The Panama City Wedding Ring Scam
Perhaps Eddie and I look like people who want to be scammed, but we managed to stumble on another scam in Panama city that supposedly through internet research has been going on for 10 years! How do people not know about this, oh because why would you research a specific scam before you go to a city...you wouldn't.
How did it start...
Eddie was in a shop next to our hostel Machico in Panama City's Marbella region. Whilst he was paying he heard an American guy behind him saying on the phone what an awful morning it had been and he doesn't know what he's going to do.
After grabbing Eddies attention he explained he had left his bag in a cab which contained is passport, phone, money ...everything.
He explained that he was in the military, based in Afghanistan, and in Panama to surprise his family who were arriving on a cruise ship. However he could only access his funds with his passport. The only way to get his new passport would be a flight to a military base in Honduras. He needed to get to Albrook mall to porn his wedding ring for the cash to pay for this flight. With no way to get there, Eddie decided to help by inviting him next door to the hostel to give him a metro card, we didn't need it anymore anyway and thought it a nice gesture to help him out.
He came in, told me his story also and how he might have to porn his wedding ring, however because he has no ID, he may not be able to get them to hold it and may lose it forever. He asked us our opinion on whether he thinks he should risk it, to pay for his flight to Honduras to meet his family. I completely fell for it, felt awful for him and tried to talk through solutions on how we could try and contact the cab driver, however he had already called the Police supposedly and they said they will try but most likely to no avail as these cabs are private and he does not have the registration.
Through natural conversation he brought up the fact that if someone had pay-pal perhaps he could use his account to transfer money over, as he can't get into his online banking as he had no phone. He asked if either of us did by any chance, and both of us automatically said no, obviously not wanting to be at risk. After more conversations I thought to myself...how could I be affected, if I have no money in my pay-pal and he transfers money and takes it out, what affect would that have on me, what if he really has no other choice what will he do?
So I went on my computer telling him that maybe I could try and sign in to an old one, however I went on and realised Eddies signed in automatically...perhaps Eddie was thinking the same as me...can we trust him...is this a scam. I wasn't sure so I asked Eddie to come over to the screen, and I pointed without saying anything that his was signed in, without alerting this guy in front of us, whilst he was telling us he was from Chicago and was passing through to connect for Cruise ship planned, and he only had a week holiday. Eddie decided to take the laptop off of me, and typed in - PANAMA CITY WEDDING RING SCAM. Low and behold, all the stories came up on trip advisor, few different variations but with all the EXACT story, military, Afghanistan, wedding ring, porn shop, Honduras, flights, cruise ship, family holiday more and more.
With all our belongings on show around the sofa including my camera and phones, neither of us wanted to confront him and risk him grabbing our things and running off in a panic. So we calmly told him we had no luck, and we were on the website for the American Embassy for information for him. He knew...I know he knew, and he told us they were closed and started questioning how much was on the metro card, enough to go and return? To be honest I had no idea probably not and maybe only a dollar, but by this stage I just wanted this man who betrayed me, made me feel sorry for him and put myself at risk of loosing money to just get out my face. So we told him it had 5 dollars on and we wished him luck on his journey to finding his family.
He knew...and he walked off and said thanks.
This is a TOURIST scam, picking on nice people who will feel sorry for him. One of the cases online I saw that someone lent him the cash, and held his wedding ring as a deposit, and of course never came back for it, because it will be worth nothing.
Be vigilant, be safe and be street smart! This happened by an American in the poshest city in Central America in the poshest area in the city, you can get caught out anywhere.