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Ken Grubb

Common Scams In Turkey

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I know it's been mentioned before but Incirlik is a prime place for these scams. You'll find people in Incirlik who are friendly, hardworking, and honest. You'll find a lot of other types of people there too, and they are also friendly. Many of them have plans to develop relationships with US military members or contractors simply to get them to visit their shops. Others have more dishonest purposes in mind. Many of the scammers have spent their lives at Incirlik and have seen a lot come and go, and they've learned which approaches work and which ones don't, and have many years of experience with this kind of thing. To be honest, I've been taken a few times myself. Not all below is from my personal experience, I've also tried to help out people who were the victims of scams, so what I'm posting comes from that as well. I also lived in Incirlik village and made some very good friends, and was able to learn some of the things that go on behind the scenes. Now you will know some of it too!

SCAM 1: YOU'RE MY SPECIAL FRIEND. WHEN ARE YOU COMING TO MY SHOP? When I was in Istanbul at a small hotel I met a Turk who used to work at some of the shops at Incirlik and he told me of one shop where three brothers divided up the responsibilities of running the shop. One spoke the best English of the three, so he was assigned the responsibility of befriending Americans for the sole purpose of getting more customers. What struck me is the planning and strategy involved in his assignment of making friends, and that it was actually part of their business plan. Friendship can also be used to get you to accept things which were made for you which are substandard, playing on your sympathies for Uncle Mehmet who stayed up all night for a week working on your furniture, and would be heartbroken if you didn't accept it. Don't fall for it. It's not uncommon to be presented with a substandard product after paying a deposit for it to be made. Stand your ground, play their game.

SCAM 2: THE SUDDEN EMERGENCY, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO? Another scam is the "sudden emergency" which requires exactly the amount of money which you can get with a debit card from the automatic bank machine on the alley. This one involves more preparation and time invested, and works well with lonely people in certain bars in the Alley. They can work several different people at the same time in different stages.

Now, when you first arrive you'll find lots of people who are interested in you, most of that will be strictly from a sense of sincere hospitality, which the Turks are world-famous for. You'll have no problem making friends. But you may run into someone who will exploit a friendship later. Basically one of the Turks at the bar will always go out of his way to welcome you, talk with you, offer help on all manner of things, and generally be the nicest person you ever met. He'll show great interest in anything you have to say. At some point he may even borrow a small amount of money and pay it back after you've known him for a while. He'll talk about what a great person you are compared to other people he has met, and will always warn you to be careful because of so many dishonest people around (except for him of course).

Eventually, (after a couple of months) you'll walk into the club or bar and he'll be very worried, hanging his head, and appear to be very stressed. He'll say he doesn't want to burden you with his personal problems, but that he hasn't been able to pay his rent and he and his wife and children are about to be evicted. He has no where to turn and no way to get the money. Since you've had a few drinks already, they guy has been a friend to you, you're making the big bucks, and won't miss it anyway, you'll volunteer to help him out. He'll say that he just couldn't ask you to do that, and you'll end up insisting that he accept the money. He'll be grateful and promise to pay you back when he can (fat chance, sucker!!!). I fell for this once, but then asked around and found someone else who fell for the same story, from the same guy.

That person was fired after I talked with the new owner, who didn't want this kind of thing going on in his club. However some of the owners of these places will act enraged when they hear something like this, and "fire" the employee to keep from having pressure from the base or being put off limits. The employee will just go work elsewhere or disappear for several months and reappear again.

Certainly people have emergencies, but be aware of this scam. What I should have done is find out who his landlord is, and have someone who spoke fluent Turkish come with me to discuss it. Of course the man would have objected, saying he would be too embarrased, but it seems to me being embarrassed with his rent paid by someone else is better than being evicted. But then again, what's to say he couldn't strike a deal with the landlord and split the money? Things like this do happen!

SCAM 3: WANT TO MEET SOME RUSSIAN GIRLS? Some men patrol the alley after about ten o'clock looking for single men who are drinking in the bars. They'll sit down and talk you up, then invite you to Adana to a place where lots of pretty girls are. The place he wants to take you is normally open until 6:00 AM when everything else is closed, and that sounds like a pretty good idea to a drunk GI or contractor. These places are called "pavions" or "gazinos," and always seem to have the word "club" associated with them. DON'T GO. One of two things might happen.

Case 1: You'll find yourself treated like a king to a floor show, a flower on the table, snacks, and lots of drinks. One of the workers will bring over pretty girls to sit with you, who are paid by the drink. They'll sit and chat with you as you buy their drinks. What you'll find out later is that your bill is incredibly high, I've seen people get billed $3,000 for this, and it's all legal! You might be charged up to 20 YTL or more for a drink, while the drink of your lovely new acquaintance is costing 50 YTL or more per drink. By the way, the flower rental costs you another $20 USD. You won't be allowed to leave until you pay, and if you have to go to an automatic bank machine, you'll be accompanied by one or two large men to make sure you get the money and come back. The girls at these clubs are not prostitutes per se, some of them have just had a hard time in their home countries and really need the money. Some, however, will have sex with a guest on her own time but it's not legal for these places to act as houses of prostitution. Anyway that's not the point of this post! Oh, and remember that nice guy that brought you there? Well, he doesn't have any money! Not yet, anyway, not until he receives his commission from the club he brought you to. So they'll expect you to pay for him as well.

