Tuesday, December 4

The Perfect Gift of Electronics (kids only)

A friend came to visit one holiday season a few years back and told me she met someone on the street who showed her fine camera to buy - for just 50 euro.  Thinking it had been stolen, she couldn't believe her luck.  She negotiated him down to 30.  She insisted she had been offered a gorgeous (Canon, Olympus, fill-in-the-blank) for her bucks.  She handed the money, and the next thing she knew she was the proud owner of ... an empty camera case.  To this day she did not know what sleight of hand he pulled on her in order to affect the swap, but, when she showed up at my house with her empty case, she was fit to be tied.  And she is Italian.  I told her those ploys - in any country - are reserved for tourists...how could she have been so silly?!
In NY, 42nd street was famous for making the swap in the electronics shops and their policy was No Returns Accepted (and no credit cards).  I'm not sure if this is the case today, but in the digital age, it would seem a folly given that any missteps in the face of consumers would end up on the web before you could type out Yelp!
But in this last case of camera swapping, I had heard the tale many times before, but I finally met someone who had succumbed to the wily ways of the streetwise savvy swindler.  These guys aren't just small-time crooks, they're darn good actors besides.  Because their elaborate thievery has them convincing their target that they know the family, the kids, and all kinds of personal details.  The only thing that can trip them up, especially in a country of single children, is that they only stand a 50/50 chance when first approaching their mark to guess that the person has a son over a daughter, or a child at all.  But, it's a miniscule margin of error in order to rake in hundreds on every single transaction.  And besides, I'm sure they've figured out a cover story for every sort of mishap they came across.  They're so smooth that they even get the prey to thank them for their trouble besides.
How I ended up with a fabulous baby gift for burgeoning photographers...
Taken all together, it looks fairly real - but the weight should
give it away immediately as a scam
This is my favorite part
Baby can play as hard as he wants at becoming the next
Man Ray... Even the lens is plastic
The elderly gentleman walked out of the Post Office (this is one of the main Points of Interest in Italy for anyone over 55 and where they usually go to collect their pensions - so they have ready cash-in-hand...).  A man approaches and the conversation goes something like this:

"Oh-how are you doing? What luck!  I've not been able to get ahold of your son and I have the camera he wanted!"
"You mean, Francesco?  I don't know what you're talking about!"
"You see, Francesco put a downpayment on this camera (takes it out of the bag).  But, he still owes me 160 euro. Perhaps you could pay me and get the money from him, instead of me trying to reach him again and again."

"I don't have that kind of money, and (growing suspicious) besides, how do I know that it's my son you're talking about?"
"Well, why don't you give him a call?  If you ring him, I can tell him I have the camera, I ran into you, and then we're squared away, okay?"

Fumbling for the phone, and feeling a bit uncertain (you know, when that sixth sense we all love to ignore kicks in) 
Dials the number.
Upon hearing a responce, he says, "I have your friend here who says he's got the camera for you -- you talk to him about the money, and just let me know what to do."  (Incredibly, he passes the cellphone to the crook - who could just make off with it and call it a day).
Francesco, at this point, is shouting, "No, papà, it's a scam, don't do it!" But to deaf ears.  That's because our Actor-Thief has now disconnected the phone and carried on his own version of a conversation in which they're squared away. 
"Okay, so he says he'll pay you back the 160 euro he owes me."
"But I don't have 160 euro, just €120 or so..."
"Va bene, va bene...I'll take the 120 euro just to put this thing to rest."
"Very well. Grazie tante."

Judging from what you read in the papers, this scam is so prevalent the thieves could form their own actor's guild.  But the real mystery remains, Why are the best, most efficient customer-oriented, demographically savvy, target-marketing people the scam artists?  The world may never know.

1 comment:

Llove said...

I still find it amazing that anyone would hand over cash to someone on the street, other than for a fake bag which you know is fake but don't care as you like it!