Middle-aged Italian man with broken English pulled over next to my car in a red Ford Lincoln SUV near a WalMart to ask for directions. He wanted to know the location of a non-existent Italian clothing store. He claimed that he had not been in the area for over 6 years and feared the store may have closed down.
He said he was in a rush to catch a plane back to Italy and that he couldn't bring his leather jackets onto the plane with him because of a restriction on his luggage and pulled out an official looking document from JFK to back up his statement.
The man, whose name was Alfonso Russo, said he was from Italy and that he would be opening up a store in New York City in the following year and that he wanted to advertise his company, Emporio Collezione. He showed me three jackets and said they were real leather. He wanted to exchange one of his jackets for a gift for his mother in Italy whose birthday he was heading back for.
Instead of selling each of the jackets that he said were worth $700, $800, and $800 dollars, he instead wanted to give them all to me to make good business and extended an open hand saying that I would always be welcome to drop by his house in Italy. He gave me his phone number, which he suspiciously had to withdraw from his own cell phone.
As we continued talking, he told me to come down to JFK Airport in order to select the gift for his mother. After declining, he insisted that I pay him $170 as that would cover the entire cost of the gift. I did not have money on me and asked whether he was fine with driving over to an ATM machine where I could withdraw money. He then gave me his jackets to hold on to.
He was completely fine with it and that set off my last alarm bell. For someone in a hurry to catch a flight to Italy, I would not be following a person through the streets of New Jersey in order to find an ATM machine. We drove out of the WalMart and he started following me. At that point, I realized that he was driving a rental car as the numbers on the license plate were in red lettering.
I was able to get in touch with a friend of mine that then looked up the company that this guy was promoting and we realized it was a scam. It said to immediately notify law enforcement when you come across such an individual. I immediately got the guy's license plate number and called 911 as I thought this guy might attempt to do something aggressive after I refused to pay and gave him back his jackets.
Police came and got our information, but honestly did not seem to care. They said the guy was free to sell whatever the hell he wanted, whenever he wanted to. I gave him back his jackets and the police got his information for the future.
If I hadn't gotten the report online, I would have fallen victim to the scam. Emporio Collezione is not a real company and the jackets he was attempting to sell were not real leather and were probably worth much less than what he bargained for them.