Monday, December 1, 2014

Unpleasant encounter of "Let's Have a Drink" scam in Istanbul

I have read about the "Let's have a drink" scam before arriving Istanbul, Turkey. But I still encounter this scam myself as maybe suddenly I taking chance to trust someone on my last day of my trip in Istanbul but not during my first few days. I was fortunate that this incident happened during my last day visit to Istanbul. If it were to happen during my first day, I would probably don't have mood to continue the trip. Istanbul is the most intimidated trip that I faced so far where almost everyone who sees me, trying to speak to me or trying to gain trust from me to go into their shop to buy their items. However, I rejected those offers and even have a drink invitation during my first few days.

The scam started when during my last day, I was capturing video at Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque during the prayer time. Suddenly a guy asking for my help to take his picture using his phone. As I finished capturing photos for him, he introduced himself and telling me that he is travelling alone and from Cyprus. Then we continue to chat and walk towards Galata. When reaching there, I saw the famous Baklava shop (Hafiz Mustapha). I said that the shop is quite famous in Istanbul for their tasty baklava and he brought two pieces of baklava which we shared together. The initial plan were to walk to Galata area. But that night was quite windy and cold. He stopped a taxi which would take us directly to Galata area. When reached the destination, the area were actually near Taksim square. I mentioned that I would like to tried drink at the other side of the Taksim which I am familiar with as I have visited the area two days ago. But he still insisted to visit the bar that he suggested. I can't think properly at that time as of why I didn't walk away and still follow him to the bar.

The bar were located underground and the environment were cosy and with nice music. The guy begins with ordering beef and nuts for both of us. There were nothing happened up to this stage. After a while he stood up and said he need to go to toilet. After a while he back from toilet. I was thinking at that time that this guy is lying that we went to toilet as it was quite fast. Actually he went to the back of the bar and this is where climax of the scam starts. After he back, he brings two beautiful Turkish ladies to sit together. At that time, I realised that I was in the scam now and it was plotted nicely and according what I have read.

Once the lady sit down, I started to behave rude and lose the interest to continue the conversation with the guy. The guy then call the waiter to order some food and asking my permission whether I would like to order drink to the ladies. I said, I would like to know how much it cost to order the drink. I was shocked when I found out that the items ordered cost 950 Turkish Lira per person. That was an outrageous and I am not going to pay since I don't have much money. The Cyprus guy keeps saying that he can help me to pay but I am saying that I don't want to owe him anything The waiter keep forcing me to pay and I keep saying that I don't have money. At one stage, I really lose my patient and I shouted in the bar by saying that I am not going to pay that amount as its too expensive and outside I can get a beer for just 10 Turkish Lira not 500 Turkish Lira. At that time the waiter asked me to be gentleman and everyone in the bar was looking at us. Then he begins to ask me how much I can pay. I told him, 100 Turkish Lira. He said will let me go after I pay 100 Turkish Lira. But I responded by saying that I don't trust you and if I pay you, how I going to go back tomorrow as I don't have cash left on me. How do I sure that once I pay you 100 Turkish Lira that you will release me? I suggested that I pay at the main door. He seems reluctant but I keep forcing that. Then suddenly, he take the bill and knock on my head a few times and ask me to go. I feel weird but since he let me go, I quickly heading to the exit. Then the Cyprus appear out of no where in front of me. I give him 20 Turkish Lira for the beer and the peanuts and I told him that I don't trust him and I ran as fast as I can towards Taksim Square where there are crowds of people. From there, I quickly take train back to sultanahmet for dinner then straight to my hostel.

For those who face this similar situation please aware of the following:
1. Never trust anyone and always feel suspicious of anyone who is too good to you.
2. Never mention where you stay. You don't want scammer to follow you back to your hotel.
3. Always have trust your instinct and try to find excuse to escape if you noticed that you are part of the scam.
4. Never show where you keep your money.
5. Calm and if possible you act like baby or crazy. They will somewhat find you are "crazy" and let you go.
6. If follow anyone, always go to the bar/shop that you are familiar. Don't follow their suggested bar/shop.

I was fortunate to be able to escape and only lose 20 Turkish Lira. There were no bouncer present as well and the waiter don't try to beat me. I hope this article is helpful for those who plan to visit Istanbul and to understand the modus operandi of the scam.

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