I received this report in April 2016 along with many others.
One of my friends from the US came to visit for this week, and he’s still here. When we met for breakfast this morning he started to tell me how he got robbed of $1,000, and I knew your website well enough that I stopped him at the first few sentences and told him it was a scam I had read about.
He was in Sultanahmet Square last night around midnight looking for a place to grab dinner, got stopped by a well-dressed Turk “from Ankara” around his hotel that first asked him for a light in Turkish because he “thought” he was Turkish. He said he was an “engineer” in the oil/petroleum business or something like that and spoke English really well. After speaking a lot to him and getting friendly, he said his cousin was about to pick him up to grab dinner, too. The car pulled up near the Sultanahmet tramvay station just as they reached that area.
My friend also went to a nightclub down in a basement like the 14th story that also had a back room/office, but thankfully he wasn’t roughed up or anything. He was just taken there and asked to pay, which he did because he felt intimidated by the manager. He was in a foreign country that speaks a language he doesn’t know and was surrounded by strangers, so I don’t blame him. The bill was something like 8,000-10,000 TL for the two or so hours he spent there. The other men ordered drinks and girls, but he just ordered dinner because he doesn’t drink. The men then said that they split their bills in Turkey, so everyone would pay 1/3. He protested because he only ordered dinner, but then the manager and bouncers intimidated him.
First they took the 250 TL he had in his pocket. Then they took him to a nearby ATM and pulled out what we estimated was 2,800 TL based on his online banking statement, which showed ~$995. They did give him 100 TL back that night and paid for a taxi to take him home, which he also suspected worked for them since it was waiting outside, so he told the taxi to take him to another hotel instead of his own in Sultanahmet. Looking back, he thought it might have been better to tell them a more general area. Anyways, it’s the same exact story mentioned on your website several times. I wish I could’ve somehow stopped what happened to him, but he didn’t know. He did see some red flags, but it was a difficult situation. Hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it?
I went with my friend to look for the place based on the landmarks, and I recorded the exact relevant address. He doesn’t drink so we were able to backtrack and, after some time, he remembered where it was and even found the exact same ATM used. Others have reportedly done so, too. In fact, it seems well-known enough for the authorities and even the “translator” in the 14th story.
[I’ve removed the name and address of the nightclub because I have not confirmed this information and, in fact, the venues for this sort of robbery can change often. The venues may offer legitimate services if you are not taken there by robbers. I don’t know. The point is to not go with people you don’t know, particularly if you must ride in a vehicle.—TB]
We also went to the local police department that is responsible for the jurisdiction in which this night club is located after walking for hours and being given wrong directions by many people. There are many police stations, even an old one no longer in use, and only until one police officer at another station phoned the station below did we find the correct one willing to hear my friend’s story.
Once we got in, the police officer, who dealt with us, Ahmet, was typical in that he spoke about other things until allowing us to get to the point. I then asked about filing the police report since my friend had called his bank, which asked for it. He glanced at the name and address of the club then went back to talking about how night clubs are dangerous and that it’s a club and not a restaurant. He even questioned whether my friend really bought kebap and chicken because they don’t serve those in clubs. I don’t know if he was trying to get us to just leave the case alone (you know, the whole “yarın gel” attitude so he wouldn’t have to write a report) or if he genuinely thought my friend was lying. He asked if the problem would be solved if my friend got his money back. My friend said yes. The officer then said we would be going there at 5 PM today, “ekiple.” I understood that this meant a group of officer with police cars, vests, guns, and all.
We were nervous about the situation since it’s not normal to do so in the US, so we called the Istanbul Consulate [US Consulate-General]. The gentleman who answered the phone said we should follow the officer’s orders because this is normal in Turkey. One of the stories indicates a similar experience resulted in all or most of the money being returned. However, to our surprise, when we got back to the station at 5 PM, the manager of the club showed up. He had a video of my friend in the night club on his phone and showed it to him, which he said was proof. Regardless, that didn’t explain the exorbitant price.
They negotiated the amount to around 1,800 TL but then the club’s owner came to the station and said he would only give him 1,500 TL back (half of the amount taken) because he’s a tourist and felt bad for him. He can either accept it or he can write a police report then they take the case to court, which take months to even be heard. I guess my friend reasoned that 1,500 TL is better than nothing. Plus, being confronted with the criminals who robbed you less than 24 hours ago is an uncomfortable experience, to say the least.
The police officer didn’t seem to help because he said they can either agree on an amount then and there or he writes a police report. He suggested agreeing to it to solve things then and there. Maybe three other officers in total came around through our time there and advised against going to a night club, why he didn’t just get dinner elsewhere, that Osmanbey is far from Sultanahmet, etc. I just let them talk and translated as my role there was a translator and advocate for my friend’s situation. However, their comments obviously weren’t helpful since what happened already happened. My friend reluctantly agreed to the 1,500 TL, the officer continuing to press him if he’s really okay with that amount or not. Then it was over.
The officer didn’t detain the men, seemed like he knew him (How else did he call them over after only quickly glancing at the name and address?), and spoke to them using “siz,” which I found a very strange way to address criminals. Another handcuffed man down the hall was being yelled at and spoken to informally in the “sen” form. Maybe the police were in on it, but I’m not sure. My friend thinks so.
He also said that one of his friends’ friends experienced something similar when he came to Istanbul as well, but he was roughed up, so it continues to happen until this day. One potentially positive thing is that the manager emphasized that my friend was not beaten or even hit once while he had a big smile on his face. Maybe these crooks have become less violent or maybe this was an exception. I’m really glad he wasn’t hurt or killed. Money is replaceable, and my friend was lucky because it could’ve been worse.
Thanks for the awesome website and continuing to provide helpful information for travelers to this wonderful country.