Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BOOKWORM: A Guide To Russia's Inventive Swindlers




It's a sign of the times that one of the season's hottest items is a book called "Fraud in Russia: How to Keep Yourself From Being Swindled" (Moshennichestvo v Rossii: Kak uberechsya ot aferistov). It was released earlier this month by a leading publishing house, Eksmo, with an initial print-run of 20,000 copies, and sells for 13 to 30 rubles ($2 to $5).


Written by Moscow journalist and author Sergei Romanov in a breezy tabloid style, this hefty, 750-page publication describes hundreds of spheres of shady activity.


There are the fake Afghan war vets with bandaged eyes and crutches, posing as beggars and collecting money on the metro. Others cheat babushkas out of their recently privatized apartments or proclaim themselves faith healers or "white sorcerers" and make money on human suffering. Watch out for the counterfeiters, who manufacture everything from bank notes to movie tickets. Those blessed with sex appeal can play marriage games, with their sweetheart's money and property as prizes. Still others create financial pyramids, or take bribes. The list is endless.


Nikolai Gogol wrote a century and a half ago that Russia most distinguished itself with its fools and bad roads. According to Romanov, the great writer should have added a third element: crooks. "I bet we have a similar proportion of crooks and fools. It's a vicious circle: they feed and support each other."


The book is divided into 21 chapters that take the reader on an alphabetical tour of tricks, from "advertising" to "sex," with stops along the way for "beggars" "casinos" and "jewelry," among others.


Although it is not the first such book, it is the most complete, and many Russian citizens and nearly every foreign student and observer of modern Russia will find valuable tips on how to avoid being parted from their money unawares.


The larcenous at heart can even pick up a few pointers, on the premise that "when in Rome, do as the Romans do."


For instance, you can always get paid twice when selling your car to a Russian. First, you get the agreed-upon price in cash without informing anybody. Then the buyer "steals" your car, and pays a bribe of approximately $5,000 to get proper documents for it. You announce its loss and get the money from your insurance company back home. To soothe your guilty conscience, the author describes in the chapter on car fraud other dubious tricks practiced by official state organs from customs officers to the traffic police.


The reader will find in the chapter on car fraud many other useful recommendations, from "Twenty Steps on How Not to Have Your Car Stolen" to "Eight Steps on What to Do When Your Car Is Stolen," in case the first 20 steps didn't work.