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Aggressive scammers near Barbadelo

2020 Camino Guides

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
Aggressive scammers near Barbadelo

La Voz de Galicia has reported that an old scam has resurfaced on the Camino Frances: a group of people asking for donations for a non-existent disability charity. In this case becoming physically threatening and attempting to steal a wallet after a pilgrim refused to give them anything.
 
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Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Hmm. They've broken their own "house" rules if they're behaving in a manner that attracts the attention of the Guardia Civil. Maybe the gang-masters are setting unachievable targets this year. Desperate people do desperate things. Alternatively these are amateurs trying to move in on territories that have been run by professionals for years.

Seems the Camino is getting more like Las Ramblas every year - the tourists move in & there goes the neighbourhood ;)

Carry a few coins & small notes where you (and they) can get at 'em. And everything else well stashed. And if approached just be firm in sending them on their way. You don't need Spanish - all the common tongues convey the meaning.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
I aggressively stiff-armed one of the 'deaf girls' somewhere after Portomarin in 2015 - who wants to do that, but she was way too 'in my face' for comfort. So I pushed her away and kept going without pausing in my stride or engaging. She swore at me but never mind.
It was not my best moment, but I was a bit freaked out.

Maybe the gang-masters are setting unachievable targets this year. Desperate people do desperate things.
Good point, Tinca. We're so secure in our comfortable and relatively well-off bubbles. Who knows what these girls are up against?

Edit - the article describes very well why this is such a persistent and hard-to-remedy problem.
What it doesn't mention directly is that the 'deaf girls' are the tip of the iceberg. They are only pawns in a bigger game, and the gang-masters are the real problem. And why they haven't been caught is a mystery.
 
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Shazenalan

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2018
‘the tourists move in & there goes the neighbourhood ;)’ -

With respect I’m not sure what you mean by this? Can you enlarge on your perspective, I am genuinely Interested. Thanks.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
No need for respect. I paraphrased a quote from a movie the name of which currently escapes me. As to what I meant: I'll try another allegory. Predators rely on prey. Without prey there is no value in assembling in a location. There have been scammers on the Camino for ever. In the "old-days" most would smile when presented with a €1 and told to "go-away. As the number of pilgrims passing a given point on any given day was minute there was very little predation. As the number of pilgrims passing increases so the value potential to predators increases. More and more predators assemble. The predatory behaviour becomes more and more aggressive as the competition for successful outcomes increases. An accumulation of affluent, wide-eyed pilgrims wandering the roads to Santiago in their €1000 rigs with their €'s and bank cards attract more and perhaps more desperate predators.

The reference to Las Ramblas - just research the increase in violent robbery in Barcelona since the cruise-ship phenomena kicked in in the last decade
 

natefaith

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria-Santiago (2009)
León-Ponferrada (2014)
Camino Inglés (2017)
Thanks for sharing the article.
I'm so glad I never encountered anyone scamming on the Camino, but I would feel pretty vulnerable if I suddenly saw a group of people approaching and I was alone otherwise. It's really too bad.
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
I love the ploy they try with the clipboard and pen. Suddenly they have your hands employed and you have lost your ability to protect of your pockets. Don't fall for it. Just walk past the heathens with an angry look on your face.
 

kazrobbo

Tassie Kaz
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
CP(2015)
St Olavs Way Norway(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF(2019)
Israel (2020)
Thanks for sharing the article.
I'm so glad I never encountered anyone scamming on the Camino, but I would feel pretty vulnerable if I suddenly saw a group of people approaching and I was alone otherwise. It's really too bad.
One of my ploys to deter unwanted 'encounters' is to carry a good ol' walking pole...they know they have to get past that before they get to you. It's quite an effective barrier.
👣 🌏
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I ran into these folks (or ones like them), three days in a row in 2016, between La Faba and Sarria. They claimed to be deaf and collecting money for a fake deaf institute, but spoke to each other after I blew past them on day 2. On day three, after I'd passed them (with a wave and a cheery 'hi, it's you again'), about 200 metres later, their handlers were following behind them.

The ladies were later arrested (saw picture of one of them in the police car in newspaper) but it's a minor offence and they get released with promise to appear. Their handlers get away clean.

I saw a similar crew in 2017.
 

