Rome’s fake street painters and bracelet scammers unmasked in viral videos.
Lithuanian magician Rokas Bernatonis has exposed a scam involving prints of Rome landmarks being sold as original watercolours to tourists visiting the Italian capital.
The sellers all appear to be making the final touches to their latest artwork, often using a cheap set of watercolours or even a children’s paint set.
In a YouTube video titled “Exposing the biggest scam in Italy!” – viewed by 21 million people – Bernatonis challenges a print-seller near the Colosseum.
“They all do the same thing” – Bernatonis says in his video – ” they put out their art on the street, set up a watercolour painting kit, hold a brush in their hand and then they all draw on paintings that are already finished.”
Asked if the art is a print or an original work, the seller insists that it is “all hand-drawn”.
However, to prove that the art for sale is printed rather than authentic, Bernatonis pours water on the print which remains virtually unchanged.
The irritated seller suggests that Bernatonis asks too many questions, saying: “If you don’t like you don’t take” before saying: “My friend, please going”.
In the video, Bernatonis underlines his point by showing how a real watercolour is destroyed after being rubbed with water.
The magician also highlights another scam that has long targeted tourists, particularly around the Colosseum and along Via dei Fori Imperiali.
The scam involves unauthorised street sellers approaching tourists in a friendly manner, offering them a bracelet or small souvenir for free.
However as the tourists say goodbye, with the bracelets on their wrists, they suddenly face demands for money.
“Never give anything to these scammers” – Bernatonis says in his video – “they become quite aggressive if you don’t give them what they ask for”.
While these scams catch tourists unawares in Rome every day, they are well known to Romans, with one commenting on social media: “You needed a magician to point this out?”