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I have a friend who went on a business trip to Istanbul/Turkey. His bank pass was stolen and he reported that to the local police. He blocked his bank account and according to him he needs to fly home (Canada) to sort everything out. Unfortunately the Turkish police took his passport and now he cannot leave and also not pay his bill. I find it strange that he cannot arrange his bank affairs online.

Is the case with Canadian banks that you have to be there in person? According to my friend his bill is piling up. He was even detained for five days.

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    Is this friend someone you have met in person before, and are you absolutely certain that you are communicating with this same person now? Unfortunately, this has all the hallmarks of a fairly common scam. – mlc Jun 14 at 7:41
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    There is a warning about possible scams right here on the website of the Canadian embassy in Turkey canadainternational.gc.ca/turkey-turquie/… You should follow their advice and tell your friend to contact the Consulate General in Istanbul or the Embassy of Canada in Ankara, Turkey via the contact info given on the website, or you can contact the Canadian consular help service yourself if you are concerned about your friend but not sure the request is legitimate – Traveller Jun 14 at 8:54
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    You mean this "friend" is asking you to send money to help him pay whatever he needs and fly back home? This is most likely a scam. – jcaron Jun 14 at 8:54
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    Sharon, once you work out this situation, I hope you'll write again (e.g. by editing to add to your question) to let us know what you found out. Whether or not it's a scam, it would help future readers to know what steps you took to determine that. – Kyralessa Jun 14 at 12:38
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    Why did the police take his passport? (More precisely, what reason did your friend report to you?) Police only have authority to retain passports in certain well defined situations, so it may be possible to expose the scam that way, possibly with the cooperation of the Canadian consulate. – phoog Jun 14 at 15:04
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Most likely the person you're communicating with is not actually your friend, and is trying to scam you. This scenario, where a friend is overseas, has had everything stolen, and needs you to wire money, is a very common scam.

A person claims to be someone you know, and is in trouble overseas, and has lost passport, bank cards, etc., and has no other way to get money than to depend on you to send it via an irreversible method such as a wire transfer.

Consider:

  • Have you talked to this person by video, phone, or other means where you can personally identify him?
  • Have you been able to confirm that this person is who he says he is? For example, have you asked him the answer to a question that only the two of you would know about?
  • Supposing this person weren't overseas. How would you contact him? Have you tried that method of communication (such as a phone call)? You might discover that he isn't actually overseas at all.
  • Do you know any of this person's friends or relatives? Can you contact them to confirm that they actually knew beforehand that he was taking a trip overseas?
  • Have you offered to contact the Canadian consulate on your friend's behalf? In a real situation, this would be very helpful. This is one of the most important things a consulate does, and the consulate can confirm whether your friend is really over there and really in some kind of trouble. A scammer will try to talk you out of this.

If you can't do any of these things (or the person doesn't want you to), then you're talking to a scammer, and not to your friend. Do not send money to this person.

The scammer will have elaborate explanations for why:

  • you can't talk by voice or video
  • his friends and family don't know about this trip
  • getting the money is extremely urgent
  • the Canadian consulate can't or won't help
  • any other organization (or any other person besides you) can't or won't help

All of these excuses are intended to help you override natural caution or suspicion.

Listen to that suspicion. Anyone genuinely in such a situation would be willing to provide any proof needed.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Jun 17 at 4:09
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"Unfortunately the Turkish police took his passport and now he cannot leave and also not pay his bill"

Page 1 of my Canadian passport says "This passport is the property of the Government of Canada". Normally, no one has any grounds to keep it from the bearer of the passport and to demand money for its return.

If the police took his passport for longer than it takes to record his identity and to verify that he is legally allowed to be in Turkey, and they won't give it back, it usually would mean that he was arrested (which usually happens when the police believe they have enough evidence that the arrested person might have committed a crime). Often, when someone is arrested, all of their possessions are removed and documented in writing (including the exact number of coins in their wallet, so that the arrested person can't accuse the police of stealing, or would at least have a harder time proving it). You did say:

"He was even detained for five days"

It would not be unusual for the police to keep the passport during those five days, along with everything else in the arrested person's pockets, including their phone and any other communication device. For the arrested person to call you, they would normally need to use the police station's phone, and normally you would only be able to call a local number (which could include the Canadian embassy in Turkey, but not a friend outside the country like you). If he has told you all of this, it most likely means he's no longer detained, which means he would normally get all of his possessions back including the passport, except in one possible circumstance: he surrendered the passport himself, as part of a bail condition ("bail" is when an arrested person can leave the place where they're being held in custody, under some conditions, and surrendering a passport is a common one when the arrested person is not in their own country, because not having a passport reduces the possibility of the arrested person being a "flight risk"). If this is the case (i.e. he is calling you while on bail, with a passport surrendered to the police), then it would seem they want to keep him in Turkey while they continue their criminal investigation. You said:

