¡Mami, mami, ayúdame!

¡Mami, mami, ayúdame! Soy tu hija. The caller was crying. Noticing the area code was in the D.F., I hung up. Five minutes later, she called again, and noticing it’s the same number and hearing voices in the background, I’m prepared to take her call. Lowering my voice, I ask

Policia preventiva, en qué puedo servirle?

She hung up on me. The nerve!

It’s scamming time again in our old country. Even though crime knows no season, El Buen Fin, aguinaldos and charitable spirit make for easy pickings.

Two gringos walking around Morelia’s Paseo Altozano met up with a young man racing toward them, agitated and waving his jacket, imploring them with “Do you speak English?” His English sounded perfect to them. They stopped to hear his tale about coming from Puebla, picking up a taxi at the bus station, and being robbed of all he had by the taxi driver. He was supposed to meet a friend at the mall, but somehow had missed the connection. Could they help him out? He pulled $15 in Estadounidense currency out of his pocket, which they exchanged for Mexican pesos, wondering what was going on. And then they caught on that something just might’ve been amiss. They told him to go on his way, suggesting he might find help at Walmart. They were lucky.

A local who’d lived her entire life in my neighborhood was a victim just last Thursday, right in the middle of the day. She encountered the man on the otherwise sleepy residential street, claiming to be a curandero from Uruapan, offering up his services in reading palms, predicting the future, and performing limpias to chase away the evil spirits which harbor in everyone’s house from time to time. She waved him away, telling him she didn’t have any money. He followed her around the block to her house, and as she entered, he forced his way in, telling her not to scream and calling her names. He wouldn’t leave until she’d forked over some of her stashed-away cash. That’s only money, and it’s nothing compared to the psychological crisis he’s inflicted upon her. Location: one block from my house. Native Mexicana.

Then there’s the pigeon drop, which happened only last year to a foreigner living in Patzcuaro. An indigenous woman, looking all sweet and innocent, approaches the woman, saying she can’t read and showing a letter from her employer. She is supposed to locate a person in Patzcuaro to pick up her lottery winnings, which the employer will lay claim to. A confederate  steps in, claiming to be a psychologist, answering in the affirmative when the foreigner asks if he works at a local school, and the scam is in place.  You know where this is headed: all three head to the lottery office, the foreigner puts up the requested property to assure all of her honest and good intentions, and the victim’s left high and dry.

Another phone call, this time to a foreigner living in the next town over. It’s his nephew Jason, who he hasn’t heard from in ages, calling from jail, begging for discretion and assistance.  Never mind that the foreigner supplied the nephew’s name for the caller. And down the road to Guadalajara the man called uncle drives, but not before he’s put together a fair amount of cash to help out his new-found nephew.

A plumber shows up.  “Your husband didn’t tell you that he’d called me?” he says. “I’m here to fix the hot water heater. Gaining access to the house, he’s shown the way to the hot water heater, and left to ply his trade – which was sifting through the homeowner’s belongings.  Two blocks down the street from me. Native Mexicana.

“We’re la señora’s cousins from Salamanca,” the well-dressed duo who’d alighted from a late-model car told the housekeeper who answered the door while her patrona was in Centro. Shuffling them off to the den to wait while she made them tea, she called her patrona, who reported that she had no cousins.  The housekeeper kept the couple waiting for the police to arrive.  Four blocks from my house. Native Mexicana.

And here’s my favorite: the dead baby. A young lady rings at my gate, asking for money for her dead baby. I cut her off. A month passes, and the dead baby lady returns. I give her the same treatment. Month three comes around, and here she is again. You’d think she’d learn by now.  This time I answer the gate, and I ask her if she’s carrying around the same dead baby as before or if she has a baby die on her each month. I tell her that, whatever the case may be, she’s really got a problem which only DIF can help her with. Sputtering obscenities, she takes off running down the street.

We’ll take a look at some ways to spot scamsters,  snollygosters, and criminals and what steps you can take to keep them at bay in our next blog post, but until then, what scams have you seen put into action in Mexico or wherever you may be?

11 comments on “¡Mami, mami, ayúdame!

  1. You clearly need to move to a nicer neighborhood.

    Or do what I do. Don’t answer the doorbell unless you are expecting someone.

    Rely solely on a cell phone. No land lines. I ain’t got no pinche land line.



  2. Tancho says:

    Kinda makes me happy to be living in the middle of a forest. And here I thought life in the city was full of bliss, restaurants and happy endings…..