Anna Cameron

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances sept-oct 2018
Thanks for sharing the article.
I'm so glad I never encountered anyone scamming on the Camino, but I would feel pretty vulnerable if I suddenly saw a group of people approaching and I was alone otherwise. It's really too bad.
Well, I was walking alone, it was raining, outside of Portomarin, when I "encountered " the deaf girl with clipboard- I knew no better and gave €5. This was late Sept 2018. To be honest, I wasn't particularly inclined to donate anything, but she was part of a large group who were blocking the path forward, and I wanted to get away. I did feel cornered but didn't realize it was a scam at first. I became more resistant after that.
 

kazrobbo

Tassie Kaz
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
CP(2015)
St Olavs Way Norway(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF(2019)
Israel (2020)
Well, I was walking alone, it was raining, outside of Portomarin, when I "encountered " the deaf girl with clipboard- I knew no better and gave €5. This was late Sept 2018. To be honest, I wasn't particularly inclined to donate anything, but she was part of a large group who were blocking the path forward, and I wanted to get away. I did feel cornered but didn't realize it was a scam at first. I became more resistant after that.
The scammers take advantage of the fact that people are basically good & want to help others. The problem is when we hear about or fall prey to their scams, we become reluctant to assist when we are next approached, which may be by genuine cases or organisations...& they then don't receive much needed donations. Sadly, it's a lose-lose situation (except for the scammers!) & we can only make our best judgement call at the time. 😔
👣 🌏
 
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RemysMimi

Hooked on the Camino!!
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2018)
Frances or Portuguese (2020)
I remember a group like this last in 2018 when we were there. My friend gave them some coins that she had to one of them and the young woman threw them to the ground.
 

kazrobbo

Tassie Kaz
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
CP(2015)
St Olavs Way Norway(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF(2019)
Israel (2020)
Some of us carry whistles when walking...I suggest we blow them. If the donation-seeker flinches or reacts in any way, they are clearly not deaf. At the very least, they might take a step back allowing an easier escape. If the person is genuinely deaf, it will not impact them at all & I'll happily hand over a few €uros....& pick them up off the ground if they are not wanted! 😁
👣 🌏
 
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t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
Kaz, I recommend not investing the time or effort. This will only agitate them further, and could precipitate overly aggressive or violent behavior.

I advise simply tossing a polite greeting, saying “no gracias,” and KEEP WALKING.

FYI - it is what I have been doing forever... Be polite, but be as assertive as they are, but in reverse.

The key to remaining safe is to keep moving and keep increasing the distance between you and them. Space is safety...

Hope this helps
 

Dani7

Stop wishing, start doing.
Camino(s) past & future
(2020) Camino Frances
Some of us carry whistles when walking...I suggest we blow them. If the donation-seeker flinches or reacts in any way, they are clearly not deaf. At the very least, they might take a step back allowing an easier escape. If the person is genuinely deaf, it will not impact them at all & I'll happily hand over a few €uros....& pick them up off the ground if they are not wanted! 😁
👣 🌏
I tried my new whistle yesterday and nearly blew out my eardrums. Lol. I blew way to hard and made a note to self 😉🤨
 

easygoing

Camino Sharon
Camino(s) past & future
I have walked the Camino Francis 7 times, twice in 2017 and 2018. (2019)
I was just near Barbadelo in mid-September and passed a large group and pilgrims were signing the clipboards and talking to the girls. I announced don't sign-- it is a scam serval times and kept walking. No one bothered me but I hate confrontation and kept moving fast past everyone.
I did not give anyone money. Maybe the girls get punished if they don't meet a quota but if no one gives anything maybe they will give up and start a snack stand😀
 

Jodean

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
22 Sept. to 21 Oct. 2015, Pamplona to Santiago
6-23.04 Porto to Santiago 2018
17.09-30.09 CF 2018
They are in every large city in Europe I think. Was surprised to see them in 2015 outside of Sarria. I just strode firmly past them.
Don't give them any money, it just encourages them, that this is a good way to make money even if they are having to turn it over to their handlers.
 

kazrobbo

Tassie Kaz
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
CP(2015)
St Olavs Way Norway(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF(2019)
Israel (2020)
Kaz, I recommend not investing the time or effort. This will only agitate them further, and could precipitate overly aggressive or violent behavior.

I advise simply tossing a polite greeting, saying “no gracias,” and KEEP WALKING.

FYI - it is what I have been doing forever... Be polite, but be as assertive as they are, but in reverse.

The key to remaining safe is to keep moving and keep increasing the distance between you and them. Space is safety...

