There is a not so new conman on the streets of Mumbai and Goa. A phoney British Indian has been doing the rounds on unsuspecting tourists and Indians alike, and he’s been at it for years.
Of course, scams in India are nothing new. Whether it’s a tout that says the railway station is closed, the covert switching of notes by a merchant, Jewel and gold scams, or even a “broken meter” in your taxi. These are well known and well documented, but this man is one step ahead of those menial tricks, evolving your everyday scam into a theatrical event which lasts hours.
I met him at a large intersection in South Mumbai under the alias of Grenville Green. I gladly aided the well spoken, but heavily distressed British man. I took him somewhere with WiFi, so he could use my phone to call his brother back in London.
As I questioned his situation, he told me of being mugged in a park the evening before in North Mumbai. He’d had his credit cards, passport, and keys to a house in Delhi taken in the process. He was missing his left lateral incisor tooth and had bruises/scarring to his left eye to support this. The British Embassy was legitimately closed for the day as it was India’s independence holiday. Without a passport, it’s impossible to stay in a hotel, and without consular help, getting another passport is painstakingly hard. His story was relatable, factually sound and presented an exciting sense of adventure. Though more importantly, I was enjoying our bond after roughly a week without Western contact. Justifications aside, it was a conscious decision to go down a rabbit hole I could already see had no quick end.
The simple resolution was for his brother to wire money via the Western Union. But of course, without documentation, Grenville Green couldn’t receive it, so instead, it was sent to my name.
I’ve since realised this was key in the psychology of his scheme. Entrusting me with the responsibility of receiving a money transfer on his behalf so early in our evening made him seem incredibly vulnerable. It felt like I held a lot of responsibility, and given his circumstances, I felt it imperative to do what’s right for my fellow man.
So we set off to find a Western Union branch. We asked the station master at CST who sent us to Mandvi. We got a bus too far but I located another on my phone. It was closed. We got a taxi to Parel to a different one. It was closed. And along this went for hours.
Throughout our evening together he became more and more distressed. While I would be calm but firm to encourage a taxi to use the meter, Grenville would lose his temper. “It’s because of our accents!” He would scream in total frustration. I’ve met a lot of distressed Westerners in India before and this performance was a grade A piece of work. It was a little over the top, but given the stress of his immediate circumstances, it slipped by me.
With our options exhausted and the day coming to an end, all we could think of was that he take emergency transport, organised by his hotel, to his family home in Delhi before the thugs in Mumbai did.
We went to the HSBC on Mahatma Gandhi Road around 11pm where I withdrew 22,000rs. 20,000rs for the emergency transport and 2,000rs for additional expenses. With a Western Union transfer in my name for 47,000rs, he had entrusted me to take out my expenses and then wire him back the remainder.
Upon returning to my budget Colaba hotel, a simple Google search returned an extensive Tripadvisor forum detailing multiple experiences with this man. Roughly 30 (or more) people have claimed to have been scammed by him, with many more presumably undocumented.
I daresay I was somewhat cocky during my third trip to India, but retrospect is never kind. If you do find yourself in Mumbai, definitely keep your eyes peeled. He isn’t dangerous as much as he’s manipulative, and his performance will leave you thoroughly impressed. Moral of the story: you can never be too careful. Situations in India have a tendency to wear you down to the point of submission, and scammers know this. You’ve simply got to keep your wits about you and scrutinise suspicious situations, but conversely, be careful not to block everybody out.
Of course, in the case of myself and Grenville Green, it all just seemed too likely at the time. Grenville has built himself an impressive online reputation. Further reading on other people’s experiences can be found here: