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Scam Incorporated

If you live in, or are about to visit Mexico City, this is a post that might well be worth reading. It’s about a chap I’ve met a few times now over the last three or four months. Some people are good at remembering faces. This guy is not. In fact he’s terrible at remembering faces. But then again, seeing as he stops to talk to so many people each day, all of them white faced tourists as best I can tell, perhaps it’s not surprising.

He is, as the title of the post suggests, a scam artist. He first approached me near the Postal Palace, across from Bellas Artes back in March or April. Real friendly, as you are when you’re about to try and convince someone to hand over some cash. About 30 seconds of chit chat – where are you from, I love the UK, you like Mexico? That sort of thing. Followed by the ‘story’. He got deported from the US. Or he’s a former military serviceman stuck on his way to Cancun. Or a bit of both. He’s got a handful of printed out pages from the internet, and starts showing them. They’re completely meaningless, and have virtually nothing to do with his story.

I’m sure he’s got a few more stories, but after the second time he approached me, I cut him off quick before he could begin, telling him how bad he is at remembering faces. Mine in particular. All his stories, and I’m sure they are all pretty similar bar a few convenient details, end up at the same place – can you give him some cash? Be a pal! The first time, I pointed to a homeless cripple no more than 5 metres away and asked why I’d give a scammer money when there are people who genuinely need it? He turned and walked away, muttering the F word under his breath – turns out he does that every time.

Over the last couple of weeks he’s approached me a few more times. His favourite hunting ground right now is the Fifa Fan Fest zone in the Zocalo. Plenty of tourists there. He came up to me again today, and just about got out his greeting before I reminded him again how terrible he is with faces. I reached into my bag to fish my camera out, but he did the off into the crowd. With the customary F word.

But he didn’t leave the area, and lo and behold, about 15 minutes later I saw him trying it on with a white faced couple. Out came the camera. I got a couple of shots. He saw me and hid behind the male member of the couple. There is potential from some innuendo here – the guy is short enough. He then departed, walking away from me. I put the camera bag in the bag, and turned back round to continue watching the football. My prediction for Netherlands to beat Brazil 2-1 was spot on, by the way.

Another ten minutes later, he came back past, and as he got closer, told me that he saw me trying to take photos of him. I told him that I had taken photos of him, not merely tried. He attempted to look menacing, and said he’d get his friends to break my camera if I took photos of him. I asked him why didn’t he try to break my camera now, by himself – he’s a war vet after all? Perhaps if the camera was forced far enough up his back passage, it would indeed break. My parting comment was that he was going in the wrong direction if he wanted to break my camera. Turns out he’s not so brave….

There is a downside to my new camera. It’s bulky, so I don’t take it everywhere with me. And it’s not in my pocket but wrapped up in a bag inside my bag. I’m going to start carrying my old Panasonic TZ5 around with me for a while. Next time I bump into him, I’m gonna turn on the video mode and make him a YouTube star!

For now, I think I’ll just email a printable warning sheet to the local hostels. He must be having some success fleecing tourists, because if he were drawing blanks every time, he wouldn’t still be doing it. And it does piss me off, because everyday I walk past dozens of assorted cripples, blind people and destitute elderly people who need the money more. Bloggers of Mexico City, feel free to use the image below if you want to draw attention to Señor Scam.

[tweetmeme style=”compact” source=”themexile” service=”bit.ly”]

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18 thoughts on “Scam Incorporated

  1. You are right, that if it didn’t work they would be doing something else. Just like the multitude of Internet email scams of promises to share millions with you, only if you pay the documentation fees to release the check. They wouldn’t be still doing it if there was no chance of rewards.
    I had a interesting one the other day, I was filling up my car with gas and a car pulled up at the station, the mother got out of the car ( age 40 ) while her 20 yr old son and girlfriend sat in the car. She asked me if I could spare some money since her tank was empty and they needed to get home. After declining, as we were pulling out, I noticed the son coming out of the store with a bag of crisps and drinks……

    There is a sucker born every minute……..

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  2. Maybe you can introduce him to a nice Nigerian widow who needs some assistance with her late husband’s Swiss bank account.

    What the guy needs is a more credible (or at least entertaining) tale:

    There used to be (and probably still is) the fellow with the long-winded tale about living in San Juan Capistrano, California, which always ended with the request for fifty pesos to get the bus to Zacatecas. The THIRD time he tried to tell me the story, I finished it for him… which rather put a crimp in his delivery.