Hope this helps
My solution was rather tongue-in-cheek 🤭 😇 @t2andreo but your response is sound advice all the same. I'm fortunate & have not been hassled by anyone on any of my walks anywhere. I did get the ol' 'psst' over the shoulder by a drug dealer in Coimbra on the CP (2015) but a firm, loud 'NO' & he scuttled! 😁
Incidentally, it is actually suggested solo female travellers/walkers carry a whistle...mainly for another type of harassment...or to attract attention if needed.
Some people by nature are not assertive & can be rattled by incidences. Although I've seen others targeted by scammers (in different settings, around the world), I don't seem to be on their radar (long may it continue!). I agree, step forward confidently & determinedly...you're less likely to be targeted if you don't appear vulnerable.
The main thing is, we don't let any of this spoil our amazing journey.
Happy trails.
👣 🌏
 
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t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
I agree with carrying a whistle to summon help in a dire emergency. In fact, many rucksack makers now include them on the sternum strap buckle. Osprey does...others may.

These whistle buckles are also available to add to a rucksack strap, aftermarket.

Heis one type, that includes a replacement sternum strap:

MOOCY Backpack Chest Strap, Adjustable Universal Fit Webbing Sternum Strap Chest Harness with Emergency Whistle Buckle


Here is one, buckle only, that is also an emergency flint & steel fire-starter (way over-kill) on Camino):

10Pcs 3/4" (19mm) Fire Starter Survival Whistle Buckle Flint Scraper for Ourdoor Hiking Camping Backpack Bag


And here are whistle-only replacement buckles:

rwu0 Survival Whistle Buckle Curved Side Release Buckles Survival Kits for Paracord Bracelet/Backpack(Orange)


NOTE: Replacement buckles only are available in different strap sizes and colors.

My search was for “whistle buckle backpack.”

Hope this helps.
 

ijerry

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances late Sept 2016
Last year I saw them actually operating inside the church in Sarria - they have no shame or respect. I warned a couple of pilgrims who looked like they were being taken in by them and they thanked me. There were others near Casanova on the track. I waved them off and kept walking.
 

Jimmy Smith

Jimbob
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2017
O. K. So it turns out that I am totally gullible. We have deafness in the family so I gave. I have thought for quite a while that the poor lass didn't even know any sign language, not uncommon in rural communities.

Hey ho. Live and learn. I didn't miss the ten euros and my hope is, now that I know what was happening, that it saved her from a beating or worse.
 

Shazenalan

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2018
I’ve been mulling this topic for days on and off. I don't have any answers but my thoughts are:

- I often read posts that infer or describe a changed Camino Frances, a kind of Golden Age view, that I take to be something like ‘ more Christian, less touristy’ So I wonder what kind of response to ‘scammers’ these traditional values would lead to?

- Another thought is - why are we shocked that people target a population known ( or thought) to be generous (?) compassionate (?) or easily deceived? I am not justifying aggression or deceit - but its not much different to big business really - just a whole lot less subtle.

- When I was in Marrakesh some years ago, there were aggressive, pushy, and at times intimidating locals trying to sell me something. But their approach was seen from my English cultural norms - and not an objective description that eould hold true for everyone.

On my Camino this year I set out to act with more generosity and curiosity - I deliberately chose to go outside my comfort zone. In a cafe, I was served by a waitress who literally threw my cutlery at the table, and noisily slammed down my plate of food. I was intensely irritated by this. I Finished my meal, and set up a message on my ‘translate app that said ‘thank you for looking after us so well’ and gave her a 5 euro tip. She threw her arms up in the air, her face lit up like a christmas tree, and sge ran joyfully to the kitchen to share what just happened. This gave me great joy - and I saw her then as a probably underpaid, undervalued, young person.

I guess as Ive written this Ive realised I am trying to say something here about each of us being part of the problem, or part of change for others we encounter. My thoughts will continue to mull on how I could respond to a ‘scammer’ in such a way that it’s more in keeping with the spirit of the Camino.

Thanks for reading if you stuck with it thus far. 😊
 

GingerHaddad

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
September (2018)
Aggressive scammers near Barbadelo

La Voz de Galicia has reported that an old scam has resurfaced on the Camino Frances: a group of people asking for donations for a non-existent disability charity. In this case becoming physically threatening and attempting to steal a wallet after a pilgrim refused to give them anything.
I encountered the supposedly “deaf girls” scam in the woods near there last year in September - the ones I encountered were (reference to particular ethnic group deleted) suddenly she could hear and shook her head. I was very upset that a group of Koreans were giving them 20E notes, but I knew better than to interfere and have them come looking for me down the path. It’s sad but I agree, keep a few euros in a pocket hand them over and move on quickly.
 
