A few ‘real-life’ Traveller’s Tales:
I was on holiday, and I was looking round a famous palace, when a man came up to me and asked me to take a photo of him. He gave me his camera, but it wasn’t working properly. When I gave it back to him, he dropped it on the floor and it broke. I picked it up and went to give it to the man, but he was gone. Then I discovered my wallet was missing.
When I went abroad last year for a business trip, I didn’t have time to get any local money before I left. So after I landed, I went straight to the bank to get three hundred euros. I was in a hurry because I had a train to catch. The cashier slowly counted out the notes and when he stopped, I picked them up. When I got to the train station I realized later that I only had a hundred euros.
When we were on holiday, two men knocked on the door of our apartment. They were wearing uniforms and they said they were police inspectors. One of them came in to look around while the other stayed by the door. Unfortunately, while we were talking to the first man, the second man took our wallets and cameras from the bedroom.
I was having a problem using the ticket machine in the metro, when someone came up to help me. He told me how much money I needed and then offered to put it in the machine for me. I counted out the money, but he said it wasn’t enough. I gave him some more money and I got my ticket. Unfortunately, I paid ten times the price for it!
I was waiting at a bus stop, when this beautiful woman came up to me. We got chatting, and she invited me to go to a club with her. We had a few drinks together and then the waiter brought me an incredibly expensive bill. I started to complain but then I noticed four big men at the door who were looking at me. Of course I paid the bill.
There is a certain vulnerability, when the Traveller doesn’t know the ground rules, but still have more cash on you than most of the locals. These cautionary tales rely on “quick money scams” of various types: it stings, but it beats being kidnapped and held to ransom, or getting knifed because you did a hand signal or wearing colours that signal membership in the wrong criminal network.
Note that India has a reputation for highly sophisticated, convoluted scamming: not the “grab the money and run” gimmick, but instead building up your trust so that they can get a nice deep bite of your bank account, instead of just doing the thug thing and emptying your wallet.
(And yes, of course this is true in the more East Indian regions of the Empty Quarter! It’s the same situation: a highly intelligent but poor people, looking at rich but dumb outsiders and coming up with a plan….)
This is somewhat different than in Russia, where the local mafiya (pre-Putin) would do a web search on you & your assets, and leave a letter in your hotel room listing your assets, and the percentage cut they expect. This is what I would expect from the sharper sort of Ovaghoun/Ikonaz criminal networks – “Vilani organization and Vargr hunting instincts, together at last!”