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How Do You Say 'Scam' In Italian?

Thursday, Mar. 08, 2007 5:09 PM

I've just finished loading groceries in the back of my car and about to get in when a well-dressed man in a white, luxury SUV pulls up and says, "Excuse me?"

I look in his direction, and he asks, "Do you speak Italian?" When I reply in the negative, he presses on in mangled English.

Producing a business card which is absolute gobbledy-gook because it's partly in Italian, he conveys the impression that he is a salesman, here for a trade show in Sacramento (we're about an hour down the road from there).

And, oh, yes, he just happens to have several designer suit jackets available, but he needs to sell them to help his boss. Or something like that. He'll even give me three of them for free if I buy just one. For whatever reason, he also waves an Italian passport about (though he does not show the inside which would identify himself).

I didn't stick around for the rest of the tale. I told him no. He promptly drove a little further down the aisle and collared the next man walking to his car.

What makes this man's story suspect?

1. "Do you speak Italian?" I don't, and he launches into his spiel. A business card in Italian and a supposed Italian passport are waved under my nose to establish his bona fides.

2. A trade show that is over an hour away. First, it's the middle of the week, and the middle of the afternoon. If you were at a trade show, why, of all places, would you be in a supermarket parking lot in a smaller city at 3:00 PM? If the trade show was the previous weekend, aren't you a little late getting back to the office?

3. Deal of the Century. Names on the business card included Gucci and Versace, but it was a plain white card that could have been printed at an automated kiosk, or even at Kinko's for very little expense. You are meant to believe that the jackets, then, are Gianni Versace. Not only that, you're going to get three of them for free ��four jackets for the price of one.

4. Mystery Passport. Why bother showing me your passport? In a scam, this would only serve to reinforce the business card - which he did not give to me, only waved it about.

5. Why Me? I was wearing faded jeans, a black t-shirt, and a work jacket. My hair is getting long again, and I'm growing my beard back (hence, I look rather scruffy). Why the hell would I want to buy designer suit coats?

I don't know for certain that this was a scam, but it sure sounds fishy.

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