Stockholm: Avoid this popular tourist scam in Gamla Stan
Some cities in Europe are known for the various tourist scams that relieve you of your money or your wallet. Or both. Stockholm, for the most part, is a very safe city, but even the Swedish capital has a scam to watch out for.
Wandering through Gamla Stan is a wonderful way to get to know the medieval history of Stockholm. The Old Town is one of the best preserved in all of Europe and has a beautiful array of churches, historic buildings, and museums. It is also a great place to pick up overpriced knickknacks and souvenirs. Despite my feelings towards those overpriced souvenirs, what goes on inside the stores is not any kind of scam. It is what goes on just outside of the stores that you need to watch out for.
On Västerlånggatan, the main tourist street in Gamla Stan, the street where you’ll find enough Swedish souvenirs to send you over the luggage limit, you’ll also find a classic street scam.
What to look for (and avoid)
A group of people gathers around a man kneeling on the ground. In front of him is a simple game. Find the ball. It seems easy enough, just watch which box the man hides the ball under and follow along as he scrambles the boxes.
Yep, it’s the old shell game. We’ve all played the game at some point in our life. Of course, usually it only costs a dollar and will result in a stuffed animal being won at the county fair. Here you are “shelling out” 500 SEK notes (about $70). The problem is, you’re not really playing. At least not by any standard of fair play.
The scam is just as simple as the game itself. Instead of actually putting the ball under one of the moving boxes, the man keeps it hidden in his hand. You can’t win. It doesn’t matter which box you choose, there will be no ball and there will be no payout.
Walk on by…
Don’t stop to play the game. Don’t even stop to watch the game. Often times, the scam works with a team. The scammer with the quick hands, maybe even a scammer who plays and, lo and behold, wins, and of course a few cohorts wandering around the crowd, rooting through pockets, purses, and backpacks.
Recently, the Stockholm police force has been cracking down on this, but the scams continue. Warning signs are posted in shop windows throughout Gamla Stan, but tourists and scammers alike pay no heed as the games often take place in plain view of the warning signs.
The best thing you can do is simply keep walking. Don’t slow down to gawk, instead walk past, and enjoy the beautiful sights and history that Gamla Stan has to offer.
Tell us about your experiences
Have you seen this “game” in action? Have you been scammed yourself? Tell us about it in the comments section.