People to avoid, Athens
Greece in General is a safe country, specially Athens with hundreds of tourists running around at night, but BEWARE of the card game scam. Its called PAPANTZIS... a 3 card game shuffle that people huddle around and bet to find the card.
In the first couple of tries it seems easy and YOU WILL FIND the card... they are trained for you to find the card. In the next few rounds though .. you will loose your share of Euros so beware of street betting.
More times then not, as you are in the huddle betting away ... an accomplise is making your pocket lighter ... taking your wallet, mobile ... etc.
Just be smart ... if it was SO EASY TO WIN .. he would not be there.
Ladies be warned...if a Greek man approached you, this is called kamaki, he is trying to get to know you. And whether you welcome the attention or not...I suggest you just politely thank him and tell him go away. And dont let yourself be in a situation you dont want to be in. Ochi mean NO...
The guides at the historical and archeological sites and museums are YOUR friends. They burn for their job, and they want to share you with all their knowledge about the Greek history. Dont make them angry, dont bother them and listen to what they say! They are there because they want to serve you and all other people from all over the world. It means, listen to them when they say SOMETHING!!!
SCAM ALERT: [targets single males traveling alone]
I hate to admit being suckered into this one, but after being conned the first time, I was approached three more times (in as many days) with the same scam, so I thought it best to post it. Maybe save someone some cash.
The scam goes like this:
A man approaches you and engages you in conversation by asking for the time or for directions, etc in Greek. Once he hears that you are obviously not Greek, he asks where you are from. Coincidentally he [has been there, lived there, has a cousin who got married and moved there, went to a place near there on business last year, etc.]
He is from out of town but comes to Athens ocassionally on business. 'Hey', he says 'I know a great pub around here. Let's go get a drink.
When you get there, he'll buy you a drink. The house will buy you a drink. Everyone is very nice and friendly. The girl at the end of the bar comes over to you and shows an interest in you. She asks if you'll buy her a drink and you say 'of course' because, hey, you've been getting free drinks since you entered the place. What will be opened for this lovely and friendly girl is a very expensive bottle of Champagne (or mineral water in a champagne bottle, most likely). And you end up paying for it becase you did agree to it, after all.
The single male traveller will often be approached being offered help or being invited to a bar to make friends. More 'friends' and beautiful women will appear and they´ll eventually end up paying a huge bill at the bar.
I was approached twice in this manner but since I had already been informed about it I didn´t fall into this trap.
Something that happened to me and a friend of mine: we were looking for the tourist office (which was closed), and this guy came up to us in Sintagma Square saying he knew where the tourist office was, but that he had better info for us, all we had to do was walk into a building across the street and he'd give us info about ferries, pensions and stuff. That sounded quite strange to us, so we managed to get away. Of course the guy's reaction (he got quite mad) proved that we were right to do that.
This may sound obvious to those who have traveled around a lot, but for those who are beginners I think it is good that you hear these stories.
This one is for men. Men will enticed you to go to one of the bars or clubs(mostly likely strip joints) around Omonia. In the very least, they will charge you a fortune for drinks and worse; strippers pickpockets you or rob you. I was warned by the owner of my hotel. Surely enough, I was approached by one around the Temple of Olympian Zeus. These hustlers are very keen and read you like a book. They have props, in my case. Business cards of people from where I live. Anything to gain your confidence. I'll give these people an A+ for salesmanship.
This guy pretended to be an out of town tourist from Venice, Francesco. Says to have one drink with him after doing a pretty good job proving that he was from Venice, that may be the only true part of his story. He will take you to a bar called "Hollywood Pub" and order a drink and ask you what you want. I ordered a drink and then the girl, who I thought was the shop owner came and sat by us and asked if we would buy her a drink. I thought nothing of it and the guy prodded, so I said "yes." After one drink, I insisted that I have to go and then got the bill for 220 Euros. I ended up getting most of my money back except for 40 Euros, but I got a picture of the guy that scammed me.
