An article in this week's Vanguardia draws attention to a new scam involving the many fantastic walking tours of places such as the Gothic Quarter and Park Güell. Apparently the easy targets are the cruise passengers, who routinely pull up in minibuses from the Old Port docking area to the area around Via Laietana and the Cathedral.
The scam involves men and women, although primarily women according to the two qualified tourist guides interviewed by the Vanguardia in the article. These scamsters dress exactly like tourists - complete with maps, bottled water and cameras, and follow the tour guides around their walking tours, blending in with the rest of the tourists! It is in this "camoflagued" state that they prey on their victims. The scam has even led to those regular tour guides recognising the thieves, and occasionally having to stop a tour to avoid a robbery - only to be confronted verbally by the thieves and onlooking "henchmen" there to protect the pickpockets.
As always, wallets, purses and anything else of value are "lifted" in the particularly narrow bottlenecks in the Gothic Quarter's streets, and rapidly passed off to avoid suspicion. While there have been occasions that the thieves have been caught, one guide claims to have wasted a whole morning then going to court to testify against the woman in order for them to be prosecuted.
This is a particularly clever way of robbing the tourists, and is extremely difficult to give advice against - how can I say "watch out for the ladies with maps, cameras, sunglasses and bottled water" ?! I suppose the best advice I can give is to always be aware of your surroundings and try you best to keep your belongings close to you at all times. If there is a particularly narrow stretch of pass, or a crowd gathers, ensure you hold on tightly to the bag you're carrying or the zipper.
Have you seen this scam happen, or has it happened to you? please let me know - or if you have any other tips or hints as to how to avoid something like this happening to you, again, please chip in with ideas!
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