Single Male robberies continue in Istanbul. I received this one in late January 2014 from a South Asian traveler. He has given me permission to post his story, but he wishes to remain anonymous.
After the robbery, he got no help from the local police:
“I saw your post on the scam too late 🙁 I had a very similar experience tonight.
“I was not very far from Taksim; walking around when a guy approached me and struck up a conversation. His english wasn’t very good and he couldn’t answer my questions so he called a ‘friend’. This guys english was decent though not good.
“They told me they know an area only five minutes away that has a great club. They hailed a cab and asked me to get in. I was reluctant but somehow I agreed. The ride took 10 minutes. We reached an area right next to Taksim called Tarla Bashe I think (sounded like that). [Tarlabaşı, TAHR-lah-bah-shuh—TB]
“It was a crowded area and I felt safe. These guys turned a corner and suddenly walked up a desolate stretch. I voiced my discomfort but the Turkish guy was super sweet and said there is no need to worry; the club is crowded. When we reached upstairs, there were 3 guys and a lady there in an otherwise empty room. This seemed like a ‘drink and pay a fortune’ scam, which I had heard of. I refused to drink anything and said I am leaving.
“One of the guys pushed me back and the other menacingly gestured with his fist. No weapons were pulled out but I was sure that they must have knives at the very least; guns quite likely. I had refused the drinks but they immediately presented a bill of 560 TLR. I said I have to book my ticket home and don’t have the money to give them; this wasn’t true but I tried. They searched my wallet and said they were taking the billed 560 TLR though actually they took 700 TLR. Oddly they left 100 TLR in the wallet for me. I had taken the precaution of leaving my credit and debit cards in the hotel safe so they couldn’t find those.
“The main guy walked back with me to Taksim and asked me to get into a cab. I refused and said I will go wherever (I could see that he was uncomfortable in the crowded street). He vanished. I still couldn’t believe that this chap who had been so sweet till we reached inside had suddenly become so aggressive inside.
“I asked for directions and reached the Taksim police station. Two policemen on duty couldn’t understand what I was saying and kept saying ‘translator’. I couldn’t find one whose english was good enough and who would agree to speak with the police. It seemed like one of the cops understood me but was making up this whole ‘translator’ crap. I asked a shopkeeper nearby and he told me this happens all the time; this scam is an old one and the cops are either in it or don’t care.
“The way I see it; this isn’t a scam – its open robbery in the center of Turkeys capital – Taksim. Turkey has otherwise been a nice experience for me. However, the knowledge that the cops here choose not to try and understand you is a bit unnerving. Police stations should at least have access to people who can translate from English to Turkish.
“I am from India and was later told that a number of people from South Asia are victims of this scam also. As a south asian I would have expected better from a country that is keen on joining the EU. The Turkish police seem to be as casual as their south asian counter parts.
“Anyway I have never been robbed in India; so it comes as a shocker that an almost-European country can be less safe than a developing country.
“PS: Feel free to share my story without revealing my name. I am hoping that at least some people will learn from my experience and avoid getting into trouble.”