Scam City: my new obsession

This never ends well. I don’t watch much TV, but when I find a show I like, I have a hard time doing anything else. On my recent Singapore Airlines flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong I watched “Scam City: Buenos Aires.” I had never heard of the show before, though once I saw it I was hooked. It’s more or less a documentary about a guy who travels to cities around the world and falls for the most common scams. But the thing that’s awesome about the show is that he doesn’t just fall for the scams, but he tries to get to the bottom of them to figure out the strategy and business behind it. In other words if he’s given counterfeit money he wants to find out how much of a spread the person distributing it gets, and who they get it from. And then he tries to find the distributor. It’s a really, really fascinating show for anyone that likes travel.

For example, here’s the one about Bangkok, which covers two scams I’ve (intentionally) fallen for (written about here and here):

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

And then here’s the one I saw on my flight about Buenos Aires:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

There are lots more on YouTube, so if you have some free time this is entertainment that’s tough to beat…

Anyone else hooked on these as much as I am?

Filed Under: Travel, Videos
  1. Hey Lucky, could you please do a favor and put a break before the you tube videos.. they do add a little to the load time.. Thanks.

  2. May I suggest you watch Nine Queens the best con movie I have ever seen. Note it is close captioned as the movie is based in Buenos Aires. Give it 15 minutes and if you are not hooked I would be surprised. On Netflix

  3. LOL!!!! This is soooooooooooo Bangkok!!!! But you have to be looking for trouble to be scammed in Thailand. Still, love that place.

  4. Watchced the BA show… pretty good… have not personally run into the fake money (have seen the denomination switch).

  5. You did legit fall for the tuk tuk scam – he got you to believe that the palace closed early – which is part of the scam

  6. Awesome series! Thanks for sharing. I usually say “no” too quickly to learn much about how these scams really work.

  7. I actually downloaded the entire season online from TPB and watched all of them. From memory, here is a list of the locations: buenos aires, Rome, Barcelona, Las Vegas, Marrakech, Bangkok, vienna, and a few others. Makes you kind of afraid to travel to some of these places.

  8. I fell for the Bangkok scams. I went to the one of the many buddah places and was told by another “tourist” (not a former UN employee)at one of them that he had just bought his very nice gold bracelet there a few hours earlier and that there was a special sale this week only where no tax was being charged. He was very convincing, as i in no way suspected he was in on the scam the way he mentioned it after talking about many things. Sure enough when i exited there was a tuk tuk ready to take me somewhere and he mentioned the export center. I reluctantly went with my friend, smelling a gem scam from the tuk tuk and not the other “tourist”. My friend bought a bracelet for his mom for a couple hundred dollars, i didn’t buy anything.

    Something similar happened when i was at a temple and some other “tourist” form Singapore mentioned that the river cruises were nice. Somehow i ended up on an overpriced river cruise with just me and my friend.

    I also fell for the bangkok palace is closed for special buddah day. I even fell for the pigeon food scam right outside the palace…and if you can believe it i even fell for another scam a few minutes later outside the palace….you can’t enter the palace in shorts….so i rented pajama pants from a street vendor just across the street to be able to enter the palace. Little did i know that they give you free pajamas pants when you enter, just inside the gate.

    I fell for just about every scam there was, and i consider myself street savy, but was not prepared for the level of sophistication of Bangkok’s scams.

  9. Thing about Bangkok’s scams that i don’t think tourists realize is that there are usually several involved (can be anywhere from 3-7 people) working together and that they pass you off to others….and you don’t realize you are being passed off to another person in the same group. As soon as you leave one place and discuss with another “tourist” working the area that you wouldn’t mind seeing a snake show, or a river cruise…somehow at the next place there just happens to be someone from the snake show with a sign…leave there and on the way out someone working for the river cruise is there. They pass you off to other people without you even realizing it.

  10. I wish I had known about this show before my parents & I got scammed this past fall. It was our first time to Bangkok. We got pulled into a scam that the show covered. I should’ve listened to my gut instinct, but the guy that got us said that he was a security guy at our hotel & recognized us (he knew which hotel we stayed at). That same night when I was flipping the channels in our hotel room, I happened on this show & he described the scam to a T. At least now I know better next time I’m there. I would totally check to see if he has a show featuring the city of my next destination so I can prevent from falling for anymore tourist scams!

