I don’t like ethnic stereotypes either but a couple of days ago we had a classic Gypsy attempt on our property. First, they ask an innocent questions, then a small favour, but very soon they proclaim eternal gratitude and swear they are your brothers and sisters, and as a sign of friendship here is this amulet that’s been in the family for generations as a gift, and now, since we are bound by common fate, you will of course lend us some $$ till we get a transfer from home tomorrow..
Being an old skeptic, I stopped the game when it moved to the gift-offering stage, asked guests to leave, and watched very closely monitoring that they don’t grab anything (lost a camera that way once). If you accept the gift they sense victory and won’t leave easily.
Last time, somewhere deep in Karelia, it happened in 2010. You are flagged down in a deserted highway. We old-timers, shaped in days before cell phones and tow trucks, when car breakdowns where a routine occurrence, always stop. It started with a request for a can of motor oil, and very quickly transformed into an offer to exchange money or buy fake gold.
The moral is simple: don’t talk to strangers, or if you do be on you alert. Beware of anyone approaching you. Retreat. In 90% of situation it will be the only correct decision. And in Moscow they may speak passable English too, and I’ve even known one true American making tricking travellers his main job. Avoid those more friendly and open than the norm. At best they will push evangelical literature on you but more likely the encounter will cost you money and hurt.