As a young, solo male traveller in Athens for the summer months, I have come to realise that I am a very easy target for scammers. In the time it took to get from the airport to my hotel I was approached twice. I must have looked particularly vulnerable dragging my luggage through the streets. One man approached me near McDonalds opposite the Greek Parliament building. He was a thoroughly uncharming man and when he offered me to "show" me to my hotel I instantly walked away from. He has since approached me twice since my arrival asking for "a talk". I'm not entirely sure what his motive is, but just ignore him and walk away. He typically wears a blue, scruffy shirt, is fat and balding, and carries a water bottle with him. My next scammed was another man who offered to "show" me my to my hotel. He pointed me in the roughly the right direction, yet urged me to enter his "rock cafe" to give me his card. I promptly declined and walked away. Nevertheless, two shop-owners were genuinely helpful in directing me to my hotel. For the most part though, make your way quickly to your accommodation and ignore anyone who tries to offer you help. On my second day I was also approached by a suspicious man on the benches near the fountain in front of Zappieon Hall. I cannot totally be sure of his motives. He asked if I had a lighter (I didn't) and proceeded to sit next to me. He then asked me questions such as "do you have a girlfriend?" and "do you have friends here?". I believe he may have either been hitting on me or wanted something else from me. I said I had to go and left. He did not follow me. Finally, I encountered "Acropolis George" who attempted his usual routine of asking the time. I pretended I didn't speak English and walked away having recognised him from this site. NOTE he has grown a moustache, perhaps in response to people taking photos of him and putting them on the Internet. Overall I have become generally distrustful of people who approach you in the city centre. Particularly older men who prey on naive-looking male Travellers.
I was a victim of the bar scam back in Summer 2008, by the same white-hair, mostache, friendly George that we can see in the photo taken by user JB10. It's pretty similar to others reported here, as the pattern is very clear and well-known:
Here they get into it more in detail, although with a different "George":
It seems there are some variations of the scam, although all follow the same pattern. As I said, I was approached by JB10's "George", although people in the forum (and the last website) report other men so-called George with similar profile and role.
In my case, I was spending just some hours in Athens as I was in transit. As a young male traveller, with a small trolley suitcase, walking alone in the centre of Athens, I was a very good target I guess. The very friendly George approached me and stayed a long time with me, talking about many stuff, guiding me to several ruins in the way that he helped me photograph (although he strictly rejected me taking a photo of him). It seems they don't mind spending a lot of time with you just for you to trust them and fall in the scam. At some point he offered me to have a drink and he guided me to a place called "Love bar" or "Love pub" or something like that (I think the first one). I don't know if later they changed the name to "Hollywood Bar" (as my experience happened 5 years ago) or if it was another place. Dark and empty, we sat in a table of four, George in front of me. Soon two girls sat with us, and each started talking with one. I was confused about the whole thing, but George would calm my fears and soon he (and his girl) moved to another table where I could not see them directly. I would stay talking with the beautiful and friendly black girl and of course she would ask me to pay her a drink and pushed me to ask for the same thing also. I refused to get drunk as I had to come back to the airport in a few hours, but I accepted paying hers and asking a small thing for me. She drank fast and eventually she managed me to ask for four of them for her, while she would complain I'm drinking very slow. When I realised I had to come back to the airport and I asked for the bill, it was a huge amount which I dont recall exactly (>200€ surely). George had left already, and a big and tough man would bring the bill and ask me to pay it. When I said I had not enough money, he accompanied me to the nearest ATM machine. As I had my trolley I had no way of running way, and I paid. Seeing the report from user "dziechu", now I see that calling police wouldn't have helped much, as I was very tight in time.
Keywords for other victims to find this: bar scam, love bar, hollywood bar, fraud, trick, cheating, expensive drinks, beautiful girls, tourism.
Thanks a lot for this website, which I found searching for information on this scam, and I was so glad to see the moustache-George photo here, so other travellers can be aware. It would be fantastic if others can add more photos and documentation to break up their scam business.
I heard about scams involving an attractive girl trying to get men into bars, so I was unprepared for an old man.
