Prague

Trip Start Mar 01, 2013
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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Thursday, September 19, 2013

I will not be posting the details of my experiences in Prague online just yet. But if you would like to read my blog for this place, please feel free to email me. I will post it when issues have resolved themselves.

Thanks,
Christine

Added 30 January 2014:

I think, when you wake up in the morning on the worst day of your life, you're never really quite ready for it. Things seem to go along like a normal day to try to convince you that well, ok, it's a pretty normal day. The sun is in the sky, none of the clocks have stopped, everyone around you is still breathing. So in fact, it seems quite normal, nothing to worry about here. I can get up, get dressed, go have breakfast, check Facebook etc. In fact, I'm almost convinced that the worst day of your life creeps up on you, lures you into a false sense of security before it reveals it's true self and before it's too late to hide. And you think you're happy, you think you're safe, you can just go along like normal and you'll be ok.

It's funny how life is like this. I'm a strong believer in karma, and there is no point trying to change the universe. I believe if something bad happens to you, you have to accept it, don't resist it or try up change it. It's the universe doing it's thing. Obviously vent about it to your heart's content. But then make peace with it and accept the universe's choice of events.

So I suppose, with that introduction, I'll start at the beginning.

Dimanche 15 septembre 2013:
So I got my bus and want to Prague. Prague is a nice place. The weather is a bit rubbish at this time of year, but I didn't mind it. I just got to hostel, had some dinner with a fellow roomie and then just say around and chatted with peeps.

Lundi 16 septembre 2013:
I'm going to try to put this day in a structured way so that it makes sense. Because the events of this day are important for the story.

So today was the day that the money would go through for my house in Lyon and I was feeling pretty happy with it. The girls seemed lovely, even if they wouldn't be there immediately when I arrived, I was glad to have a house that I liked and flat mates who were nice.

I had an interview in the morning also with a school in St Etienne, which is about 40 minutes from Lyon. So things were looking promising. And maybe I could commute there. Although she offered me a full time job there too, and I had the dilemma of having too many job opportunities and not enough time. And I felt so bad about letting the other schools down, but after talking to a few of my friends and family, I kind of understood that this sort of thing happens all the time with jobs and it's just the way it is. So I had the dilemma of full time work in a small city or causal work in a big city. And I also had the problem of the lease I had signed, if I made that decision I would have to commute everyday, at least for a month, because the lease was for a month.

So anyway, when I got home that night I had an email from Celine Aublanc (the "landlord") saying that I had only transferred through 710€ and that her lawyer wasn't happy with this because the contract said I had to transfer the full amount. So I was a bit surprised because we had had an agreement made on 12 September by email that I would pay half now and half once I had seen the house and saw that it matched the pictures she had shown me by email.

Anyway I said that this was not our agreement and that I wasn't comfortable with that and if she wanted to go against our agreement then fine, she can reimburse my money and she can find another flat-mate.

Anyways she came back to me and really begged that I just transfer the money because we'd come this far and she promised that the house was exactly like the ones in the photos. And she also wanted me to transfer it using moneygram, which I've never used before. Anyway, I was a little bit convinced by her emails. So I at least signed up to moneygram. But then she said she'd be happy for me to transfer the money in cash the next day at one of their outlets, so I thought fair enough.

But I was also a bit concerned and anxious. And I wanted to talk to her on Skype. But then she told me that the computer she's using, her mother's, didn't have a webcam. So I said we can just do it like a telephone conversation then. But then she stopped emailing me and didn't give me her number to call on.

So I was massively freaked out. I knew it was late at night and I was due to get my period soon, so feeling emotionally heightened and hormonal. But I emailed Santander, the bank in London that I had transferred the money to, and asked about the person who was their apparent lawyer 'Mr Cecilien Dambon', just because I thought there might be something fraudulent going on.

And I also figured, well, if she's a real person, she'll have Facebook, or even our apparent flat-mate would have Facebook too. So I added two girls called Celine Aub and Nur Amadina who I thought might be the two girls.

But it was late and I got the feeling that I was overreacting because I was tired and hormonal, so I wanted to sleep on it and try again in the morning.

Mardi 17 septembre 2013:
Anyway, I didn't sleep well and I was really anxious still. The whole thing just didn't sit right with me. Anyway, I'd checked my email in the morning and she had given me her number to call on. Although when I tried to call with Skype, it didn't answer and when I tried to call with my phone it wasn't turned on and I also tried to text message her. Alarm bells ringing all over the show!! So I emailed her and she just kept saying her phone was turned on and that I should try again.

Anyway, I asked at my hostel if I could use their phone to call with and it eventually got through. And she spoke English with an American accent, which I found odd. So I asked her about it and she said that she had spent some time in the US. Hmm so ok. And then we just talked about the house and stuff, the connection on her end wasn't great. But I think I was just happy to hear a human voice and not the voice of a scammer. So we chatted and I had my heart set on transferring the money to her that day and I was feeling really good.

