Beggars and Cons, Rome
If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is…
The old adage is a good one to remember when in Rome and dealing with some of the shadier people that prey on naive tourists. Hubby and I have heard many tales of tourist woes and several friends have had things stolen in Rome. So mentally we knew the risks. We travel a lot and think of ourselves as savvy tourists. We know how to hide our valuables (or not bring them at all), are aware of our surroundings, and lookout for one another in crowded areas. But even those who are well aware of the games being played out there can get scammed…almost!
We were walking to the Colosseum area when a small oldish car pulled up to us and asked if we spoke English. He proceeded to tell us how he was running late and needed directions to the train station (which was right around the corner). In the process he told us that he was from Milan and worked for a famous designer – even showed us a well-worn notebook of pictures. We used his map to explain how to get there and he wanted to thank us with a gift. He ‘just happened’ to have a really nice leather jacket in Hubby’s size and a designer handbag for me, and he was sure to point out how much they cost. When we refused, he said we offended him and he tried to talk us into keeping them. As we stood there holding the stuff trying to get out of this conversation politely, he then showed us his broken credit card and asked for gas money. Hubby quickly threw the “gifts” in the car and we walked away.
Talking about it afterwards, we both concluded that the various points of the conversation didn’t add up and each of us were having doubts while the situation was occuring – Why would an Italian ask if we spoke English? Why would he not know where the train station was if he had been in Rome for a while? How did he happen to have just Hubby’s size?
After returning home, we found that others have been conned by similar situations. Typically two things happen: the gift bearer demands more than a token for gas (after all, he gave you such nice things) and once the duped people walk away with their jacket and handbag, a motorcyclist quickly rides up and grabs the stuff so it can be reused on the next victim.
Thankfully for us we didn’t lose anything except for a couple minutes of our time. But we were reminded that scammers will take advantage of kindness and peoples’ willingness to help out.
Be alert and when it seems too good to be true, it most likely is!
On March 10, 2014 I took the airport bus (ticket cost 5 euro) to Rome's Central Station- this transport is made easy for your luggage goes into bins, below the seats, outside the bus, which are secured until departure. The bus driver was a woman.
I had my plan: take the airport bus to the Central Station and from the Central Station to my destination on via Fabio Massimo. I was tired of paying the king's ransom to go from the airport to the center of Rome. I'd been through the high fares route in 2002, 2007 and 2008. Before this adventure I'd carefully -thoroughly- read that visitors were advised to ONLY take the safe taxis -the white taxis emblazoned with the Eternal City of Rome's seal on the door, a large registration number, and the meter to record the fare. The demanded protocol is to go to the first taxi at the head of the queue.
The bus from the airport arrived Central Station (Stazione Centrale) in short time. After 15 hours in transit ( three flights), I was tired, but the feelings of happiness were returning to me: I had arrived in Rome in early spring. I went to the first taxi in the queue, the young driver had his hands already on my two bags, and the taxi passenger seat door was opened for me. I gave him the address (later it was determined that the fare at its most expensive would have been at best 11-13 euros)- on Via Fabio Massimo, near Via Cola Di Rienzo. He drove there -traffic was not heavy- it being about 1:30 p.m. or so in the afternoon, a Monday. At Fabio Massimo the driver said to me: 31 euros. I had only 25 euros, a 20 euro bill and a 5 euro bill-having cashed a 50 euro bill at the airport's post office in purchasing stamps, to get change. To tourists planning a visit to Rome: Plan to have smaller bills in euros when at the airport and in Rome. It's not easy to obtain change at the airport, and be advised that the luggage cart's machine will take only a 2 euro coin. The euro coin machines were not working.
My decision - while at the airport and having studied over and over the transportation from the airport to central Rome (this info is on the Internet in many formats), to buy the ticket for the bus ride to the train station and from there to go by taxi to my destination.
My money vanished like melting snow.
