Scams in Istanbul? I’m sure if you’ve done a little research, you know that that scams in Istanbul are common. Istanbul is a lovely city, but many of its residents are poor, and unfortunately, this creates an environment where people do whatever they can to get by, including scamming tourists. Here are some of the scams I came across while visiting Istanbul, and tips to help you navigate them:
- Shoe shiner drops brush
You are walking along the street, and a shoe shiner walks in front of your path. His brush somehow falls off of its carrying case, but he doesn’t seem to notice. So, being the nice person that you are, you pick it up and give it back to him. He acts extremely grateful, and then he offers to clean your shoes.
But wait! He isn’t offering to shine your shoes for free, although he makes it sound like he is. He wants you to accept, thinking it is free, and then he wants to charge you for it. Luckily, I figured out his scam, and after giving the brush back, politely declined his services. I wasn’t 100% sure this was a scam until the same thing happened later in the day to my friend. Nice try shoe shiners, but we are on to you!
- Selling cast metal as real silver
If you are going to buy jewelry at the Bazaar, please know and understand what real silver and gold look like, and what markings are required by law. Luckily, I took a class in jewelry, so I knew all of the standards for silver. I saw a really pretty bracelet made out of some type of metal with purple stones, so I asked the merchant if I could see it. It was pretty, so I asked how much. The merchant told me it was silver, and said it was 130 Turkish Lira. I looked at the back, and saw the dark color associated with cast metal (a metal commonly used in costume jewelry made from a mixture of low value metals), and noticed that there were no markings.
I told the man that it was not in fact silver, but he vehemently claimed that it was 925 silver. I informed him that there were no markings on the back (The best way to know that something is silver outside of the US is to check for a “925” mark. The US and UK have the sterling mark and standard, but that is not recognized by any other country.) He saw a little smudge on the back and tried to claim that was the 925 mark, at which point I walked away. I found another jewelry shop with all the items marked 925 and purchased a few bracelets there.
- Giving you “directions”
If you appear lost, numerous people will approach you and ask where you are heading. They will be friendly and offer guidance, some will even offer to walk you to your destination.
These people aren’t just being friendly and hospitable. They are actually trying to guide you to their store. They will walk you as far as their store, and then try to guilt trip you into coming inside and buying something.
- The Aggressive Approach
This isn’t really a scam, since they are outright with what they want, but business owners in Istanbul really want your business. They want you to come eat at their restaurant and buy their junk. They are not shy about it, and often are overly aggressive. They will cross the street to try to convince you to come in, they will tell you to only have a cup of tea, say they just want you to look, and try to guilt trip you with those sad puppy dog eyes. Learn how to say no. Learn how to ignore people on the street. Only go to a restaurant or a shop because you want to go, not because you feel pressured.
I’m sure there are plenty of other scams in Istanbul, but fortunately since I was only there for a few days, these are the only ones I encountered. Have you encountered any other scams in Istanbul? Share your story!