  11. You got me. Since you made mention of the series yesterday, I spent way too much time watching on YouTube. Now I’ve got my teenage son watching. We’re on the LAS episode, after previously watching EZE and BKK. I’ve done the tour of the ‘export center’ in Bangkok, but fortunately knew about it before our tour operator took us there (despite being specifically told we did not want to go to a ‘gem show’).
    Watching on the big screen now via Apple TV accessing YouTube content. 7 more episodes to go!

  12. I thought I’d be hooked after the Bangkok episode, but that Buenos Aires episode feels so staged. Vegas too. Entertaining for sure, but the reality is very suspect.

  13. I have been to Vertigo many times and i do not think you could find money girls (or boys) there or can hit it up that easily.

    However, since I am Thai, I talked to a taxi driver in Phuket one time. They said they got commission from the jewelry shop too and lots of tourist go there and he earns about $4000/month as for commission itself.

  14. Hey remember me? I’m the doorman working at the hotel… yeah yeah. I recognized you I think you also recognize me..

    Its my daughters birthday today.. yeah yeah.. She wants to travel but I tell her I have no money for our family to travel… She loves America, I always wanted to help her go there.. yeah yeah. Your American?

    I hear airlines give many miles you can use to get free travel right? yeah yeah..

    I think someday I’ll meet someone Lucky and he give me lots of miles so I can fulfill my daughters dream.

    Are you feeling Lucky?

  15. @Tim It doesn’t sound staged with someone cocks their shot gun and you’re unarmed. The guy was uber jumpy like he was on drugs.

    @Lucky I’m going to BKK this coming weekend and I’ll definitely be tuned into these con artists. Best advice from that series: Avoid the second floor go-go bar and “100 baht” Tiger beer.

  16. Watched “scam city delhi”, sad just kids trying to get by. There should be a true scam city called “Wall Street”.

  17. I’m very surprised that the Scam City host was able to get that many people to rat themselves out. Perhaps he’s the best scammer of them all đŸ™‚

  18. Of course, the biggest scam is using cash to begin with, when you could be racking up points đŸ™‚

  19. The only scam going here is my time being scammed, and Lucky is acting as an associate đŸ˜‰

    Seriously though, other then the overwhelming feeling of the show being mostly staged, most of the scams shown as very basic and even then, Conner never really get to the bottom of any of them.

    I’ve watched four episodes so far, Bangkok, Vegas, Barcelona, and BA. Bangkok, the main scam was a common tuktuk scam, and the method of money extraction was the sales of overpriced jewelry, hardly a scam seeing as how one could easily not buy any.

    Vegas, was about VIP card, but i was only like $10, and that was a “tip” and in the end of the show they were showing a simply hi-lo count for god sakes.

    BA was about counterfeit money, again not really a scam.

    And Barcelona was about pickpocketing, in what definition is that a scam? And they showed a freaking three card Monty game, how cliche is that? I did find the black widow thing very interesting, because I think one could easily take advantage of these beautiful girls with no morals, but preparing a drugged bottle of wine in your hotel room.

    IMO, BBC’s “The Real Hustle” is a much better show, showing much more sophisticated scams, and genuinely made me less susceptibility to scams.

  20. The show really made it seem that the counterfeit money in BA was an epidemic. Anyone know the reality of the situation?

  21. I’ve watched three episodes so far… REALLY liked the Prague episode, which is why the Rome and Las Vegas episodes were so disappointing.

    The scam in Rome is that middle age men try to pick up on 20-something women?

    The scam in Las Vegas is that VIP passes which are distributed by people on the street aren’t really VIP? Or that wiring money to someone trying to get a hotel is a scam?

    While there are some interesting moments, I think The Real Hustle is much more valuable.

  22. This show is ridiculous, and it’s sad that there are people dumb enough to get taken by these scams. It’s really laughable how greed and sheer stupidity are so rampant. So, yeah, if you get taken by these street cams you’re an idiot and borderline deserve it for being such an idiot.

  23. I’ll admit, I started the series on Netflix this morning and just finishing up the Buenos Aires episode. Then I caught something and rewound it three times just to be sure. It is completely obvious the scene where Conor is pickpocketed is 100% staged. I stopped watching after finding this. If you’re going to make documentary with scenes included for dramatic purposes, then just say so. Completely lost all credibility.

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