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WARNING - Theft or Scam?

Houlet

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2014
Via de la Plata 2015
Camino Sanabres 2015
Camino Norde 2017
#1
I would like to warn fellow pilgrims about potential theft or possibly an attempted scam in an albergue in Navarette last week.

In short I shared an eight bed room with another pilgrim who went for a shower before I did in the morning. This man then produced his wallet, which still contained credit cards and accused me of stealing 400 Euros from him. After the initial shock, and then extreme anger, I insisted in calling the police. He then suggested that if I gave him back the money there would be no need for the police. Hmm!

However I did call the police and when they came he suddenly remembered seing another man with dark hair in the room. Hmm!

The Spanish police were very good, neither spoke English, and they even complimented my very bad Spanish :)

Anyway I'm not sure they believed the other man, they told me that I was never a suspect, and I left without having to visit a Spanish jail. :) He left with them to make a statement at the police station.

IMHO there are only two possibilities, firstly the other man was a fool, leaving a large sum of money unattended in a rucksack and he was actually robbed, or secondly he was a scammer, hoping to take advantage of someone who did not want the problems of involving the police.

Either way a crime was committed so beware!
 

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kirkie

Pilgrim
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
#2
Well done, Houlet. Did the man know who he was dealing with? He does now, and fair play for alerting others. It makes you think: are you safe even from yourself? !!! That question gets writ larger as years work their havoc on the relevant sections of the brain! Thankfully, you came out unscathed. Buen camino
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2017
#5
I vote for scam as well... It sounds too well rehearsed. Most all pilgrims KNOW not to leave valuables on their bunk or in their rucksack when using the shower. It reads like a classic setup.

All, be aware, be careful, keep your valuables close.
 

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RJM

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#9
Good job thwarting that attempt of conning you out of money. Unfortunately I am sure that fellow has used that con successfully before, otherwise he would not keep doing it. I only hope his future attempts at thieving are met with the same response.
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Camino frances 2013 - Camino Portugues 2014 - Camino frances 2016
#11
Well we do have to be careful out there. Still remember an episode finding a small bag on a bench outside the bathroom in an albergue. I recognised it immediately as my travel companions moneybag containing her money, passport, pilgrimspass and so on.
 
#12
I wonder about this scam. The scammer accuses a fellow pilgrim of stealing his money, the fellow pilgrim denies having stolen the money, so the scammer says that if the fellow pilgrims gives the money back, they won't need to involve the police. Fine. But the fellow pilgrim did not steal the money. There is no money to give back. Where does the scam go from there? Wouldn't most people just say something like "I'm sorry your money was stolen, I didn't take it, you should contact the police." and leave it at that?
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Future (God-willing): Madrid, Salvador, Primitivo (2018)
#13
@november_moon my guess is that this "scammer" has discovered that not all people will react how you (or I or the OP) would and that sometimes he can get an easy $400. Suggesting the pilgrim front up with the money is unusual and is probably what raises suspicions about ulterior motives.
Even the immediate accusation of theft rather than asking if the OP had seen anyone come in or looking for some other explanation is a bit weird to me (but maybe some people really are that confrontational). It's the asking for money after theft has been denied that reeks of something not quite right.
If, on the other hand, it was a genuine loss, then reporting to the police is in his interests.
 

RJM

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#14
Criminals profile potential victims. They do have a method to their madness. Age, gender, nationality, solo or in a group (my guess is that they prefer solo pilgrims) etc. This particular one may have preset characteristics in his choosing and the OP fit some of them, but it went to heck when the OP "fought back".
Certainly no real victim of a theft of 400 euros plays "let's make a deal" with the first person he sees.
 

Houlet

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2014
Via de la Plata 2015
Camino Sanabres 2015
Camino Norde 2017
#15
Re Profiling, I am the OP and am 70 years of age, I am guessing the other person was in his mid thirties, much younger, fitter and stroger than I am. OK I am a stubborn B who does not know when he is beaten but that is not an obvious characteristic.

My view is that a shy, nervous person of my age, particularly a lone woman, in a foreign country, may well have reacted differently.
 

