Single Male robberies continue in Istanbul. This one has the twist of a taxi ride, which makes it more difficult to escape. I received the first message in November 2013, and the second—same perpetrators, same robbery location—in April 2014:
“I was overnighting in Istanbul in October 2013 before my flight home the following day.
“I had spent the day out sightseeing and returned to my hotel about 8.15pm. I walked up to the nearby Taksim area about 9.30pm to have a look around and get dinner.
“I walked around the area for probably 40minutes looking for suitable restaurants, I walked up Istiklal Street to Taksim square where at about. 10pm I was approached by a well-dressed man looking for a light, I said I didn’t have one and he then asked where I was from. I think his name was Adnan, he said he and his colleague were on business from Cyprus and they both worked with a furniture company. They spoke excellent English.
“I was walking back towards Istiklal when asked if I had eaten as they were going to get a beer and a bite to eat if I wanted to join them. They had been given the recommendation of a restaurant/bar which was apparently around the corner. Famished and having been away for the whole week on my own I agreed as I was glad of the company and opportunity of a having a few beers.
“The restaurant wasn’t too far, we sat at an elevated table with bar stools outside. I do remember the placemats as the picture was of the ‘Maidens Tower’ in the harbor which I had seen that afternoon.
“We had a very pleasant time over the course of an hour or more, drinking, eating and chatting. The smaller of the two went to the toilet and when he returned announced that he had settled the bill and we should go take a drink at a bar nearby he had also been recommended. I was annoyed he paid but felt obliged to go along so I could get the next round. At this point we were all in good spirits and having a great time and the initial restaurant/bar recommendation they were given was a good one so why not have a look I thought.
“It was now approximately 11:40. As it turned out the bar was a ‘short’ taxi ride away we spent approx. 20mins in a taxi and pulled up at a restaurant/club which I now know to be Civani Café and Restaurant in Zeytinburu near Ataturk Airport. (tel +90 212 416 73 39) http://civanirestaurantbar.com/.
“We got out of the taxi and I thought it didn’t feel right, a club over an empty restaurant? I said that I didn’t like the look of it and was leaving, however it was said that we were there now so may as well have a drink and leave it we didn’t like it.
“I have no idea why I agreed to go in but I did. We were shown upstairs to a circular booth where we sat down. Before long there were drinks being ordered and not long after 3 girls appeared looking to sit with us, so now more drinks were ordered. At this point i was very uneasy, there was no ‘drinks menu’ and I said that this was a bit iffy and we should leave, I was reassured that everything was fine and we would only stay for a couple of drinks and be splitting the bill anyway.
“Against my better judgment I didn’t leave then, more drinks were ordered and small side plates of cheese/tomatoes/cucumber/nuts arrived without being requested.
“At approximately 1:30 I went to the toilet downstairs and when I got back to the table one guy was looking all worried and waving a bill he said he was given. The bill had a few entries on it I couldn’t understand and totaled 6.600 TL (€2600). Adnan said that he would split the bill with me. I simply said that it was ridiculous and I wasn’t going to pay that.
“We were then both marched downstairs by the Owner/Manager (Adnan’s colleague disappeared at this point) and bundled into the back of a car and driven to a nearby outdoor ATM. At this point i was feeling very intimidated and was in a state of disbelief and shock. It became very clear to me then that it was all a scam and I was the only one not in on it.
“Adnan was escorted to the ATM first where he withdrew a large sum of cash and gave it to the Owner/Manager. I was then escorted and when a couple of transactions for 1000 TRY were denied I was ‘assisted’ by the Owner/Manager In securing 800 TRY from the ATM – my banks daily limit.
“After ‘assisting’ me withdraw the 800 TL, the Owner/Manager then went through my wallet to find my American Express card so he said he would take the balance back and his restaurant/club. We were driven back to the restaurant and escorted down the back of the restaurant where I ‘would pay’ the remaining 2700 TRYbalance. At this point there were other guys behind me blocking the exit so terrified I had little option but to do what I was told. I don’t recall getting any form of ‘receipt’ for the so called transaction either.
“At this point I put on my jacket and left as fast as I could. I went outside hailed a taxi and returned to the hotel. I didn’t have any money to pay the taxi so put it on my hotel bill.
“Panicked I didn’t know what to do so I called my card issuers and reported all cards stolen as I considered them compromised. I also hoped that this would stop any suspicious transaction approval.
“The following morning I asked the Hotel front desk to get the police, they said that I would have to go to them but as this stage I only had a few hours to my flight so it was suggested I go to the police at the Airport. I did this and spoke to a plain clothes officer at the entrance to the station. He said because the event occurred in Taksim he was unable to help me as it wasn’t his jurisdiction. (In hindsight perhaps he could have helped me as the transactions took place in Zeytinburu which is quite near the airport).
“It appears that reporting the cards stolen did not help as not only did they get the 800TRY in cash at the ATM, they successfully relieved me of 2700TL from my American Express Card. I cannot believe I was so stupid not to see this for what it was and wish I had read this articlebefore I travelled.
“On my return I contacted the Police in Taksim who repeatedly slammed the phone down on me on requesting to speak to someone in English. I have been in contact with my embassy who also contacted the Police on my behalf. Simply put, the police don’t care. And If I want to get a police report Ill have to do this in person.
“I also contacted both my card issuers and relayed the above account of events to them. To their credit and my amazement they have refunded the amounts less a small excess.
“The police in Taksim are very aware of this scam, it’s a shame they are not prepared to do anything about it as its certainly destroyed my Istanbul experience which had up until then been a very positive one.”
[TB: the writer of this message prefers to remain anonymous. My opinion is that the writer did the right thing by reporting the criminal activity to the credit card company so they can be alerted to any establishment that participates in such activity. The card company may initiate its own investigation and then take measures against the establishment.]
[Then, in early April 2014, I received this from a South African doctor:]
“I tried to post this on your website but couldnt”
“Basically I am in Istanbul on my own at a conference. I don’t know anyone else here, but had 2 great dinners at restaurants near my hotel at Taksum square.
“On the 3rd night I had exactly the same experience as the person in scam #8
“Same guy, Adnan
“Same story, he’ thought; I was Turkish, I relaxed as he walked aside me, and we had a nice chat. He suggested we have a drink, or something to eat. He pointed at a large closed building, but I chose an open place. I was enjoying myself now, and chose a good wine, as well as fantastic meal. In retrospect I did notice him looking disturbed a bit, as his ploy is to offer to pay, and he had to pay more now!
“He just had a drink
“We ended up at the same place, Civani, going there by taxi
“The rest of the story is the same, I basically got robbed, had to get money from an ATM, then they took more off my card (which I am now disputing with my bank!)
“Its not cool, the last 2 days I have been holed up in my room
“Last year we went to Spain, someone hacked into my credit card
“South Africa is MUCH safer and you do not get ripped off like this!”