You Need to Ketchup with these Condiment Cons

Ketchup is used in pick-pocketing scamErich Ferdinand via Flickr

Con artists walk among us. At times you can pick up on their schemes right off the bat; other times they’re disguised as do-gooders there to help you. Fraudsters, scammers, snake oil salesmen – by all these names – are out there looking for the next sucker.

There are some places where you know you have to be street smart and on the lookout, otherwise your naiveté could get someone hurt. Sometimes the only thing that gets hurt is your bank account, but the pain is no less. Big, busy cities are havens for thieves, pickpockets, and scammers who often peg tourists as easy targets.

Although there are many, one of the pick-pocketing cons to be aware of involves condiments. We know. You’re thinking, “How are ketchup and mustard involved with thievery?” The folks that engage in these activities have come up with a bunch of clever ways to be dishonest and deceitful. Check this out.

To get their crime rolling, some hooligans get together and scope out an unsuspecting target as they leave the bank or ATM with a large sum of cash. Said target might also be wearing or carrying other valuables that look quite satisfying to thirsty criminals.

Coordinating with signals, cell phones, and movements, out of nowhere a stranger comes and spills ketchup, mustard, or some other liquid on the mark— “accidentally.” Then out of a different side of nowhere swoops in a different stranger (or set of strangers), eager to help with cleaning off the grime. In reality, they are cleaning out the person in the name of crime. Pockets are emptied, bags are violated, and luggage is even lifted.

Image of pickpocket.Andrey Popov via Deposit Photos
Beware of the helpful stranger! This particular scam is common in international locales, and has been going on in New York for some years too. Other variations besides condiments? Paint, ice cream, and invisible bird poo. Yes, someone will pretend there is bird dung on your shoulder, pointing it out on you and in the sky, while another person is picking your pocket.

What this hinges on is your attention being diverted away from your possessions. Besides being aware and vigilant, there are a few things you can do to avoid becoming a victim. One: don’t look or act like a tourist. Sorry, but the fanny pack, white sneakers, and camera dangling from your body are a dead giveaway. In some places, so are backpacks, flashy jewelry, and loud talking.

Two: as far as your baggage, keep your wallet and cash in a place other than your back pocket. Messenger bags or purses with long straps that can be kept close to the front of your body work well. The same holds true for laptops and luggage, as airports are a common location for the condiment con. When on the move, have your baggage close by, and when stopped, stow it between your feet.

Unwitting folks can easily become targets in a matter of seconds. Take note and keep your eyes peeled so you won’t be caught off guard. For those of you with travel experience, have you ever been scammed? What tips and tricks have made you wiser? Share in the comments!