RJM

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#16
Re Profiling, I am the OP and am 70 years of age, I am guessing the other person was in his mid thirties, much younger, fitter and stroger than I am. OK I am a stubborn B who does not know when he is beaten but that is not an obvious characteristic.

My view is that a shy, nervous person of my age, particularly a lone woman, in a foreign country, may well have reacted differently.
Based on your account, and that the "suspect" left with the police to make a statement, my guess is that he was Spanish? Not trying to be offensive to anyone when I make that assumption, but it would make sense. A local petty conman who does that "missing euro" routine on foreigners, some of whom may come from countries where dealing with the police can be dodgy. They do not have 400 euros, and are frightened and show the conman they only have say, 75 euros on them. The conman never really expected to get 400 euros in the first place. He just has that amount as a foundation of sorts. Conman agrees to the 75 euros and disappears (thus the reason for committing the con in the morning, not the night before). The poor victim is happy that they did not have to speak with a copper. All they want to do is walk the Camino in peace. The conman is 75 euros richer from a small investment of the price of an albergue for the night.
 

jsalt

Jill
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portugués, Francés, Le Puy, Rota Vicentina, De Soulac, Norte, Madrid-Salv-Primitivo
#18
As an older woman, with little Spanish, who has often shared an albergue with a single (often Spanish) man, if this IS a scam, it’s a bit worrying. If the police were called in, I would also strongly deny having committed theft, but from now I shall be making sure that my ATM deposit slips stay with any cash withdrawals I make, so I can prove where the cash came from.
Jill
 

RJM

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#19
As an older woman, with little Spanish, who has often shared an albergue with a single (often Spanish) man, if this IS a scam, it’s a bit worrying. If the police were called in, I would also strongly deny having committed theft, but from now I shall be making sure that my ATM deposit slips stay with any cash withdrawals I make, so I can prove where the cash came from.
Jill
It's always a good idea to keep your withdrawal slips, anyway. I do so I can later compare them with my statements.
In regards to the con, I'm not sure how well it would work, but a potential victim could always just simply ignore the conman, and get their things and walk off, continuing their Camino. Nobody in that situation has an obligation to remain at the albergue. Highly doubtful a criminal is willing to take it any further than the albergue.
 
#20
jaslt - I wouldn't worry too much about it. The chances of this happening to you are very slim. And if it does happen, just ignore the scammer like you would with anyone trying to run a scam. Even if the police do come (and no scammer wants to talk to the police anyway) no one is going to investigate it so thoroughly as to check your cash against ATM receipts.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino France's (2016) Portuguese 2017
#21
Look with vast numbers now walking the Camino there are bound to be a few scammers. The deaf girls collecting for a new school has been going on for years
Just take exactly the same precautions as in a big city. It’s a shame you must and on the Camino you hope for the best of human nature but sadly where there are crowds there are crooks.
 

Stivandrer

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
I´ve got Camino plans until 2042,
- or till I fall flat on my face, whichever comes first !!
#22
I go for the intimidation effect, too... Scammers have no shame..
Use the voice. We all have have the power to protest, if not but to get the attention of others in the room. If you feel targeted and vulnarable, other eyes will find the truth..
"What !!" - react before you get stunned !!
Use volume !
 

RJM

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#23
Crooks on the Camino is as old as the Camino itself. I have never walked it expecting a Utopian type vibe or energy, nor did I think criminals would give it wide berth because of the religious or spiritual aspects of it. They are hungry for whatever their poison is and know there are easy victims walking the path. They have always known that.
I think these type threads on this forum are far more important than any of the others. Sure, debating shoe or pack brands is okay, or what the best soap or toothpaste to bring, but even if alerting future pilgrims of scams and thieving prevents just one from being victimized, it is worth it. Especially when the crimes go beyond a loss of property.
 

david g

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
camino frances/finistere sept 2012
Frances May 2015
Aragones/Portugese May 2016
Primitivo July 2017
#24
this sounds like a new twist on an old scam. In that one a wallet is left in a conspicuous place and when you pick it up the 'owner' arrives, thanks you for finding it and insists on rewarding you with a drink. He then leaves the wallet on the bar when he leaves for a moment (restroom) and upon his return claims that you've stolen money from it. At the mention of involving police most tourists get frazzled(scammers count on this) and give in to the demand (the scammer will usually settle for less than the original amount). Good for you for calling the police yourself and standing firm.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (17 May-26 June 2015)
Camino Francés (14 May-06 July 2017)
#25
I would like to warn fellow pilgrims about potential theft or possibly an attempted scam in an albergue in Navarette last week.

