors' perceptions of Rome and giving scams more importance than they deserve. The vast majority of visitors spend time in Rome without encountering a scam.

Edinburgh
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8. Re: Warning about fake policemen

Fair enough, just wanted to make sure as many people as possible were given fair warning, that's all. Thanks for your comments.

Atlanta
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9. Re: Warning about fake policemen

Zerlina, preserving Italy's idyllic image and promoting its tourism industry should not be the main purpose of travel forums like TA. If a scam is being perpetrated on unsuspecting tourists, UWL_Davey has the moral obligation to warn others. It is very appropriate to use this forum to caution about the perils one might encounter while walking the streets of Rome. The “skewing visitors' perceptions of Rome” should be the concern for Italian authorities not ours. Tourists are being scammed all the time in Italy. From pickpockets to overcharges by restaurant employees and taxi drivers, to currency exchange con artists. A simple Google search can reveal hundreds of pages of anecdotal reports. You do not know if “The vast majority of visitors spend time in Rome without encountering a scam” and have no basis for making such statements.

New York City, New...
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10. Re: Warning about fake policemen

No one said that there should not be postings with warnings such as this one; the question was whether we should consider having a separate forum set up just for these types of warnings or if they should just remain part of the appropriate forum (as in this case, the Rome forum).