Arriving at my destination the driver said 29- then 30 euro. I had started from the airport with 125 euro. The driver would not accept 25 euro , as I firstly handed the driver 25 euro. I only had then the two 50 euro bills. The driver pointed to the meter and the meter was running on and on, the fare was going higher and higher, and as we were outside on Via Fabio Massimo before the pensione. I didn't have smaller euro bills. So I held up a 50 euro bill. He now had my 25 euros and the first of my two 50 euro bills. That adds up to 75 euro. Angrily the driver shouted into my face: he held up a 10 euro in my face, claiming the 50 euro that I'd extended to his hand was not a 50 euro bill at all -but a 10 euro bill. He was mad as hell. To my lights he had 75 euro from me, and, now he claimed he had but the 10 euro (saying the 50 euro bill was not a 50 euro bill but only a 10 euro bill.) He'd cleverly forgotten the 25 euro. But I knew that the driver had 25 euro plus the 50 euro: that's 75 euro. Still he was not satisfied, and, as I do not speak the Italian language, I was dumbly caught in a bait and switch, at my age: 73 years! The driver had -by my understanding and from my pocket- received 75 euros from me. He wanted more: the 10 euro that he held in my face was not enough! The only other euro bill I had was another 50 euro bill. So after listening to the driver's operatic rampage on March 10, 2014, my first day in the Eternal City, I foisted up to him the only other euro bill I had: a 50 euro bill. . He handed me back 20 euro and got out of the taxi and set the two suitcases on the pavement. That taxi fare cost 105 euros! Should the fare have been what the city of Rome taxi licensing bureau claimed to the manager of the pensione- that is between 11-13 euro, the taxi driver robbed me of some 92 to 94 euro. ( Multiply that by the exchange rate of $1.50 to 1 euro and the thief took $141.00 from me.)
I told the woman managing the pensione the next day about the taxi fare and the driver: I had asked the driver for the taxi number and he'd written it on an old receipt form. She telephoned the company and was referred to another City of Rome taxi monitoring bureau; this governmental bureau apparently polices the taxis in Rome, and the man on the telephone informed the lady that the thefts are occurring now with the visitors arriving in Rome, who thinking the safest taxis are the white taxis with the city of Rome emblazoned on the doors, should not take the white taxis with the city of Rome seal emblazoned on the doors and with the large registered taxi numerals. These he advised are the worst taxis to take, as the drivers are renown for being thieves.
I write this ALERT so that other visitors to the Eternal City will be prepared. I stayed out of the taxis while the month in Rome, and either walked or took the buses. I arranged a taxi ride to the airport on my departure via the lady managing the pensione. He asked for 35 euros. I gave him a 5 euro tip.
Just came back from Rome, we, me and two female friends were walking past the Collosseum and two "soldiers" were asking is people wanted phtos, I carried on walking and unfortunately too quietly muttered too my friends that "they would charge" they didnt hear me and alas got charged % euros each, they were holering to me to come back, the soldiers that is, we ended up givign them 5 euros not the 10 they wanted. just beware, not everythign is as it appears.
Check charges on your credit cards as soon as you get home. Paying for meals and purchases on a credit card can be so expensive as businesses such as restaurants ,hotels, and well known car rentals will charge your card with an unwanted charges and fees
Some of you below have experienced this same type of con. My wife and I are in Rome right now. Our experience today led to this search, which brought us to this site. We were walking on the backside of the Vatican when a 60ish male pulled up to us in a older blue car. He asked us for directions in Italian, as he held a map. I guess we stick out as sore thumb as tourists, so be it, I told the man he was asking the wrong people. He gets excited and says, "oh, you're American!". He proceeds to tell us his wife is from Colorado, gaining our interest. He told us he was trying to find the Vatican and that he was a manager for Dolce & Gabana. He pulled out some catalog with a bunch of photos torn out of a magazine. He had his "luggage" in the back seat, but surprise, it was already opened. He told us his name was Mossimo. He was a real smooth and fast talker. I sadly admit, he seemed like a real nice guy, we shook his hand. He was very thankful for the directions, and said he wanted to give a gift for being so nice. He reached in his suitcase and took out a nice replica purse in a new shopping bag and said he would like us to have it. That's when my sixth sense kicked in and knew this guy was full of hot Italian air. I told him he was very nice but we could not accept a gift from him. He looked a bit dissapointed or even offended, but I insisted we not accept a gift from him. He drove off. After reading some of your similar experiences here, it kinda pisses you off this stuff happens. A least it didn't happen to us, even though he was smooth as butter. Be aware, and be cautious.
