It was a hot Saturday afternoon when the devious deal went down. Two Italian guys, well dressed and with possibly fake Italian accents, drove up to me in a monstrous white Chrysler SUV while I walked out of the Downtown Bellevue Park. The driver rolled down his tinted window and his scamming pitch began. His name was Giuseppe Milano, but I wasn’t too sure if that was his full name or just his first name, so I resorted to calling him “hey.”
It started casually, with an exchange of handshakes and names, and quickly switched to a desperate need for directions to the SeaTac airport.
The Italian showed me his blacked-out iPhone and pressed all the buttons, proving his helplessness. Naïve about what was going to happen, I took out my phone and started mapping the directions to the airport.
As I offered to write down the routes on a piece of paper, he told me about his reason for visit.
“We’re here for fashion week. I work for Giorgio Armani and we’re presenting the new 2015 fashion line,” he said. I’ve never met anyone who works in the fashion industry so I was quite interested in what lies he had to spew.
I finished writing down the directions and wished him luck in finding the airport. Before even taking a step away from the car, however, he stopped me and offered me something for my kindness.
“No, it’s fine. I have to be somewhere,” I said, yet he insisted that I hear him out.
“I have to take some extra clothes back to Italy for my family, but I have to pay customs and it costs too much,” he said, “I want to give you some.”
I again refused his offer, but he convinced me by saying, “Look, you helped me out and I really want to help you now. It’s free.” That should’ve already been a warning that I was being deceived, but I couldn’t help myself and gave him a chance.
He came out of the driver’s seat and took me to the side of the car that did not face the road, which should’ve been a second warning for me to leave this well-dressed Italian stud. He proceeded to show me three items and told me to feel them in order to prove their authenticity and quality of the design, two things that I have no idea about.
He then changed his deal and said, “These are all really expensive and I can’t give you for free, but I will give you a discounted price. Give me what you can and I’ll give you one.”
This was my third warning that these guys were the fakest Italian fashionistas and I should run away as fast as I could, but I found myself walking to the nearest ATM to get some money out.
I knew something was terribly wrong. I searched “Fashion Week Seattle” on my phone and saw that it was occurring next week. This should’ve been the final warning to convince me, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
Needless to say, I sold my dignity for a smelly and fake leather jacket.
Though, I have to admit, these guys did a fantastic scam job. Their story was perfected over numerous attempts with other people, who were probably smarter than me by rejecting their offers.
Being a fashion scammer, I realized, is a pretty easy occupation. It doesn’t require a college degree, though it’d be a good idea to get one in case things don’t work out. It needs some acting skills, but it’s not too hard to get some. A fashion scammer only needs to wear some Sunday church clothes and tell a good story.
Now, there are obviously daunting moral and social consequences that come with the job such as deceiving another for personal benefits, possibly starting a criminal record, getting arrested and more.
To ameliorate the issues with morality, or bouts with the police, bring a close partner who is also interested in getting into the scamming business. They can be the little devil on your shoulder and a lookout for cops.
Similar to these Italian fakes, begin with a favor and manipulate the selfish nature that every human is born with. Offer a prize for their generosity, but with a negotiable price. Free is not an option. Once they seem convinced, seal the deal and drive away to the next naïve victim.
It’s a slow and tough start, but like any job in the world, work hard and one just might reach the top.