"according to him he needs to fly home (Canada) to sort everything out"

That will not be happening if he is on bail with his passport surrendered to the Turkish police. You also said:

"he cannot leave and also not pay his bill"

What precisely does he have to pay? If it's a hotel bill, then it normally would be a matter of civil law and not a matter of criminal law, so the hotel would have to sue him for a court to order him to settle his civil debt. It would be extremely surprising to me if he is being arrested by police in Turkey just for not settling a debt. Police detain people for criminal matters, not civil matters, and if it's a criminal matter, you need to carefully consider how far you want to help this friend. I can understand if he needs money to pay for bail, but if he's talking to you he's likely already on bail. You said:

"I find it strange that he cannot arrange his bank affairs online. Do you know if this is the case with the Canadian banks that you have to be there in person."

Most Canadian banks have some sort of online banking, and international credit cards do work in most places in Turkey. However I know that at least TD Bank, which is the largest bank in Canada has recently made it extremely difficult to use online banking from abroad due to requiring 2-factor authentication when traveling, which either requires having the phone on which the bank's app was registered, or requires being able to answer a text message or phone call to the account holder's phone number on TD Bank's file (which is not always easy when traveling internationally). This is actually the reason I switched to a different bank, so indeed with Canada's largest bank it has recently become hard to do online banking while traveling internationally if without the account holder's Canadian phone, but travelers on business trips usually have the means to pay for any expected costs during their trip (and typically have to convince immigration staff at the airport, that they have enough money to sustain themselves during the trip, in order to be allowed into the country).

In conclusion: The story is suspicious and as the other answer suggests, I wouldn't send them money if I were you.


A minor additional note: You said,

"His bank pass was stolen..."

As a Canadian, I've never heard the term "bank pass". In the 90s something called a "passbook" was popular, but it wouldn't be any use in Turkey. If it was him that used the phrase "bank pass", I would find his story even more suspicious.

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  • "As a Canadian, I've never heard the term "bank pass"." They might be referring to one of those little crypto keys with the constantly-changing numbers that you need to enter into the bank's login page alongside your username and password. – nick012000 Jun 16 at 6:05
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    Also, if they were arrested, and the police took their passport as a bail condition, it's a possibility that they're not a scammer, but rather someone trying to flee the country to avoid justice for whatever crime they were arrested for. Does Canada have an extradition treaty with Turkey? If it doesn't, then returning to Canada might well be a valid way for them to avoid justice in Turkey. – nick012000 Jun 16 at 6:11
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    Nick, it sounds like you're not from Canada. That crypto machine is something I've never seen in Canada in my life. The first and only bank I ever got one of those for, was in Singapore. And you're absolutely: unlike the first answer, I didn't use the word "scam" anywhere in my answer. They might not even be trying to flee the country either. My answer was simply stating the facts about when a passport would be surrendered (vs confiscated), the importance of knowing what exact "bill" has to be paid, the truth that online banking from abroad is not always simple for Canadians, etc. – user1271772 Jun 16 at 15:39
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    @user1271772 it's rare but not entirely unheard of: hsbc.ca/security/security-device the government also mentions hard tokens: cyber.gc.ca/en/guidance/… but TD certainly uses td.com/privacy-and-security/privacy-and-security/… other ways. I used an OTP token with a business account with a Latvian bank a decade ago, they might have moved to smartphone apps by now, who knows. But yes: it's not called a bank pass for sure. – chx Jun 17 at 1:23
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    @nick012000 They might be be referring to all sort of things, but the point is it's an unusual phrase and cause to be suspicious that this is not actually the friend. Thinking "That's weird, but I guess they might mean...so I won't worry about it" is one of the classic lines of thinking that makes people fall for scams. – DJClayworth Jun 24 at 13:57
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If I was that guy, the first thing I would do is contact my wife, or contact my parents, or contact my siblings. Your friend doesn't have any family? Did you talk to this friend on the phone? Do you recognize voice? What's his favorite ice cream? Did he send you an email? An SMS?

Most likely, it's is some scammer. This kind of scam is popular in several countries. They send the same message to everyone.

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    Welcome to our community! However, are you 100% that this is a scam from that counttry? If not, is it really necessary to accuse that country of being the source of the scam (if it even is a scam) out of all 200+ countries? Just because some countries have more of a reputation for things, compared to other countries, doesn't mean we have to perpetuate those stereotypes in StackExchange answers. – user1271772 Jun 17 at 2:23
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    Thanks for contributing, but tis really doesn't add anything to the other answer. – DJClayworth Jun 24 at 13:58

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