Train station very crowded. We were traveling at end of July 2012 and about to get on a train to Rome.... we had 5 people and my mother in a wheelchair... so "people helped" by pulling our luggage up onto the train then running out the other entrance to the train with our luggage! Fortunately, a female employee yelled "thieves, thieves" and they put them down and left but not before one of these gypsies came up to me and asked me for a tip for helping us with our luggage!
At the Colosseum, a seller ran to us, grabbed my wrist and tied one on me before I knew what happened. He then demanded money from my boyfriend.
At the top of the Spanish Steps we were stopped by a friendly stallholder and chatted with him. He tied a "wish" bracelet and said it was "for nothing" when we asked how much (being careful after Colosseum-gate). He asked for a little, but saw what my boyfriend had in his wallet and snatched 30 euros. CON MAN, BEWARE.
Less than a minute later, a rose seller gave me roses "for nothing because she beautiful lady" . We gave them straight back after he stared suggesting money.
They seems to prey on those in relationships, so keep the PDA to a minimum, even hand holding!
We had several guys approach us at the Fontana di Trevi offering to "help" us with our pictures. I flat out refused, several times, but they are very persistent. One guy was following my girlfriend suspicously close while eyeing her pocketbook. We didn't have any issues because I managed to recognize what was happening, but I imagine this was a "pay me because I helped you" scam or they were going to snatch the camera or purse and run. We also saw the flower guys at the Spanish steps doing their thing.
I haven't seen it here yet but a couple of days ago in Paris we almost fell prey to a pair of pickpockets but luckily a security guard saw it. Two people approached with petitions, claiming it was for the handicapped. Well apparently while you're preoccupied with the petition ( we were attempting to read it when the guard literally ripped it from my hands ) they rob you.
Types you'd least expect to rob you blind will in the Rome train station - and the cops now it well, so beware - nobody official cares. There's a con where a seemingly nice young man offers to help you locate your train car. An old man is already sitting in the car when you arrive. There's some discussion about being in the wrong car. As you get settled, mothers with babies and other young girls come and dispute your seat. Then the young man settles it with the others. Then you realize you've all been robbed.
Try and find the police station in the train station. It's all but hidden. Once there, it's as confusing as the train car situation. Police take you back to a room full of mothers with babies, young girls and men all shouting and you're asked to identify the robbers. Sure thing.
I think I've seen enough of Rome for a lifetime. This was a special birthday celebration and it happened within the first hour of stepping foot in Rome. I, alone, lost over $700 which was painful because I was unemployed recently.
Ciao - good riddance and to those who defend gypsies....ask about the Franciscan Friar who lost, not only his life, but his shoes and clothes (November 2010).
Like all the others we were very cautious when in Rome and alert for pickpockets and rose sellers. But One day when we went to visit the Terme de Caracalla, we took the wrong way, missed the entrance and we had to surround the place in order to get to the entrance. While we were looking on the map, then in the garden, a car stops and asks for directions, the Colloseum. As good people, without thinking and angry because we missed the entranced, we approached to help the driver. We explained the road on the map while he was telling us he is French, he was looking for the French embassy. when he asked about us, he said he was the representative of Versace in Bucharest. We shook hands, and he told us that he loves Romanian and he wanted to give us a present. He was very kind and trying to get us more inside the car, with our heads. We avoided that. Then when to leave he gives us some leather jackets and tells us to give him some money for the gas. I said no, he insisted, I said 1 euro, he said 20. My husband got 5euros and he was crying for 20. When I said no again he grabbed my 5 euros from the hand, took the jackets and drove fast. after that we thought of the danger. If he had taken us the bags when he tried to make us put our heads in, he could have easily taken the bags, to run over us. And at some point I noticed a motorbike behind the car, looking at us. I do not know what happened with it but now I am pretty sure they were together, trying to rob us. we were in an isolated area. 50 meters after another car stopped and tried to ask us something but this time we did not stop at all. In this world it is not good to be good and help others because you can be hurt. It was the first time, after many trips in many countries so I got a sour taste...Italians are very mean-most of them. although people say Romanians are bad, I am proud to say that I am a trustful Romanian. They met only the cons, beggars and gypsies, people that do not represent us.