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Zordmot

First timer Spring 2019
Camino(s) past & future
April-May 2019
Aggressive scammers near Barbadelo

La Voz de Galicia has reported that an old scam has resurfaced on the Camino Frances: a group of people asking for donations for a non-existent disability charity. In this case becoming physically threatening and attempting to steal a wallet after a pilgrim refused to give them anything.
Yeis, I encountered this "lovely" couple last week on a remote section of the Camino Frances. They approach with a piece of paper that shows other pilgrims donating 20 euros. They say " For the disabled! For the disabled! " I declined and the male stepped in front of me and repeated the mantra in my face. I stepped around him and he was already talking to a new target.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
I encountered the supposedly “deaf girls” scam in the woods near there last year in September - the ones I encountered were (ethnic descripion deleted) suddenly she could hear and shook her head. I was very upset that a group of Koreans were giving them 20E notes, but I knew better than to interfere and have them come looking for me down the path. It’s sad but I agree, keep a few euros in a pocket hand them over and move on quickly.
That's really too bad. In Burgos I was having lunch at a restaurant, a sort of commercialized chain establishment. At the table next to where we were three Korean pilgrims sat down for lunch as well. As we were eating I watched through the large plate glass windows an obvious local man ride up on his bicycle, park and step inside. He looked around, spied the Koreans and approached them and made contact. They began a conversation in broken English and at one point he asked to look at their cell phones. I could not take it any longer watching that as I knew some type of theft was going to occur so leaned over and told the Koreans that man is not your friend and only wants to steal from you and you should stop talking to him. They seemed shocked and surprised, the local man gave me the whole if looks could kill routine, stomped off and exited the place and rode off on the bicycle. The Korean pilgrims thanked me and would every time I saw them on the Camino after that.
It really distresses me to see anyone victimized and taken advantage of.
 
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grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
The warning about the fact that scammers of many types exist on the Camino is very important for new members to know. The scam above has been around for many years (on the camino and tourist spots around Europe) and probably will continue as long as it is profitable to the criminals.

However....Please do not express your "opinion" as to the ethnic background of the scammers. It does not matter who they are or where they are from.....they are there and they want to scam you.

SIMPLY BEWARE and walk on past.
 
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RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
I’ve been mulling this topic for days on and off. I don't have any answers but my thoughts are:

- I often read posts that infer or describe a changed Camino Frances, a kind of Golden Age view, that I take to be something like ‘ more Christian, less touristy’ So I wonder what kind of response to ‘scammers’ these traditional values would lead to?

- Another thought is - why are we shocked that people target a population known ( or thought) to be generous (?) compassionate (?) or easily deceived? I am not justifying aggression or deceit - but its not much different to big business really - just a whole lot less subtle.

- When I was in Marrakesh some years ago, there were aggressive, pushy, and at times intimidating locals trying to sell me something. But their approach was seen from my English cultural norms - and not an objective description that eould hold true for everyone.

On my Camino this year I set out to act with more generosity and curiosity - I deliberately chose to go outside my comfort zone. In a cafe, I was served by a waitress who literally threw my cutlery at the table, and noisily slammed down my plate of food. I was intensely irritated by this. I Finished my meal, and set up a message on my ‘translate app that said ‘thank you for looking after us so well’ and gave her a 5 euro tip. She threw her arms up in the air, her face lit up like a christmas tree, and sge ran joyfully to the kitchen to share what just happened. This gave me great joy - and I saw her then as a probably underpaid, undervalued, young person.

I guess as Ive written this Ive realised I am trying to say something here about each of us being part of the problem, or part of change for others we encounter. My thoughts will continue to mull on how I could respond to a ‘scammer’ in such a way that it’s more in keeping with the spirit of the Camino.

Thanks for reading if you stuck with it thus far. 😊
Good luck with that. Seriously. Just make sure you keep one hand on your wallet/bag/purse/whatever of valuables while you are making your response, and do not keep your back to any of them.
;)
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
It’s a kindness to pass on knowledge to fellow pilgrims who are unfamiliar with these scams. What they do with the knowledge is up to them.
I don’t like to contribute if my money is doing more harm than good. Which is often the case for those pan-handlers or beggars, when the money collected is going to a wealthy person controlling them behind the scenes. Sometimes those collecting are no more than slaves, forced to “work” in the worst of conditions. People who are mentally ill, or otherwise dependant or manipulated. It’s sometimes hard to tell what is going on. When in doubt I will try to do something that does not involve money - buy the person a meal, or some clothing, or organise a visit from one of the local outreach services. Sometimes a simple conversation, looking the person in the eye, and being truly interested in what they have to say, is the best donation.
 

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