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Travellers BEWARE! Cannot believe this happened to us!

Travellers BEWARE! Cannot believe this happened to us!

Dec 20th, 2004, 02:57 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12,492
Travellers BEWARE! Cannot believe this happened to us!

Just got back from a wonderful magical three days in brussels and Brugges.. only had quite an experience on our way out.

and I will tell you that Fortunately.. the thieves did not get their way.. but they certainly were persistent! I had heard about this type of scam to distract you .. but never thought I would ever be the victim.

Last day of trip, decided to take the train to airport. brussels central station. early morning.. 7:15.. I was with my husband....not many people on platform.. suddenly.. i am approached by an arab-looking person asking something about the track numbers.. i show him the television monitor. he walks away thanking me..smiling.

then... another immigrant shows my husband there is something all over my full length coat. He gives my husband some kleenex so we can clean it. i tell my husband "this is weird.. what is this ?.. where is it comng from? "
and then it clicks...someone is trying to rob us. who are they ? which ones are they??

we continue to clean the coat watching our bags, grasping my purse the entire time( i had been squirted with at least an entire small bottle of white bath gel or liquid soap).

the few people on platform do not take notice.

the train comes. we board. i feel safe now. i sit in small compartment. my husband stays with bags in passageway between cars, but not far from me.
There is some coming and going of passengers between cars..My husband turns around.. and now HIS coat is full of the same stuff .. as are the lower part of his trousers. the floor.. the wall, etc. i cannot believe what is going on! so.. another NEW immigrant gives us more kleenex.. and now we are REALLY wondering when the attack will come.. and although i am voicing my surprise and disgust in french and english at how this can happen TWICE in same station.. no one says a WORD, nor has anyone seen anything.

at the next stop, whoever they were, must have gotten off.. the kleenex fellow disappeared.. and my husband had recognized another person from before on platform who was probably the one who came and squirted him.. perhaps out of frustration .. or hoping we would REALLY finally let our guard down.

i have never been apprehensive about travelling alone.. but after this morning..I am trying to think of how I can protect myself in future.

We need to learn to live with these agressions, but how to deal with them .. if you are not in group, can be a challenge. you really can feel intimidated and a target.It was bad enough with the two of us.. had i been alone.. i wonder if they would have even bothered with the soap trick.. they would have probably just surrounded me and that's it.

i just wanted to warn again about being very very careful ... we were lucky. very lucky.
i am very happy our only loss is a few dry cleaning bills.

we DID have a great time in Brussels. and thank you fodorites for the restaurant recommendations in brugges. more about that later.
lincasanova is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 03:08 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I'm sorry it seems new to you but this sort of thing has been written about, one thief asks for directions or smears some substance on you (I've heard of mustard too) and the other thief offers to 'help.'

I don't think it has anything to do with traveling alone or being apprehensive about being alone since in this case you were with your husband.

I guess we can be mean about refusing to help someone who appears to be asking for directions, but we can absolutely refuse help from the next person who offers to help us clean up.
Similarly, if you find your card isn't working at an ATM, don't accept help from anyone else. If you are approached by a pitiful-looking mother carrying a sign, or by waifs, turn around and walk away or sternly wave them away. If you feel bad about it, make a contribution to a local charity or church.

Glad it didn't spoil your trip.
elaine is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 03:18 PM
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A good story to share with the community, so thanks for the reminder. Others will certainly benefit from this posting and the header certainly makes people click on it. Glad you made it out unscathed!
Flyboy is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 03:25 PM
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I had said to my husband.."thank god it wasn't mustard or ketchup!!" ..but still.. it is so shocking to find yourself in the midst of this scam.. after so many years of hearing about it..

while it is happening, and you are cleaning up....you are wondering what the *żĄ%&!! is going on!!!.. as you wait for the next phase to kick in.

glad this happened this morning and not friday when we got there!!!

lincasanova is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 03:34 PM
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Thanks for sharing this here, glad that you didn't let it spoil the trip.
Margie is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 03:39 PM
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Thanks for sharing, I know we hear about these scams all the time but when it is happening it must be hard to believe.

