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The Mustard Scam

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Deleted member 3000

"Great Mustard Scam" going on again. This scam is not new to the Camino nor to any tourist destination in the world. It is widely used in Europe, Las Vegas and maybe even your local country fair. What happens? The scam is this; someone squirts mustard or some awful goop on you and then points it out to you and offers to help clean it off. Normally two people are involved in the scam. Sometimes they clean you right on the spot but most often they will try to take you to a bathroom where they clean you up and clean you out of your money. Most times they get the wallet out, the money out and/or credit cards and the wallet back into your purse or pocket before you even notice it is gone. And geez...they seemed like such nice people! Pilgrims are excellent targets because they are on a journey of trust, and are known to have money and cameras.

Heads up! Never accept help for getting cleaned up. Do not be afraid of being rude by being quite firm in your refusal. State it at the top of your lungs if it seems appropriate! If you are in a store walk directly to the service desk, ask for a manager and point out the "helpers" if they have not already run out the door. Check your pockets, wallet/purse right away. If you are out on the street go to the nearest shop or store after you told them you do not want their "help".

Spread your valuables around your person and pack, so that if someone gets a wallet, they do not also get credit cards, passport, etc.
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Interesting ... what a shame such people exist (or exist like that I mean) - I knew a chap once who had a second wallet. It had a few cards in it ... not real ones - taxi adverts, etc, and a £5 note. The £5 was put in so that a corner of it peeked out. When walking around strange areas or out at night he would keep it handy.

The idea being that if someone tried to mug him he would throw the wallet on the ground and run away - the mugger would stop at the wallet. I don't know if it worked as he never had to do it - but it seemed a neat idea.
Certainly keeping a separate and hidden back-up stash of money and a card is a good thing, so that should you be robbed you would still have other money.

what a world! :?


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SJPP-SDC (2009) Somport-Jaca, Burgos-SDC, Cee-Muxia (2012) Le Puy - Aumont-Aubrac (2014) SJPP-SDC (Oct 2015)
A timely warning from falcon269, they have also been working this one recently in Australia.
They have been particularly targeting people using banking facilities. So be careful after withdrawals from ATMs, as they've probably seen were you stowed the money.
As falcon269 mentioned they use mustard, sauce, coffee, then "flood" you with apologies and offers to help you clean up. So beware, they can be very good at what they do. Although they often try to lure you to a washroom, recently they took a large sum of money by using this tactic inside a bank. They began "assisting" the person while still inside, in the confusion they create, they end up holding the money. I know, you wouldn't think it could happen, but it is based on the level of confusion and disorientation they create.


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Re: The Mustard Scam and More!

The ATM Scam

You go up to the ATM insert your card and nothing happens.

You press all the buttons but the card remains in the slot.

A person approaches, asks if you're having a problem and, once you tell your story...they say...

"OH, that's happened to me's what you do." (or a variation):

enter your PIN three times in succession...hitting the enter key three times.

Of course, the card doesn't come out. OOPS, sorry.

When you walk away, the person removes your card from the slot.

How so?

Prior to your arrival they put a piece of film in the slot to capture your card...removing the film and your card...they now have your PIN because they watched you enter it three times.

If you look closely at the slot when your card initially remains can see the film. Just pull your card out and be aware that the scam artist is watching you.


Crikey! - I can't tell you how naive I feel about these scams - never occurred to me that they would be this, what? closely interactive ? with their victims?
talk about smiling hyenas ...

any more of these?
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William Marques

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One scam to look out for is when you are sitting at a cafe and a stranger comes along with a map and opens it at the table and asks you for directions. Of course you do not know the way and say sorry and he goes but by then he or his accomplice has taken your phone, camera or whatever you left on the table from under the map.


Nunca se camina solo
The area around Sol in Madrid is well known for pickpockets and scammers. I was nearly caught a couple of years ago when a "street magician" shook the bootom of my trousers and magically coins appeared. My gaze naturally followed as he collected them at which point I was aware that another person from behind was trying to lift my wallet. The wallet is now only kept in a zipped pocket!


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the latest issue in safety is in the ATM or cashpoints.