He was old, wears glasses, has hair on the sides and back, but bald up top, about 5 feet 5-6inches. He'll seem geniunely friendly, tell you about his Greek restaurant where he has live greek music, and ask all about you. He wanted me to give me the address of his resturant so I could have dinner there later complimentary. He leads me to a nondescript bar about 2 blocks south of Syntagma. Its dark inside. Two bartenders, an older asian lady and a younger brunette who was maybe a "7". "Nikolas" tells one to get me an ouza-orange juice mix. Its strong. The brunette asks if "she can have one drink with me." Nikolas disappears while this brunette smalls talks with me...he comes back with the address his restaurant, then leaves again saying he'll be right back.
5 more minutes of small talk with the brunette, I realize this is scam! I'm only halfway done with the first ouza drink but the asian lady already has poured me another one! I quickly say I need to go to meet with a friend. The asian lady says the bar tab is 50 euro for 3 drinks! 20 euro for the brunette's champagne, 10 euro for each ouza drink(neither of which I had directly asked for), and a 10 euro "commission" for the brunette! I tell them I know this is a scam and that all I have his 30 euro on me. They politely argue that the bill is 50, and the brunette offers to walk me to an ATM.
Luckily, there was no giant guy to block the doorway as I've read in other similar scams. I leave my 30 euros and run out the door!
Lesson? Avoid all old Athenian men acting friendly to you!
Like many others, crossing Syntagma Sq I was approached by a man in his 60s (Nickolas- well dressed, short grey hair, bald on top and black glasses) asked me for the time and indicated his brother had a restaurant near my home town. I've visited Athens countless times for family reasons and his story and friendliness were plausible. Physically forced into his cafe and abadononed with- I use the term 'woman' very loosely to describe this person- imagine the nastiest, ugliest whore of a female and you are close to her description- forced to pay €40 for drinks I did not order I left only to walk around the corner to the nearest police station.
'George and the fat guy' are well known to the police and originally shut down at their Hollywood Pub operation but now work out of Cafe El Greko- I have pressed charges and will fly back to Athens to testify in court. I don't have much faith in Greek police- to be totally sure I have also reported them to the Ministry of Tourism and British embassy- both are extremely concerned and will investigate independently. Tourism is the #1 industry in Greece so these instances are taken very seriously- please report them! Greek people are renowned for their friendliness and this is my experience on countless trips which makes it all the more sickening that these animals exploit this. These low-lifes picked the wrong 'xenos' to rip off, I will put them out of business.
I am happy to say I avoided scams due to common sense and the tips on this board. Thanks to all. That Francisco guy definitely approached me a few days ago near the acropolis. He was posing as an Italian tourist. Italy jersey, glasses, fanny pack, etc... He kept trying to talk to me and followed me a bit, trying to engage me and find out information about me. Just ignore him, and if he persists tell him you don't want to talk to him, and if necessary, you will call the police. He will slink back in the gutter from whence he came :) strangers who are determined to speak with you want something. Often either to manipulate you or distract you while someone else releives you of your wallet. Normal people just aren't that interested in strangers. Also, use a money belt, and carry a "dummy wallet" with nothing important in it as a decoy. If you keep your eyes open, and take precautions, you will have a great time. And don't let this scare you from talking to people! Just be cautious, and if you are asked to go somewhere, suggest an alternate arrangement in surroundings you trust. If it is a normal person, odds are they will acquiesce, or meet up with you later on.
I was actually looking for a bar in Athens a couple of years ago when an old guy came up to me on the street and told me to check out the bar he was heading to, which just happened to be the Hollywood bar. I had 2 glasses of bourbon and coke and I got charged $150 Euro!! A huge bouncer appeared from out the back to block the exit ensuring I would pay the full amount before I could leave.
I walked back and found the bar the next day:
And I found the old guy trying to hussle more tourists: http://www.igeekden.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Greece-681.jpg
Last year I had a similar experience. I also was ripped off at the Hollywood bar. I didn't meet George, but I remember the fat guy. I don't know why this is allowed in Greece. The police didn't want to help me, so it is a legal way to make money in Greece. Be aware if you go to this city.