I think the worse part was that they got on the train and tried it again. What nerve!

Wouldn't you just love to have a bottle to squirt back at them! That would be classic, but a bit messy, lol.
SeaUrchin is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 03:49 PM
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Glad you weren't hurt; you didn't lose anything; your clothes (hopefully) weren't ruined and it didn't spoil your trip.

I use a money belt when traveling outside the US.
indytravel is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 03:49 PM
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This type of distraction scam doesn't just happen to travelers. It happened to my mother while she was having a bite to eat in a pizza restaurant in a mall close to where she lives.

A couple walked by her table with a tray with 4 or 5 large cups filled with ice water. As they walked by my mother's table, they dropped the tray splashing my mother with water and ice all over her legs, feet, shoes. As the woman ran to get napkins to "help" my mother dry off, her accomplice (a male) reached around the other side of the table and stole my mother's purse and all its contents - wallet with money, credit cards, license, insurance cards, etc., housekeys, and other things. The woman left in a hurry and kept saying how sorry she was! Right after that, my mother realized that her purse was gone and had someone at the restaurant call the police. Purse nor people were ever found. Within the hour, they had tried to charge $1000 worth of merchandise using my mother's cards!
Marianna is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 04:45 PM
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You are lucky. My step-father had his Rolex watch stolen this way in Buenos Aires in 1989. Only then, the thieves used ink instead of liquid soap.
ThinGorjus is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 04:47 PM
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this is also a classic scam to steal laptop computers if you are carrying yours in a readily identifiable case (we've been advised to find something less obvious). One thief will spill hot coffee and when he helps you with the spill, the other will take off with the computer (assuming its not over your shoulder).
cmeyer54 is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 04:48 PM
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Congratulations lincasanova on saving your stuff. A group tried a similar stunt on me in Madrid many years ago but didn't succeed. If you had lost your passport on your last day it would have been a traumatic event. I am amazed that they persisted and took a second shot at you. You say that you were lucky. Yes, but you were also on guard and that is what saved you.

hopscotch is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 04:57 PM
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Sorry to hear that you had such experience, it could be quite unnerving. And thanks for sharing the story.
JudyC is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 05:14 PM
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As others have said, thanks for sharing this story. It helps all of us to be aware that such things can happen. Glad they didn't succeed.
Sue4 is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 05:43 PM
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Glad it turned out okay. Too bad the police could not catch the scum, beat the living daylights out of them and then drop thier sorry butts off in the woods about 30 miles from nowhere.
hansikday is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 09:19 PM
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Anytime someone äccidently" bumps into you, I would be alert to the possibility it is a pickpocket.
Dec 20th, 2004, 10:36 PM
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I am sorry to hear that, what an experience, and to happen twice within minutes of each other! The nerve. I am glad that you were aware of what they were attempting to do, despite the distraction of the gunk that was on your coats!
Huitres is offline  
Dec 20th, 2004, 11:16 PM
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Sorry you had this experience. I live in Belgium, and luckily never had anything like that happen. Glad it didn't spoil your trip.
Tulips is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 12:43 AM
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Thanks Lisa for that info. I have heard that thieves and pickpockets are more active in the Centrale and Nord stations now that the Gare du Midi is finally being policed appropriately (so many EU types and diplomats were robbed, mugged, pickpocketed etc. at the Gare du Midi and made such a stink about it that the station now is policed all hours with canine patrols and so on). The Centrale station has always felt a little skeevy to me, esp. that long corridor between the train and metro stations. I had not heard of that particular dodge going on there, though.
BTilke is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 01:26 AM
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I'm afraid that I'm not entirely sure that this has anything to do with travelling. This could happen anywhere and it really just seems like another incident of scaremongering that is so prevalent on this site.
Tallulah is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 02:17 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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The "substance on your jacket, Sir" has been going on in airports for years and this,d espite the so-called "heightened security" which seems to be centered elsewhere.

Thanks for the warning as it never hurts to be reminded of these potential problems.
Intrepid1 is offline  

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