But! There's always a but. Then I checked my Facebook and I had a message from the Celine Aub girl I'd added the previous night. I'd sent her a message to ask if she was the same girl I would be renting with in Lyon and said that I was adding her so we could be friends and get to know each other. Anyway, she wrote back and said that I had to be careful and that the rental thing was a scam, and that it's been happening to her for the past two years now and they are scamming people for money.

In the back of my mind I suspected it, but it was just a suspicion until now. I was really shocked. She told me she's been reporting it to the police for the last two years but that there's nothing they can do about it because they don't know who the people are. But I know who they are. I have their 'bank details' and email address.

Anyway, as you can guess, I'm going out of my f*cking mind! You always hear about this stuff happening to other people but it has never happened to me before. I was mortified and so so scared. And felt all alone. Grateful that it was still a normal hour in Australia, I called my sister on viber. I told her the whole story and I love this girl. She is so calm under pressure. I told her that I wanted to go to the Australian consulate and she talked through the issues with me.

Anyway, that's what I went and did. I was f*cking beside myself. And I hated that I was all alone at that point. I suppose in the future it will be a point that I can remember as a time that I showed great courage and personal strength under pressure. So I went to the Australian consulate in Prague, I was almost in tears the whole way on the tram, but I didn't cry. I really really really wanted to. I felt a little teary when I left my room at the hostel here and I was telling a guy who was in my room about my problem. And he asked me if there was anything he could do it make me feel better. And I asked him if I could have a hug, so he gave me a great big bear hug and I nearly cried.

Anyway, the Australian consulate office was very helpful and sympathetic. They gave me the names and email addresses of lawyers in Lyon and all of France who can help me with this issue. They also told me that when I arrive in Lyon I have to go to the police station straight away to file a police report about the matter. And if it has happened now all the time for the past two years, the police are probably very aware of the matter too. So that made me feel better. I emailed the lawyers and I got a few great responses and I also emailed my travel insurance to see if I would be covered for this situation. It doesn't say so specifically in my statement, but it could be interpreted a certain way I suppose.

Then I went back to my room. There was not a lot more I could do about it. After speaking to my mum and sister I was feeling much better about it too. At least I wasn't hurt, at least I didn't pay the entire amount, it was only half, so I still have the other half. And I've learned my lesson now and I have lawyers and people helping me too. So I went and vented to the guys in my room, then I went for a long run to clear my head before dinner.

I hadn't really been eating at all. You know when you are so anxious and you have that sick knotted feeling in your stomach like you could vomit at any time, that's how I'd been feeling since I suspected fraud. I still feel it a little bit now as I'm writing this. But I went and got groceries with one of the guys and ate something small. Then we all sat around and chatted and then went to the sauna and pool downstairs.

What I find outrageous also is that all day, I hadn't heard at all from Celine, even all the next day. She knew that I knew what she was playing at and that it was all over now. The stupid fucking bitch! In fact, I had a thought that my bank in Australia could help me too. So I sent them an email outlining my situation to them that night. I didn't sleep well that night at all, but it was better than the night before I suppose.

Mercredi 18 septembre 2013:
In the morning I had heard from my bank and they said I had to give them a call. I still had credit on my Skype account so I called them straight away, mindful that working hours in Australia.

And OMG!! The guys at the Commonwealth Bank were amazing. They were so sympathetic to my situation and I felt like they really actually listened to my problems and were so empathic. Then they told me that there is a way they can cancel the transaction. Even if the money has gone through, they can talk to the bank in the UK about the situation. They can explain that the money was fraudulently acquired and if it is still in their account, it can be wired back to my account. I was over the fricken moon when I found out that this was a possibility. My experiences of Commbank have been really good always, but now I'm really really impressed. So I was feeling so much better. I mean, I suppose even if the can't get the money back, I know that they are working so hard to try to help me.

And I am going to explore other avenues also to get the money back. I've been in touch with the consulate and international lawyers and when I get to Lyon, I will make a police report.

What I find interesting too is that I have these peoples' apparent addresses in the UK and I have their apparent banking details too and I also have Celine's apparent mobile number. And I think, of all things, the bank account details would be the best thing to tracing it back to the people responsible. Because when you open a bank account they ask you so many questions and you have to have lots of forms of ID and all everything. So I'm just like WTF!! It has to be able to be traced back to someone. Unless these people know something I don't know.

So after my day from hell, I decided that I would spend a few hours walking around Prague, and trying to enjoy my last day here. It wasn't really Prague's fault, but I'd had just the most rubbish time here! I feel bad, I'll give Prague a second chance another time. Then because I hadn't really been eating well or sleeping enough, in the afternoon I just went back to my hostel, chatted to my mum for a bit and washed some clothes. And just had a quiet day. Prague is a beautiful city too :) it's a pity about Lyon!

Jeudi 19 septembre 2013:
So I got up early this morning and made my way to the airport to catch my flight to Lyon. To be fair, I don't know the capabilities of these scammers and I'm really scared and paranoid. I contacted my friend Adele this morning who is a police officer in Hobart who I used to work with. I also contacted my friend Ricki and told them both about my situation. I think I'll also tell someone at the airport about my problem, like the police or something, just in case I need some security.
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