Being robbed doesn’t have to be a simple grab and run. Watch out for more elaborate ‘friendly’ scams abroad like this one.
“Last summer, whilst in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, East Africa, my friend and I were in the unfortunate and somewhat scary situation of being driven around in a car sandwiched between two large men and being forced to withdraw money from various cashpoints around the city in broad daylight.
We were trying to find a ticket office for a bus company when we were approached by two well dressed young guys who asked what we were looking for. As we had been struggling to find this elusive office we gladly accepted their help. We got chatting and they explained how they were music artists.
We ended up spending the morning with them as we looked around a market together. During this time they talked a lot more about their music and asked if we’d be able to take a CD of theirs back to England. As they had been so helpful and not at all pushy we said we would as a friend of ours worked for a record label back in the UK.
To cut a long story short we ended up getting in a car with them, their ‘manager’ and driver as their CDs were in their studio, which they pointed out on the map wasn’t far away, so stupidly we agreed to it. We must have driven for about 20 minutes still chatting all about their music when they started to slow down.
It was at this point they turned to us and said ‘we are not your friends, we are not who you think we are – we want all your money’. I have never known an atmosphere change so quickly as suddenly the jovial banter turned to aggressive shouting and grabbing at our bags. We shakily gave them all the money we had on us, hoping that would be the end of it. Unfortunately not, it turned out they were from Somalia and wanted 1 million Tanzanian shillings, a sum we did not have.
So for the next hour they drove us from ATM to ATM until we maxed out our all cards, a stressful situation as mine kept being rejected. They kept my friend in the car as one of the gang escorted me to the cashpoint. I hoped this would be my James Bond moment where I could do something heroic but it turns out fear makes me do as I’m told.
They were never violent with us but were very aggressive and kept reaching for the glovebox and shouting about taking us to the beach, which we didn’t want to find out about. Eventually after what seemed like a lifetime we were let out of the car near our hotel, and they sped off.
Although it was a horrible experience and I cringe at our stupidity and gullibility I did not let it ruin the rest of my trip nor will it stop me from travelling. However, it was a real wake up call to how vulnerable tourists are and reminded me that you are taking risks, some greater than others (like getting in cars with strangers – note to self don’t do that!), each time you trust people.
I was upset about the amount of money taken (approx £400 each) but glad nothing worse had happened. Luckily we managed to get most of it back, after getting a police statement and making countless calls to our insurance companies. These scams are unfortunately becoming more commonplace in big African cities. The same friend, when later in Nairobi, was approached three times in one day by similar scams but having learnt the hard way was able to quickly walk away. Hopefully you will too.”