male travelers are targets for
two particularly nasty scams. Few
travelers actually suffer from
these scams, but of course if it
happens to you, your chance of
suffering is 100%.
of these scams is "New
Traveling Companions." It works
like this: you're a young male traveling
alone. At a bus or train terminal,
cafe, restaurant, hotel or other place
where travelers gather, you're approached
by two or three young men, perhaps
between 18 to 28 years old, perhaps
of Middle Eastern or North African
strike up a conversation with you
and ask where you're going. "Just
by coincidence," they're going
the same way. They decide to
travel with you. They may even travel
all the way across the country with
you, and may suggest sharing a bus
or a train
sleeping car along the way, or
a hotel room at your destination.
some point they'll offer you some
food, a drink, or even a stick of
chewing gum laced with a quick-acting
barbiturate, probably pentobarbitol
(Nembutol), a powerful fast-acting
sedative ("downer") that
is colorless, odorless and tasteless.
Within seconds you're knocked out.
Hours later you awake with a fierce
headache to find your passport, wallet,
camera and "new friends" long
gone. They'll probably even take
all your luggage from the bus, train
or hotel. Or, they may even hustle
you around town to ATMs and force
you (in your drugged state) to withdraw
money up to your daily limit. Bystanders
may think you've just fallen asleep,
or are ill.
they'll even join you in eating
or drinking, but for some reason
the drugged food, drink or gum
doesn't affect them.
are quite hospitable, and offering
food, drink, gum, sweets, etc. is
an important part of Turkish hospitality.
The scammers, who most often are
not Turks, take advantage of this.
Remember that hospitality is well
satisfied if a friend merely pays
for a drink or a meal. There
is no need for the friend to serve
you the food or drink personally.
So if someone you meet orders teas
all around, the waiter brings them,
and the friend pays, you're probably
alright. But if the friend insists
on bringing your tea to the table,
you should be suspicious. In short, it's
good to think three times about accepting
anything, from the hand of a stranger,
that you may put in your mouth.
scam needn't involve long-distance
travel. They may meet you at
your hotel. They walk around and
see the sights with you, and at
some point suggest getting away
to a quiet place, away from the
crowds. While you're sitting quietly
they offer you a sip from a soda,
or a cookie, etc. and it knocks
you out. The food, drink, gum etc.
they offer you may even be in a
sealed package, but the drug can
be injected through the seal with
to avoid this scam? Be cautious
with any new "friends," particularly
(but not exclusively) those of
Middle Eastern or North African
descent or nationality. Try
to take a photograph of your new "friends." If
they discourage you, they probably
have something to hide and want
no photographic evidence. If they
offer you anything to put in your
mouth, don't take it. (One
sip or nibble can cost you everything
but the clothes you're wearing.) Say
you're on a diet, or you're allergic
to certain foods and must be
very careful what you eat and drink;
leave it untouched and watch their
reaction; or "accidently" drop
it or otherwise spoil it. If it's
gum, put it in your pocket "for
and drink only from your own supplies, or
those you purchase personally from
the hand of a shopkeeper or cafe/restaurant
they act insulted, get away from
them as fast as possible. Look
for a refuge likely to have police
or security: a ticket office, bank,
big hotel, transport terminal,
etc. Even standing in front of
a security camera may do the trick.
they say they want to stay in a hotel
with you, say that you're staying
with friends. Get out of it somehow,
even by going to the police or your
consulate if necessary.
other major single-male scam is "Let's
Have a Drink."
let these scams scare you. In
general, Turkey is a safe destination
filled with wonderful people, most
of whom appreciate your visit and
want to help you get the most from
it. Don't let a few crooks—who
may not even be Turkish—spoil
your opinion of it.
you're aware of these scams, you won't
let them happen to you.
"Let's Have a Drink" Scam
on a bus somewhere and several young
men offer to travel with you....