Always count your change after the shop attendant or train ticket salesman hands it to you before departing the counter. We have experienced a number of occasions especially in the souvenir shops in the Vatican Museum in Rome and at Naples Train Station where the staff short change you and pocket the cash. When confronted with the shortchanging they are very quick to give you the exact amount missing despite the language barrier!!
I was just robbed of my passport, money, credit card and driver's license at the Rome Termini and here's how it happened. One fellow approaches, tells you he's with the station and that he'll help you find your seat on the train. Once seated, the pregnant girl, mother with baby and a few other girls come and dispute your sitting in their seats. in all the re-studying of tickets, shuffling and confusion, lifting bags down from overhead compartments, you're robbed.
Don't accept any help from anyone at the train station. If anyone questions your seat assignment tell them you'll wait for the conductor to verify seat assignments.
There's no police presence in the station, the police office is remotely located within the station, there are no announcement reminders to be on high alert for these "helpful" thieves and no security cameras. If the Termini has such a reputation for predators why isn't anything being done about it or is this Italy's way of providing support to the age old cultural practices of gypsies? Is this what Rome is content to be known as - a place that preserves predators?
Ruined in Rome
Just came back from a weekend in Rome with my girlfriend. Overall a nice experience but a few things to watch out for.
When you buy anything, especially on the street, check that the coins that you get in change are actually euros and not Turkish lira. My girlfriend got lira instead of euros on two occasions. The coins look very similar and if you are in a hurry it is easy to confuse them.
When you try to board a train carrying luggage, a man might appear in the door offering to help you lift your luggage. If you accept his help he will come to you afterwards and ask for money.
Also, the beggers are a pest. Best just to ignore them.
I'm from Scandinavia and raised in "political correctness". So I was a little taken aback when our guide in the Vatican warned us of the "gypsies". A few days in Rome cured me of that. They really are a bloody nuisance. You find them everywhere, especially at the entrences of tourist attractions begging or stealing. I heard several people complaing about being surrounded by gypsy children who picked their pockets.
I cannot recommend RomePower. Use a different company. My group paid a rental deposit on the Ovidius Apartment through RomePower.com for 5 days in Oct, 2010. We got a receipt for the deposit but did not receive the contract as is customary. We became very concerned when the Ovidius apartment continued to show available for these dates on the RomePower site. This continued for 7 weeks despite multiple e-mails, phone-calls, etc. Venere.com showed the apartment rented (but not to us) and RomePower.com, the last time I checked, still showed the Ovidius apartment available. We had fallen into a bait and switch. Marco and Valerie of RomePower told us the apartment was too far for us to walk, then told us the apartment would be painted during the time we had booked it, then told us that the area was not safe for women. They recommended an apartment near the Spanish Steps at almost twice the price (over 1700E for 5 days). When we declined, explained that bait and switch is a deceptive business practice and asked for our deposit of nearly $400 US to be returned, RomePower ceased to respond. Our deposit has not been returned despite all of our efforts. We were very fortunate to actually rent an apartment for the time period we needed (and got the contract with the receipt of deposit as is customary) but lost 7 weeks trying to work with RomePower. Learn from our mistake, take your business elsewhere. This advice could save you $400! Bri/Texas
I'm actually in Rome right now - having a great time, however I must say did Im a little miffed about our encounter with the "guys with the roses" near the Spanish steps. The guy will hand you a couple of roses insisting "for you for good luck in Italy." I refused twice but he says "miss you just take ok? No problem." I reluctantly took them and then he immediately goes to my husband saying "hey guy how about just a little - come on for your lady's flower?" so my husband gives him 2 euro for the 2 flowers, then he proceeds to get upset demanding more! I couldn't believe it!
We then sat on the steps and watched literally an instant replay of like 10 more exact scenes played out just as it had to us.THEN just as we're leaving the stairs another guy tries the same technique trying to hand my son a toy. We then FIRMLY said no and he proceed to argue with us and called us some sort of name in whatever language... these are not Italians by the way, I'm not sure of what decent/nationality they are to be exact, and I'll refrain from speculating any further but...just be warned.