Beware of children, yes, children, mostly romanian, who will try to steal the money as it comes out of the ATM. There are two ways

1) a child throws a note (usually 20 euro) on the ground and tells you that you have dropped it by accident. As you bend over to pick it up, another child takes the money out of the ATM and runs
2) A child spits on your face/eyes. Your reflection is, of course, to wipe it off inmediately, leaving them enough time to pick the money from the slot and run like hell

This is fairly common in the center of Madrid, but I would not rule it out in other big cities, in a small town, you should not have any problem, in any case, just keep an eye for idle looking people or children nearby when you want to get cash.

This said, such a thing never ever happened to me, but those things can happen.


Staff member
Hard as I try, I can never maintain that suspicious eagle eye. I always lapse into complacency, and just recently almost suffered the consequences. We were on the Madrid metro, which I have used for years, and it was a busy rush hour time. Next to me was a man with his coat draped over his arm and sort of leaning very lightly into my middle. DUH. But I still didn't make the connection, until I felt a very very slight zzzzzipppp in my purse area. Luckily I had nothing of value in my purse but had put everything into a pouch around my neck just for the metro trip.

For me, the best way of dealing with the problem is to realize that I am just not going to remember to be vigilant all the time and make sure there is nothing in a pocket or purse. If it's all under your shirt in a pouch, you can relax, at least insofar as the "average" nonviolent pickpocket goes. I think the odds are much less on the Camino, but there are crooks everywhere and taking precautions is more appealing than becoming paranoid, IMO.
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Frances 2009, Portuguese 2012
Frances 2016, (Frances 2019)
This was posted on Rick Steve's site

ATM Debit Card Scam!!!
Everyone says using the debit card is the best way to travel! Once in Florence and twice in Venice. To my astonishment, I had 5 ATM withdrawals in Timisoara, Romania! Three on the day I had flown to NY, and two large ones on the same day traveling to Oregon last night. Total loss of $1500. I didn't even go to Romania! The first two withdrawals that I made went without a hitch, but I recalled trying to use the ATM across from Bepe's (Rick Steves recommended restaurant) in Venice...sitting at Bepe's for lunch, I watched a man trying the ATM machine shortly after I did. He was there about a minute and I was wondering if he was having any luck! Finishing lunch, we walked by the machine and I noticed that the card slot was now illuminated with green lights (I recalled later that it was light grey on my previous attempt). Not even thinking, I figured that it had been repaired from inside the bank...great, it worked! Idiot!!! I had sat watching the thief make off with my debit card information not even suspecting it!

These thieves are getting very sophisticated! This device is fabricated to fit over and look just like a card slot, but the ATM will reject it because it actually blocks the actual machine code reader, arrow and all!!!

My advice... 1. look for the card slot to be illuminated. 2. If your card had worked before, but not when you try, take a real close look at the machine.

This can ruin a real nice vacation quickly!!! Then you get to try to resolve it from the states, and file a crime report....when all you really want to do is look at your pictures and reminisce about the great vacation.....!


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This is all good advice. But on the Camino you are mostly in small towns and villages where there aren't the crowds and chaos that facilitate pickpocketing and scams. Mostly you will go to the 'Cajero Automatico' in the town square and there will just be a snoozing dog under a tree for company. Not being able to find an ATM is a bigger problem! Even in the big cities, normal precautions will suffice.


New Member
Hello guys,

I am from Romania and I plan taking the Camino this year.

Related to the scams and the romanians, I can tell you that most of those romanian children are actually gipsy or roma children - although with romanian citizenship.

The ATM scam is a classic one but here are a few tips to make sure you will not loose your money.

1. Make sure that when you go to the ATM you are alone or with someone familiar, a friend or someone you know.
2. If after you arrive at the ATM someone else will come near you, then cancel your operations and leave.
3. Before inserting the card into the ATM pull the plastic thing where you insert the card just to make sure is not "temporary" put there just to read your card.
4. Make sure that the ATM has no small cameras pointed at the keyboard where you insert your PIN. Those cameras are not the "official" ones.
5. Pay attention and if something seems weird near an ATM, then for sure it is.


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The pinpoint camera thing is a popular one as it's not as readily noticed as the fake card slot. My daughter who is far away from home just had her number and pin stolen by a camera of this type. When the bank invesigated, they found that the camera was disguised as an envelope holder and had two little holes - one pointed at the screen and one at the keypad. A large sum of money was immediately charged to her card. Now she is having trouble with her bank as they say she must have given someone her pin number!! So I'm not sure what kind of inspection would reveal this scam, but I would be very suspicious of any ATM at all . . . .

I won't name the country because apparently they are everywhere...


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