Getting Scammed in Istanbul with Conor Woodman
Scam City’s Conor Woodman found that Turkey’s scams are much more sophisticated than traditional stealing. Find out what he learned about dodgy places and shady characters while filming in Istanbul.
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Conor Woodman has travelled around the globe in search of the world’s biggest scams. Find out what it’s like behind the scenes of his show, Scam City, and what he learned about filming undercover in this week’s episode, set in Istanbul, Turkey.
With Istanbul being the last city you filmed (but not the last one to air!), how did you feel coming to this episode? Were you happy it was almost over or excited to do it again?
On the edge of exhaustion! I kept just enough in the tank to do one more. Doing it again would be fun, though.
How many miles have you logged in airplanes in total for the complete series?
According to Google Maps, 77,000 miles (124,000 kilometres).
After filming all around the world, what was your favourite episode to shoot and for what reason?
Tricky. I enjoyed Istanbul loads because it was so unpredictable. The shoot took a funny turn on the first night and so it was fun to just follow along for the ride.
That was your first times in Istanbul; what kind of expectations did you have before coming, and did Istanbul deliver?
I didn’t expect it to feel so European. It really reminded me of Prague or Vienna.
Having experienced so many scams around the world, would you say that the different cultures have different ways to approach scamming? In Istanbul, for example?
It seems that many Islamic cultures favour the wily scam. All the scams in Istanbul involve confidence and getting people to willingly hand over the cash. Much more sophisticated than just stealing.
“You need to be careful, especially when you’re trying to push people to see how far they’ll go.”
What was different in the filming of the Istanbul episode compared to other ones?
As a team, we were better at staying undercover than ever before. We didn’t get busted once, which was a first.
Having worked a lot with the team at this point, were the different team members a plus to the success of the episode, in your opinion?
Every team has been great. This one was no different.
How would you describe the main character of the Istanbul episode?
Nuri. What a great character. The courage that guy must have had to take off at the age of 10 to a big city—on his own!! He’s a crook, but he has a wonderful charm.
Were you scared at any point in this episode while going undercover in dodgy places?
Some clip joints can turn really nasty. So you need to be careful, especially when you’re trying to push people to see how far they’ll go. Yes, at times it was on the edge.
What would you say is the recipe for a good episode?
A clever scam with an interesting character behind it. The best episodes have characters like Nuri.
Do you think that scammers in Istanbul are more clever in the way they operate?
Nuri speaks pretty well in a few languages. All self-taught while working on the street. I admire that.
Typically, scammers use sins or human weaknesses to get people into their web; what is the one they use in Istanbul?
Lust to get the punters in. Pride, perhaps, to get them to pay.
What were the highs and lows of filming the episode in Istanbul?
Nuri approaching me to warn me I was being followed. And the rain.
Is there any story in Istanbul that you wish you’d been able to look into in more depth?
I’d like to have had time to visit Nuri at his house. But it was too far from town for us to schedule it in.
What would be the main advice you would give to a friend going to Istanbul for a fun weekend?
Bring your own friends.
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