Skip to main content

Tourist scams permitted in the heart of London

Anyone who walks across Westminster Bridge next to the Houses of Parliament in London will have experienced small groups of people playing the betting game that uses three cups and a ball. The ball is placed under one cup (apparently), the cups are moved around, and passing tourists are invited to guess which cup the ball is under. Most people apparently guess correctly and have their money doubled... these are members of the same gang as the person doing the trick. At some point the gang will be told that the trickster has palmed the ball and will be waiting for 'the mark', probably a tourist, to make their guess in the belief that several 'ordinary' people before them have made easy money. They always lose, perhaps not with their first bet - so suckering them into making larger bets, but the whole theatre is designed to extract money from gullible tourists.

It's a very old con trick. In Romania it's known as Alba-Neagra. The team members also have names. There's someone in the crowd called a tira who is looking out for police and members of the crowd that gather around who try to alert others it's a scam. The tira will sound an alert or scare off the whistle blowers. Then there are the martori who pretend to be passers-by and make bets that always win (it's all the gang's money). They also cheer, clap and shout excitedly to draw in more passers-by. Remember the targets are foreign tourists who can't hear the same accents used by the trickster and the martori, usually female, perhaps sisters and girlfriends. In fact there are two scams in progress. The first is as described where a gullible person will lose a bet. The second is a distracted crowd being pick-pocketed.

What these people are doing is illegal and the Police are aware. This is a recent BBC piece about the problem.

These days it's difficult to walk down Westminster Bridge due to the barriers that have been placed along it to protect pedestrians from crazed nutters in vans etc. Clutching your phone and wallet as you squeeze past the throngs of people gathered every few yards to watch these gangs on the bridge is tricky and a little unnerving. Yesterday I counted 6 gangs operating the scam on the east side of the bridge. I've read reports of over a dozen at the same time on this one short bridge overlooking our most famous landmark.

So my point is, why do the police allow this crime to be committed in broad daylight and right next to the mother of all parliaments where the protection of all people within the Realm is enshrined? What message are we sending to the millions of tourists from all over the world who witness these scams  being openly and widely tolerated by the British state.

How hard can it be for a couple of uniformed bobbies to simply walk up and down the bridge telling these thieves to fuck off, if not bundling them into police wagons. Maybe a few more CCTV cameras with face recognition would help. At least we'd have the bastards on record - and not just the tricksters with the slight of hand, but the rest of the gang members blocking the path and conning  tourists... People from all over the world who we want and need to not only have a great experience of London, but to go home in the belief that the UK stands for decency and protection. A country where their money is safe and they are personally protected by a benign and welcoming state.

How about some screens or even posters warning visitors to avoid the scams? Make it a serious offense to damage them. While waiting for my luggage in Hong Kong airport a few months ago, I was shown a series of videos made by the police about a variety of scams I might experience in HK. Prevention is better than cure. Heathrow, Gatwick?

London is rightfully open to all peoples from all walks of life - thieves included, as long as they restrain themselves while here. It needs to be a beacon of openness, safety and fairness to everyone - irrespective of gender preference, race, country of origin or belief... In fact London needs to show leadership in encouraging people to question their beliefs, including a warped justification for profiting from crime.

And a final word about EU rules freely allowing 'these people' into the country. It would be a mistake to assume all such scammers are Romanians, even if most do originate from there. No matter where they are from, and whether it's legal or otherwise in their home countries, it's not legal or welcomed here. Preventing Romanians from freely coming to London is wildly and unfairly presumptive about all Romanians - to whom we want to demonstrate how an open, fair and safe society functions. Then perhaps they will take lessons back to their homeland where children will be taught there is no honour amongst thieves and that decent places do exist on Earth. The UK leaving the EU makes Romanians, and all EU nationalities less likely to witness and be indoctrinated by decency.

Beacon UK, not Brexit UK!


  1. I was in London and walked Westminster Bridge, stopped at all 5 scam sites and made a scene telling at the top of my voice that this was a scam robbing people and they should all stop being part of it, and the so called people who shown me their winnings, I yelled yes you are all part of it. I said I would call the police and if they didn't stop I would throw the cups over the bridge into the Thames. 45 mins later I walked back over the bridge, and all scammers had gone. Suggest more people do this, make a scene.

  2. You were brave to face up to them. Thank you!


Post a Comment

Thanks for taking an interest.

Popular posts from this blog

Phillips screws - yes I'm angry about them too

Don't get me wrong. They're a brilliant invention to assist automation and prevent screwdrivers from slipping off screw heads - damaging furniture, paintwork and fingers in the process. Interestingly they weren't invented by Mr Phillips at all, but by a John P Thompson who sold Mr P the idea after failing to commercialise it. Mr P, on the otherhand, quickly succeeded where Mr T had failed. Incredible isn't it. You don't just need a good idea, you need a great salesman and, more importantly, perfect timing to make a success out of something new. Actually, it would seem, he did two clever things (apart from buying the rights). He gave the invention to GM to trial. No-brainer #1. After it was adopted by the great GM, instead of trying to become their sole supplier of Phillips screws, he sold licenses to every other screw manufacturer in the world. A little of a lot is worth a great deal more than a lot of a little + vulnerability (watch out Apple!). My gromble is abo

Introducing Product Relationship Management - it's what customers want.

Most businesses these days have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems which store and process vasts amounts of information about us. They use this information to generate communications, amongst other things, which target us to buy their products and services. CRM is all about how a business relates to its customers: Past (keeping them loyal through aftersales and service), Present (helping them buy through bricks and clicks channels) and Future (prospecting). Most businesses will at some stage have declared themselves 'customer-centric'. They will probably have drawn diagrams on whiteboards that look something like these: But there's a problem with this whole approach of keeping the customer at the centre of your world and the focal point for everything you do. Is it what the customer wants ? Of course companies who ignore their customers eventually go out of business. And those who treat their customers well, tend to thrive. But is it really in the best inte

The Secrets of Hacker Golf

Social media is awash with professional golfers selling video training courses to help you perfect your swing, gain 50 yards on your drive and cut your handicap. They might help a few desperate souls, but the rest of us hackers already know everything we need to complete a round of golf without worrying the handicap committee or appearing on a competition winner's list. What those pros don't realise is that for us hacking golfers who very occasionally hit shots that if you hadn't seen how they were hit, end up where the pros might have put them, we already know everything we need to know - and more. Unlike pros who know how to time the perfect swing in order to caress a ball 350 yards down the centre of a fairway, we hackers need to assemble a far wider set of skills and know-how to complete 18 holes, about which pros have no comprehension, need, or desire to learn. Here are some of them: Never select your shot until after you've hit it. A variation on this is to alway