    And, everyone remembers the infamous “Mexico City Scammer” — a gringo, who for years, spun a tale of woe about being an executive of a U.S. banking corporation, stuck in Mexico City and needing to catch an immediate plane back to the U.S. — he even had you talk to his “wife” in the U.S. about transferring the funds to your account as repayment. He had quite an international following, and his arrest was front page news in Mexico and mentioned by a lot of travel sites.

    Or the Belizian(?) who once told me he was a pastor from an Atlanta church and another time he was a U.S. football player (well, he was a big guy) with his family stuck in a “Red Cross Shelter” in Cancun because of some complex financial problem.

    Still the best was “Chris Jones,” who was a red-headed, fair skinned Nauculpan con-man who could do a good Australian accent and claimed to be a foreign consultant for the Procurador General de la Republica… and was selling plane tickets that had been reserved for criminals being extradited, but weren’t needed. He tried that one on me, but not having a business card, and insisting on picking it up at his office sort of put the kibosh on that one. He did manage to rent an apartment he didn’t live in to a foreigner I knew. Now that’s creative!

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    • Some good tales! I hadn’t met anyone scamming in Mexico City before, but I did come across a couple of Americans (or Canadians…us Brits just can’t tell the difference! And they are also Americans anyway, I guess…) in San Jose, Costa Rica spinning unlikely tales of misfortune and woe.

      I spent a few weeks in the city and saw them every single day. I just got so fed up with their scamming I just went up to their potential victims and told them what they were up to on a few occasions. Never put them off trying again a little later though….

      I once rented out an apartment that wasn’t mine….long story!

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  3. Hey isnt this the guy putting the ding on John Huston in the movie, “The Treasure of Sierra Madre”? UH!… could you help a down & out fellow American?
    If the cops catch up with this act he may be eating cold tortillas and water for awhile. And INS will give him a free ride to the border.

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    • The police won’t do anything. If there was to be a crackdown on begging tomorrow, then that’s all they’d do. Besides, if you look at the photo above again, and check out the guy in the right hand side foreground…yup…there’s your ‘concerned cop’!

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  4. Elizabeth says:

    Good for you for posting his photo…and the color/black-white thing is very cool. I think it would be kind of fun to print the photo and carry it with me next time I’m in DF just in case I run into him…I can pull out the photo! I’ve run into versions of this story so many times and in so many places that I wonder why anyone still falls for it. I guess it’s testimony to our desire to believe in the goodness of people and to want to help those in need!

    The latest time I got hit with this scam was in the Alameda in April. A young, middle class looking, Mexican couple claimed that all their money was stolen from their hotel room and all they wanted was a little money to buy a meal and bus ticket to Puebla. I declined, but afterward had doubts that maybe, just maybe THIS time it was true!!!! I know better…I’m a criminal defense lawyer…I’ve heard the most imaginative stories known to human kind…my bs radar is really pretty good…and still, I wondered!

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    • Fluently. Like a native. Couldn’t fault his patter one bit. Whether he is an American, or a Mexican American, or what, who’s to say. In the absence of proof, I think I’ll just settle on ‘Scumbag’. I doubt there’s any nation out there rushing to accept him as theirs.

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  5. Michael Wolf says:

    Hah! Less than a paragraph in I was sure I knew whom you were talking about. And was going to add that the second time we ran into each other, a few months ago, I told him I wouldn’t give him money and he stored off, calling me a fuckin’ faggot. But you mentioned that too.

    Still, I wonder if there’s a grain of truth in his incoherent lies. Maybe he’s one of the Mexicans mentioned in newspaper articles (that I never really believed) who, in the economic climate of a year ago, gave up on living in the US and decided to return to Mexico. And maybe he really did lack some kind of documentation and really did have a job in a hotel in Cancún lined up. And, just maybe, scamming tourists turned out to be easy money–so easy that he decided to keep asking tourists for bus money instead of taking that bus to his honest job.

    Stranger things have happened in the DF.

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    • Heh heh! I didn’t think I’d be the only one who’d come across him. He spends too many hours begging to be discreet….

      There may be some truth in his lies. But it doesn’t make him any less of a scumbag. I look forward to his reaction when I get him on video….!

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    • Very friendly, I’m sure…..till they tell him no. And then he uses less polite language! I haven’t seen him since the World Cup, but then I haven’t been up to the CH much. I suspect he’ll be hanging around for quite some time to come though.

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