Brent Baker: We felt that when people go abroad they are going into someone else's environment where they know all the rules and the traveller may not. Anyone who travels knows most of the people you meet are helpful and honest, but every city has a handful who are not. You often hear warnings from tour guides and the like to be careful of pick pockets, etc. But we wanted to take it a step further and by showing some of the scams that take place ultimately provide viewers with a real understanding of how they can protect themselves. We wanted to show that, in some ways, a trip to these environments is like an innocent walking into a jungle - there are loads of harmless animals and a few predators. Like a wildlife show, we wanted to see how these predators work and behave.
Q: What research do you conduct prior to filming?
Brent Baker: Careful research and preparation are in some ways the most important part of our production process. We begin our research from our home base in the UK - checking travellers' forums, phoning contacts, talking to locals and other travellers. Then we travel incognito to our chosen city to research on the ground. This means meeting and talking to people, and also just observing to see what happens.
Q: Who do you work with on-the-ground locally to find scams, and how do they find the scams?
Brent Baker: We arrange local fixers who know the streets and who know characters on the streets.
Q: Take us through filming a scam from start to finish.
Brent Baker: Every scam is different. Typically we will observe and research and then back off to make a thorough plan involving Conor’s participation, what equipment we need and where the cameras need to be. At other times we just go armed with hidden cameras and put Conor out as bait, hoping to attract scammers.
Q: What technologies do you use to capture the scams? Where do you hide the cameras? Brent Baker: We have a range of cameras, some use very long lenses and are "hidden" in plain view, but at a distance, others may be hidden in a bag. Conor has a small camera secreted in a shirt button and we have cameras hidden in sunglasses.
Q: Is it difficult to get scammers to talk on camera about the tricks of their trade?
Brent Baker: Not all scammers will talk to us, but many do. Flattery works well in the first instance - these are people who have only ever been treated negatively by the authorities for what they do. However, Scam City takes an interest in what they do, how they do it and why. Many of them nurse a secret pride in their hustles and take little encouragement to reveal their skills. We also tell them that we're there to discover and observe, not to judge, so we don't go running to the police with what we've learned. The police do an excellent job, but their job and ours is different here. We don’t pay the participants to be in the show but as is common practice in television production, sometimes they’re compensated upon completion of filming to recompense for loss earnings, locations or disturbance fees depending on their involvement and role in the episode.
Q: Are there any common scamming techniques you noticed through the series?
Brent Baker: We're always surprised if we don't find a taxi scam, and black widow scams - where travellers' drinks are drugged before they get robbed.
Q: What safety/travel tips would you provide to tourists when visiting some of these amazing cities?
Brent Baker: Be sensible but not scared, we want you to enjoy these great cities, be open minded but not naive, be cautious but not paranoid. Enjoy yourself but remember: If something seems too good to be true then it probably is....