How We (Almost) Got Scammed
I was really hoping that I would never have to write a post such as this. But. It's real and it's happening - if you let it.
This post is going to start a new series on my blog - People of the World. In this series I will share all of my stories and experiences of people I have met all over the world - good and bad. This series will include stories of kindness, gratitude, culture and some uncertain experiences too.
This post, as you can see by the title, is about one time we almost got scammed. This post is not designed to scare anybody but to educate others from our experience.
Whenever we travel, my husband and I always really enjoy speaking to the hotel staff, excursion hosts, or even local shop keepers about their country, culture and life. This is how we feel like we can learn the most about the country we are in and it gives us a chance to learn some of the local language.
I am not going to name the hotel, nor the country, but on this one particular trip we met a really fascinating guy who was part of the front of house team in the hotel we stayed at. Let's call him Paul.
As always, we initiated the conversation asking about the local culture, the local area and the do's and dont's of travelling about nearby the hotel. This conversation was at the beginning of our stay and over the course of the week Paul started to spot us around the hotel, offered us drinks (we were on all inlcusive anyway) and made sure we were being looked after and enjoying our stay.
Of course we were - with Paul constantly checking in on us we felt like royality.
Things started to become weird on our second to last day. Paul proceeded to tell us about his living conditions and his past. From how he described, his living conditions were poor and he was a reformed alcohol abuser. He was highly religious and told us that he hoped to one day move to the USA or Canada where he had "apparently" had numerous job offers from previous guests in the hotel. I asked him why he had not already left to pursue a new life - he told me he loved his hotel job too much...
Because he had looked after us so well during our week's holiday, together with my husband we agreed to leave him a smallish monetary gift for which he was thankful and told us that this would help for him to leave his country in perusal of a new life in the Western World. We didn't think anything of this, as we believe everyone should have a dream, and it is also not uncommon for us to tip the staff at the end of any of our holidays either.
Before we got onto our transfer home, Paul asked me to add him on Facebook, which I did.
It took a while for Paul to contact us once we were home, but to be honest, he didn't even cross my mind once we were back into the everyday grind. His first message went a little something like this:
"Hello my wonderful friends. I hope the UK is well and God is with you".
Nothing wrong with that at all. So I replied and wished him well and the conversation ended there.
This kind of two liner conversation went of for a few weeks until the scam behaviour started.
I am in the slow season at work now and I cannot pay my rent nor feed myself. I have hardly any guests giving tips and wondered if you will transfer me $500 to see me through the quiet season"...
What bothers me about this the most is two things: firstly and most importantly was our safety. Did he have access to our address and bank card details from the hotel? Was he someone who knew someone already in the UK? Was he part of a larger scale scam ring?
Secondly: Did he really think that I was this stupid to fall for his message?
What is sad about this is some people would fall for this. Some people may be taken in by Paul's kindness and willingness to engage with you on holiday and feel sorry for him. There is no way that $500 would have seen him through for 3 months of the year when in a previous conversation about his living conditions he has already informed us that he pays $300 per month for his accommodation.
There were a few other things too that didn't quite add up. When we were on holiday he told us that he had no wife and was a man on his own. On Facebook he had a wife and his wife also tried to friend me on Facebook too - for which I declined.
So What Did I Do About This?
Because I am a good person and I believe heavily in treating people fairly, I remained calm and dignified. I didn't lose my sh*t like maybe some people would have in my position. I politely replied that I was in no position to help him finacially but (and only because he was religious and used it on me) I would pray that God would look after him and see him through his difficult time.
I then blocked him on all socials. Bye Paul.
It later came to light that he had two Facebook profiles which I also found weird... So I blocked that one too.
I hope that no one has had to experience anything like this and more to the point that no one has ever given money (unless you know you are not going to get it back!) to anyone like this.
As I am experiencing more travel, I am learning to be able to see who is genuine and who isn't - but it is difficult. Especially if you are not familiar with the culture in the place you are travelling etc. The moral of this post is to be careful who you interact with when you are travelling and always go with your gut instinct, because, not everyone will scam you.