Dubai Consumer Mirror

Saturday, March 11, 2006

CONfidence

Stories of con artists in Dubai are not only popping up more frequently than they used to, they are also becoming quite creative..

First there is the mesmerizing holy man, who 'charms' people away from their cash... what a bunch of crackpots. Then came the Black Dollar Gang scam: a posse of Africans who convince their victims with their possession of millions of US dollars that are blackened due to some civil war fire in Africa (!!) and that they are willing to sell the "magic" solution that washes away the blackness.

I mean, how retarded can one be to fall for such a dumb scam? Anyhoo, it seems that the con artists aren't that bright as well because, according to Al Khaleej Newspaper, they were nabbed in Abu Dhabi few days back.

Then you have the water purifier machine scam, with stories of a door-to-door salesman roaming Bur Dubai, convincing his victims to give him a cheque for about $1800 in return of a blanc promise that the dream machine will arrive the following day... dream on!

I am seeing a couple of new trends here. First, people are willing to do anything to make an extra buck in this place. Second, there is a new breed of tarts that is popping within the community. Individuals that are so gullible, you can score money off them faster then they can say hello-I-am-a-dweeb-come-screw-me.

I think living for a few years in Cairo helped me become a part-time-wise-ass-on-demand, who can be skeptic about almost anything. Being (and looking) non-Egyptian, residing in the posh area of Zamalek, as well as being a student in the American University in Cairo, made me the perfect target for the conman (and woman sometimes).

Thankfully, I was always surrounded by an entourage of hustlers who taught me a bit about sniffing a con artists when I see one.

Which brings me to a seasonal scam that is becoming quite common in the streets of Dubai and Sharjah during the hot summer months. I am calling it the 'Saudi Summer Broken Car' scam.

Dubai Summer Surprises festival attracts many gulf tourists, especially from Saudi. Its only a few hours drive away for them, and they take advantage of the reduced hotel rates in the summer. Luckily for me, I've spent the past 2 summers in Dubai.

Almost once a week, a car with Saudi license plate numbers, would pull over and a guy (not supposedly A Saudi) starts going all Assalamu-Alaikum-oh-brother-in-Islam on me.

These guys are typically found in car parks, especially hotel's and cinema's. They would scan for and target people who are alone, Arab looking, well dressed and who just got off expensive looking cars.

It is exactly the same story every single time:
"I am from Saudi. My car broke down. I paid everything i had on me to fix it. I need cash to go back to Saudi".

Rule #1: Even if you are 100% sure you are talking to a con artist, NEVER show him that you've blown his cover. Just play along. So, my typical answer would be: "Thats a shame wallahi, I am so sorry. How can i help you?"

Rule #2: Never automatically extend your hand to your bag/pocket. This may indicate that you carry cash and it only take a few extra persuasive gestures to get it out of you. Instead, say that you are not carrying any money on you and offer to help the guy. "I am sorry, mafi folos. But let me call the police. I am sure they will help you." and get your mobile out and start dialing (fake it if you have to).

Rule #3: This is the nut cracking acid test. If the guy is in genuine need for help, he will welcome the gesture. Sadly, that never happened to me before. Its always a case of "er.. umm.. thank you brother, no need to bother yourself .." and zooms away with his car.

The first couple of times, I took down the plate numbers (just in case). Then it started happening so often, i stopped taking numbers and enjoyed the whole encounter instead. A friend of mine who works in Dubai Police told me once that they have cases of UAE residents actually paying Saudi car owners to use their cars during the day just for that matter.

Nevertheless, one does not have to be street smart to dodge those scams or conmen, all what it takes is exercising a bit of plain ol' common sense..

10 Comments:

  • The same thing used to happen less than 5 years ago it was the exact same thing happening but with Omani's; people were writing into the papers going apeshit about it.


    ah... dubai....

    By Blogger samuraisam, at March 12, 2006 at 12:47 PM  

  • Oooh so common, specially happens during dsf and its mostly Omani's, I've faced some myself, they usually gang up an entire family in the car.

    By Blogger Harsha, at March 12, 2006 at 2:16 PM  

  • It happened to me on my first weeks in Dubai. A car with an Omani license pulls over next to me and there are 3 people in the car; a man (driving), an old woman and a young girl in the back. They weren't arabs but from the subcon. It was a strange think to ask as I haven't seen such thing before. Anyway wether they were genuine or fake, I hope Allah would reward me on helping them anyways.

    By Blogger AyMoNy, at March 12, 2006 at 2:44 PM  

  • yep..happened to me as well..

    During lasst year's DFS a guy in a saudi number plate car ask for petrol money!!

    i just pointed towrds a nearby Police petrol!!!

    By Blogger TwinTopaz, at March 12, 2006 at 5:32 PM  

  • "Moryartis guide to the streets", out in stores now! Tayyeb when is the signing?

    In sweden we have a different phenomena, now with a larger EU and all. We get children, older men and women, who carry around the exact same card with a few words written about someone back home in romania who is sick, and there is also a picture of a very maimed looking child, and they walk around the subway showing that.
    Tragic.

    By Blogger Shaykhspeara Sha'ira, at March 12, 2006 at 8:31 PM  

  • 3ala fikrah moryarti, the con-men (and indeed women as you say)of Cairo are world class. I looked for an ice cream shop, was told the way by a local, ended up in a perfume shop in Cairo with a raagil who tried to make me go to fayyoum to see his plants and asked my somalian friends how many camels they wanted for it.

    If one has lived in Cairo one has seen it all, mosh kiddah?

    By Blogger Shaykhspeara Sha'ira, at March 12, 2006 at 8:35 PM  

  • I never came across Omani ones. I think it died out cause people stopped falling for it.

    SS, living in Cairo has been an unforgettable experience. I would do it all over again if i had the chance :)

    By Blogger moryarti, at March 12, 2006 at 10:17 PM  

  • hey moryarti san..
    guess who i am? ;)

    anyways hopefully i'll be adding my views to your famous blog !

    By Blogger hannibal, at March 14, 2006 at 1:29 PM  

  • lol .. finally, a registered username! Why not your KDD-Anon? don't tell becuse of this boycotting Danish thing :)

    By Blogger moryarti, at March 14, 2006 at 3:02 PM  

  • but of course ' elementary my dear moryarti'

    :)

    by the way no one has blogged about either them not getting Robbie Williams tickets or about the whinging crowd who are up in arms at the astronomical prices those tickets are now selling for..

    don't they know that its simple economics.

    'its a free market here in dubai'

    supply.. demand.... and all that

    By Blogger hannibal, at March 14, 2006 at 4:34 PM  

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