  3. Here is the latest one from a neighbor in Baltimore:

    Yesterday we returned home to a very generic looking Comcast door hanger saying that there was a problem with our service and that we needed to call and have a tech come out. We also found our internet service was off. The numbers on the tag did not go direct to Comcast. We tried to verify the tag with Comcast but could not get a straight answer from them. We scheduled with the tech listed on the tag and they came out this morning.

    Rather than one tech, two men arrived. Their car was unmarked and they did not have a Comcast badge. My husband allowed them into our home with the intent to watch them, but at one point one broke off and was alone. My husband then discovered that they corrected the internet problem by simply unscrewing a signal block that had been put on to our outside line.

    We are very concerned that these men were not from Comcast. Nothing appears stolen and our windows and doors are all locked. However, we still cannot get a straight answer from Comcast as to the validity of this visit.


  4. And another:

    Citizens are cautioned:
    Beware of Public Works Impostors

    BALTIMORE. MD (November 14, 2013) — Baltimore City Department of Public Works Director, Alfred H. Foxx, today advised citizens to beware of possible Public Works impostors. The impostors pose as city water workers and seek to gain illegal admittance into your home. At least one possible attempt has been reported today in northeast Baltimore County.

    Citizens should remember the following:

    Department of Public Works (DPW) employees are not authorized to enter your home without your permission.

    Our employees wear uniforms and have photo ID. Always ask to see a Baltimore City employee identification card which includes a photograph. If you doubt the authenticity of either do not let them in and contact DPW for verification.

    Baltimore City residents may call 311. In the Baltimore County service area, please call 410-396-5352.

    Report any and all suspicious activity to the Police by dialing 911 immediately.


  5. John Calypso says:

    Here in Puerto Escondido some industrious ladrones were delivering water (garaphons). Two hombres carry in the bottles and case the joint; and seize any opportunity to lift something if the situation lends itself to that; for instance the home owner goes to another room to get pesos or an open purse is nearby..

    While it would be nice to have the heavy bottles brought all the way in the casa – we have them leave the bottles at the gate – NEVER allowing entry.

    Glad you are back!


  6. Kim G says:

    Even though I live in a safe part of safe city, I never even open the door for strangers, at least initially. I just talk through the glass until I get a sense of who they are. Fortunately, I’ve never been scammed here.

    But I may have been scammed once in DF. It took place at night in DF in front of the Hilton across from the Alameda, where I was staying. A blonde gringa approached me with a tale of woe of having lost her money, and needing to get back to Houston or Dallas. It sounded legit, so I gave her 200 pesos. F thinks she scammed me. I’m not sure. It’s hard not to put yourself in such a similar, desperate situation and feel compassion. Yet you don’t want to be a sucker for some scammer either. It’s a tough decision.

    It’s good that you post this. As much as I love Mexico, I’m under the impression that there’s a segment of the expat population that lives in a golden bubble, mostly due to not speaking Spanish. Of course, once you get to know Mexicans in Spanish, you hear all the tales of scams, robberies, assaults, phone calls from prisons demanding ransom for family members who are not even kidnapped, etc. It’s good to have a reality check from time to time. I don’t think Mexico is safer than the US, but it is in many ways freer. Freer for criminals and freer for the rest of us, though we occasionally pay the price.

    It’s worth paying, though.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where, despite the above, we do think the Mexican police need to up their game a bit.


  7. One of the things we really like about our house is that we have a separate entrance to our backyard. No one goes through our house unless we know them.

    I’ve had the mamì calls, it totally confuses them when I immediately switch to rapid English. I had some guy call and tell me that he’s my brother, he called back twice but the 2nd time talking to Husband dissuaded him.

    We had some guy try to get money from us to take the bus to Cancun because his passport was stolen. We suggested he go to the consulate in Merida instead and offered him the 6 pesos and pointed to the correct bus.


  8. Barbara says:

    Don’t open the gate. Hang up on the phone. And just keep moving if someone tries to stop me on the street…….So far, have never been scammed. I always keep my car doors locked too……


  9. Croft says:

    A well dressed, polite 15 or so year old boy knocked on our motorhome door in SMA telling us (in perfect English) that he lived in a nice neighboring house that he pointed at. He needed school uniform and supply money in two days. He said his dad worked in the USA and would be home in three days, the day after the money had to be paid out. Could we loan him $500 pesos and he and his father would come over to repay it in three days. Foolishly, we gave him the money, telling him that if he would rather come back to wash and wax the motorhome, we would forgive the debt. After many thank-you’s, promises and handshakes he left, never to be seen again.

    Like Kim G. says, it is a tough decision. I am not usually that gullible but he did have a good story.


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