1. Cut above the rest
As you turn on the ignition, a bedraggled looking man taps on your car window. As you roll down, he thrusts his arm in your face, showing an infected open wound. The man tells you he got injured at his work place and asks for help. To make his story even more believable he pulls out a doctor’s prescription. But you don’t want to see it. You’re already cringing in horror and want to throw up. You want him to go away so you quickly dig into your pocket and hand him some money.
GOING ON SINCE: Around ten to 15 years with some variations. Instead of the burnt/ bandaged arm ruse, some con artists cash in on your emotions by pulling open their shirt to reveal an IV bag taped to their abdomen with needles et al.
AREA OF OPERATION: Sandy parking lots in Dubai and Sharjah. Cases have been reported from Ajman and Abu Dhabi too.
TOP TIP: Unless you don’t care where your money is going, don’t hand it over. Offer to take the man to a doctor or hospital for treatment or pretend to call the police and see how fast your ‘sick‘ patient takes to his heels.
2. Suit yourself, sir
A well-dressed European asks you for directions. He claims he’s an Italian designer who’s in town for a garment exhibition and has some Armani or Gucci designer suits left over. They cost a fortune, but he offers to sell them at Dh200 apiece, sometimes even less as he’s in a hurry to fly back. He’ll even show you a passport, plane ticket (probably fakes) to prove his identity. The suits are cheap counterfeits, of course. But then, if you’re buying out of a trunk of a car you can’t expect anything better, can you?
GOING ON SINCE: For at least 15 years with some variations.
AREA OF OPERATION: Mostly around Bur Dubai and Deira.
TOP TIP: Trust your instincts. If the price is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
3. The Longriders
A car with an Oman registration flags you down. Before you can say ‘MUSCAT’, the driver points at his co-passengers – invariably a woman and a child – and tells you his sob story. It goes like this: His car has broken down and he has spent whatever money he had to get it fixed. Now he’s left with no money for petrol and, in some cases, baby formula food. So, could you lend him Dh50? A stranded family in distress. You’d have to have a heart of stone to refuse to help. Your overwhelming urge to do a good deed in Ramadan gets the better of you and you fork out the money, not realising that you’ve been duped. On a good day, the ‘stranded’ couple make a cool Dh500.
GOING ON SINCE: For as long as one can remember.
AREA OF OPERATION: All over the UAE .
TOP TIP: Beware the pull on your heart strings. It’s your purse-strings that are being reached for.
4. The voluntary car mechanics
Your car is not starting or you have a flat tyre. As you struggle with the ignition/jack, a man appears out of the blue. He says he’s a mechanic and offers to fix the car – of course for a certain fee. For all you know, it may be he who tampered with your car in the first place so he could offer to fix it and charge you later.
GOING ON SINCE: Around 11 years
AREA OF OPERATION: Parking lots near commercial establishments
TOP TIP: It’s too much of a coincidence that a ‘mechanic’ happens to be around when your car breaks down. Contact a mechanic or seek the help of someone you can trust.
5. On a wing and a prayer
You’re about to step into your car when a man approaches you and offers his greetings. As you jog your memory trying to remember if you’ve met the smiling stranger before, he engages you in conversation by telling you ‘astoundingly accurate’ things about your past life. It’s things you want to hear: “You’re self-made” and how “you defied odds to be what you are.”
Sprinkled in the conversation will be generic information and references to common things like “your recurring headaches/stomach cramps” or the “scheming colleague at work.” Towards the end of the reading, the man will tell you he’s a psychic fakir who has noticed a dark energy around you. He can rid you of it if you cough up some money to feed the pigeons at the pilgrimage centre where he’s going later this year.
GOING ON SINCE: Early 2010 with some variations.
AREA OF OPERATION: Rolla, Al Yarmouk in Sharjah
TOP TIP: Since the con artist doesn’t ask for money up front, you don’t mind entertaining him. That’s your first step to being duped. It’s hard to refuse them money when you are with your wife who is concerned for you having heard the man’s prophecy. The best way out is not to entertain him at all.
This article was originally published in a Gulf News publication in 2011.