Travel Scams & How To Avoid Them
Whether you are traveling for your annual vacation in the US or abroad, or taking a few months out to visit exotic parts of the world, there are unscrupulous conmen and women just waiting to separate you from your hard-earned cash. It is easy to drop your guard when you are in foreign and unfamiliar places but that is where you should be at your most alert.
Image Credit: Just The Flight
Some of the scams are pretty elaborate but most are simple ways to catch out unwary tourists for a few bucks. Here are just a few of them and ways to avoid being a victim.
When you don’t know a city, it is easy to be taken by the “scenic” route to bump up the fare. Some drivers have doctored the meter so that it runs faster or claim that the meter is broken, both ways of charging a higher rate. Ask what the fare will be before you get in. If you do get in and the meter is going too rapidly stop the driver and go find another cab.
Scammers come up with an endless variety of ways to get money from you. Many of them work in teams with one person using a distraction technique while another picks your pocket or purse. Pickpockets also like to work in crowds so avoid gathering to watch street artists, magic tricks and gambling games.
You could be approached by someone with a friendship bracelet or by a Gypsy woman with a sprig of rosemary and they will even try to attach them to you saying it’s for charity or good luck and then demand money. Don’t take anything from anyone you don’t know, and don’t worry too much about the Gypsy’s curse!
Someone will point out a stain on your clothing, which they or an accomplice has put there, such as ketchup or fake bird droppings. Their offer to help clean it up is just a means to get their hands in your pockets. If this happens tell them you’ll clean it yourself and head for a café or restaurant to use the restroom.
Beware of helpful locals, such as the person who, when you are taking photos offers to take a photo of you and your partner. Chances are he’ll disappear with your camera! An alternative to this scam is the group who ask you to take their photo, but the camera won’t work. They will claim you’ve broken it and demand money.
The guy who offers to help you at the ATM will be memorizing your PIN for when he picks your pocket later.
A smart woman at a phone booth will ask you for money to make an urgent call. This might be small change but she’ll do this hundreds of times each day.
Two or more people claiming to be deaf will approach you with a clipboard collecting signatures for a charity and, if you sign, they tell you that you have to pay them money for the charity. If you tell them to get lost they will hear you perfectly well and respond with some choice words of their own!
In the Store
While a cashier is serving you and she appears to be talking on the phone, she could really be taking a picture of your credit card.
If you are paying with cash the cashier will count out your change really slowly hoping that you will lose patience and just ask for the change. However, it will much less than you are owed.
Places of Interest
When you arrive at an attraction another of those friendly locals will tell you it is closed for renovation or a religious holiday, etc. and offer to take you to another place of interest. You will probably find yourself at a store where they make and sell jewelry, souvenirs or carpets. You will then be coerced into buying items at inflated prices. Another danger is that you might not know where you are or how to get back to a familiar location. If you come across this scam, always refuse and go to your original destination to check for yourself if it’s open.
They say that travel broadens the mind and visiting different countries, learning about their culture and traditions is a wonderful experience. Don’t let the scammers put you off but knowledge is power and being aware of the cons should make you more vigilant and able to protect yourself against them.