In short I shared an eight bed room with another pilgrim who went for a shower before I did in the morning. This man then produced his wallet, which still contained credit cards and accused me of stealing 400 Euros from him. After the initial shock, and then extreme anger, I insisted in calling the police. He then suggested that if I gave him back the money there would be no need for the police. Hmm!

However I did call the police and when they came he suddenly remembered seing another man with dark hair in the room. Hmm!

The Spanish police were very good, neither spoke English, and they even complimented my very bad Spanish :)

Anyway I'm not sure they believed the other man, they told me that I was never a suspect, and I left without having to visit a Spanish jail. :) He left with them to make a statement at the police station.

IMHO there are only two possibilities, firstly the other man was a fool, leaving a large sum of money unattended in a rucksack and he was actually robbed, or secondly he was a scammer, hoping to take advantage of someone who did not want the problems of involving the police.

Either way a crime was committed so beware!
Here’s s kind of similar story. Last Sunday in Avilés, I went to an ATM in Avilés to withdraw €130. As I went to put my card into the slot, I noticed that another card had been left there. I took the card out, looked around and saw no one, and proceeded to make my withdrawl. Just as the bills came out, an older, slightly dishelved man came up behind me and said it was his card. I asked him for ID, which he gladly showed me. I told him I was an honest person and had intended to wait around for a few minutes before dropping it in the “correspondencia” slot under the ATM. As he walked away, I noticed my money had vanished from the slot. OMG! I nearly had a heart attack. THAT GUY PULLED A FAST ONE ON ME, I immediately thought. I started following him, I took his picture, etc. He was very calm, didn’t ask me why I was following him or anything. Cool as a cucumber. So I dialed 112 as I followed, told them my story and suspicions. Very quickly two cars were on the scene. They walked us to the station, searched him, and found no money. It was then one of the officers said that if money is left in the slot too long the machine takes it back. I was practically in tears trying to apologize to this poor man who I was sure had scammed me. We parted friends, but I was devastated and still am. I sent a letter to the police station via the town hall e-mail address. I want to get a €50 gift card from Corte Inglés for him and hopefully be able to get it to him through some intermediary. Town Hall has not, as yet, acknowledged receipt of my request. So, moral of the story, If money vanishes from an ATM in front of your eyes, it may NOT be a scam. Yes, the bank verified on Monday afternoon that my money hsd been “eaten.” But they can’t just hand it over. MY bank has to file s claim.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
#26
Here’s s kind of similar story.
Very interesting and embarrassing! Thanks for pointing this out, though, about the money being pulled back in! I didn't know that.
 

zimmecp

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Summer 2017
#28
This is a common scam in other places in Europe. (Historically, Eastern Europe)... I've even read about it in guide books. Way to go on following your instincts. I've found when being accused of something I clearly did not do (and seems outrageous)...when the scammer wants to call the cops...saying yes definitely let's call the cops...works wonders!
 

RJM

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#29
The best thing (to the thieves) about committing a scam like this on the Frances at one of the busier towns/albergues is that they do not really have to leave the area everyday as a new batch of victims arrives daily. The thieves may be working as a group, taking turns. They may even be family members. They take turns at an albergue so as to not arouse suspicion of having the same pilgrim staying multiple nights in the same area.
 

jeffnd

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
March/April 2014
#30
They do not have 400 euros, and are frightened and show the conman they only have say, 75 euros on them.
I think that's what the scammer is doing, trying to see how much YOU are carrying.
Scammer: You stole my money! I had 400 euros!
Pilgrim: No I didn't! Look, here's my wallet! All I have is fifty! Here, let's go through my whole bag and I'll prove it!

As the scammer is going through your bag, they are taking mental notes of all your stuff and where you keep it. Wallet in the left pocket, nice cellphone, nice camera, etc. After they are "satisfied" you didn't steal the money, they call their buddy in the next town to tell them to look out for the pilgrim with the red backpack, could be a good score.
 

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