Now you can go to one of these places and have a nice, although expensive, time. If you ask clearly first the price of the drinks, and the prices of a drink for one of the girls, they will tell you up front. And if you're sober enough to remember clearly how many you had and how many you bought, these places won't normally put up a fuss if you contest an over-billing. If they do, ask them to call the police for you and refuse to pay. They'll usually let you pay a fair bill and leave, but if you don't know the price of what you're buying, you don't stand a chance. I can almost guarantee they'll over-charge you just on the chance that you've forgotten how many you had and can't perform simple math at the moment!

Case 2: You'll be having a nice time with your friend, when he tells you to watch the floor show. You'll finish your drink, and that will be the last thing you clearly remember. You'll wake up the next day with him telling you what a wild man you were, how you bought drinks for everybody, and wanted to sit with or dance with all of the girls in the place. He'll tell you of his heroic efforts to stop you (but you wouldn't listen) and how you were very insulting and rude. He'll say anything to make you believe that the upcoming charges on your credit card were all your fault. The only thing you'll remember is this wierd dream of being jostled around and standing in front of an automatic bank machine while being told repeatedly to enter your PIN number. Then before long you'll get your credit card statements and find thousands of dollars deducted from your account for charges at this club. What actually happened was that when you were watching the show and turned your head away, he put rohypnol (also called the date-rape drug) into your glass of raki or whatever else you were drinking. You were drugged.

The shame of this is that it happens to people and they don't report it, out of sheer embarrassment usually, but if you're restricted to Incirlik, you don't want to tell your commander that you were in Adana, so you pay the bill and forget it. So that makes it a great time to pull this scam. It is also a seasonal thing. Some of the people who do this may disappear for a while and then come back when there is a new commander on base and a new base population has rotated in.

SCAM 4: WANT A MASSAGE? One club offers a massage in the back room. A great way to separate a drunk customer from his pants, which also contain his wallet. You'll go into a room where this massage is to take place, and disrobe, only to be taken to an adjoining room where you receive your massage, while one of the workers receives your wallet, and your credit cards. This is great for TDY people whose flight out of Incirlik comes before their credit card statement comes in. Now, there are places at Incirlik which offer massages that from what I know are honest businesses. This particular incident happened at a club that offered them as an additional attraction.

What many people don't know is that you can get your money back from the credit card company. You need to file a complaint immediately, and they will send you copies of the receipts. You'll probably immediately recognize that the signature is not yours. The credit card company can handle this for you and take out their wrath on the club where it happened. Of course, the owner will be enraged and will immediately fire the worker, who will be working there again in about six months.

SCAM 5: A BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP! You'll run into people who want you to become a partner in their club or establishment. What they want is your money, not you. 'nuff said about that!

SCAM 6: WE CAN DO, AGABE (MY OLDER BROTHER)! This isn't really a scam, more of an annoyance than anything. If you have a custom-tailored suit made, or some furniture, you MAY find that the maker will give you assurances that the product will be according to your specifications. Some of them can make furniture from a photo in a furniture catalogue, and some of these shops are quite good at what they do. However some may deliver, then try to pass off substandard work and play on your sympathies about accepting it, bringing up poor old uncle Mehmet and how hard he worked on it to feed his family. They will ask for a deposit, I have even been pestered to pay more money while a suit was being made. Is that a scam? You decide.

SCAM 7: COMMISSIONS, COMMISSIONS. Again, not necessarily a scam, but worth mention. Everybody at Incirlik seems to work on commission for bringing business to somebody else. Whether you need a place to stay, a rental car, or a left-handed smoke shifter, just about anybody there will help you find one, and will expect a commission from the place they take you. As a result, you may not be taken to the best place for what you need. So if your waiter says he can get you a house, then he should be working at a real estate agency rather than at a restaurant. I once had a metal safe box which I though contained an important paper. I needed somebody to cut a hole in it big enough to see what was in there. I asked someone on the alley where there was a place which could do that. He got on his cell phone and made a call, later two men on a motor scooter pulled up. One got off, and I rode the motorbike into some house in the bowels of Incirlik village, only to sit and watch two guys banging the hell out of the box with a claw hammer and screwdriver for about 30 minutes, while two combined families looked on, perhaps expecting some treasure to be inside. After several glasses of tea accompanied by constant banging and occasional swearing, they opened it. The only thing inside was a little user's manual and warranty. After my bike ride back to the alley, I paid the promised 15 YTL to open the box, but then the driver of the motorbike, the passenger who stayed at the shop in the alley, and the guy with the claw hammer and screwdriver all wanted commissions. From me! So I got the double whammy of the "we can do agabe" and the commission thing at the same time!

Let me say here again that there are lots of nice people at Incirlik who are honest and sincerely friendly. I think most, if not all of them would approve of posting this because, while it may reflect badly on the municipality, they also don't want to see these things happen and want you to be informed. I am sure they disapprove of these kinds of scams even more than I do. So I post this with that in mind!

If you know of any other scams, please post them!

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