Travel story: The time where I encountered the “Hungarian Passport Police”

In the Spring of 2010, I was on a school trip with the excellent EF Tours in Central/Eastern (not necessarily eastern, but relatively eastern given where these tours normally operate in), and we were in Budapest for a few days. My friends and I were planning on walking around the area by our hotel, just to get a feel for the city. I think we made it a couple hundred feet before this yellow car drives up and parks on the sidewalk. We’re kinda shocked, given that we saw it speed up just to catch up with us; we didn’t expect that to happen by any means. This man and a woman leave the car, and briefly pulls out what appeared to be police badges. Now, given how quickly this is happening as well as it being completely spontaneous, we all recognized that this wasn’t legitimate. Obviously we didn’t speak a word of Hungarian, so we had no idea what was going on. Turns out that we ran into the infamous fake Hungarian plainclothes police. Later when I was back in the US, I read up on these guys-basically, they pretend to be police in order to steal unaware tourists’ passports. It highlighted how some people try to take advantage of a) newly arrived tourists and b) the prestige that police are held in. Scary stuff, right? Fortunately our group was about 10 people, so we had the numbers going for us. We also legitimately could say that we had no idea what was going on, therefore if you didn’t mind we were going to be going our merry way. I just remember how disappointed the couple was when they saw us walking off; their expressions were absolutely priceless. At any rate, be aware of these scams in countries-it happens, but fortunately nothing came about of this encounter.


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