The world is not all rainbows and sunshine. There are bad people out there and they’re always looking for new ways to scam you.
Travelers have a big bullseye on their back for several reasons: they have their guard down, they’re in an unfamiliar setting, and they’re walking around with things for people to steal.
A good scammer will rob you without you even knowing it but most of the time you’ll realize it happened but only after it’s too late. Following are 10 of the most common scams out there.
1. The friendship bracelet
This scam is very common. Someone will approach you and start to put a friendship bracelet on your wrist. Once they’ve successfully tied it on, they’ll demand compensation for it. Since it’s pretty much impossible to get it off your wrist you’ll feel obligated to pay for it and if you don’t they’ll cause a scene.
There are different variations of this trick but they all follow the same premise – you touch it, you’ve bought it. Don’t accept a “free” item or service from anyone as they will almost always demand payment after you accept.
2. The found ring
A friendly person will pick up a ring off the ground right in front of you and ask if you’ve dropped it. When you tell them it’s not yours, they’ll examine it and show you some mark that “proves” it’s pure gold. Of course it’s just a trinket but they’ll try to sell it to you for a “good price” which is actually much more than it’s worth.
3. What a deal!
If you come across a local man who “casually” brings up his lucrative export side business, remember the old adage of “if it’s too good to be true…”.
He’ll tell you that he regularly buys valuable items like jewelry, watches, or carpets locally and then resells them in the US (or wherever you’re from) for a high profit. Naturally, he’s such a nice guy that he’ll share how he does it and even show you a great local shop where you can buy all these valuable items. Of course, these “valuable” items are just cheap knockoffs.
4. The slow count scam
This scam involves cashiers who return your change painfully slowly. No, they’re not lazy or slow – they’re purposely counting slow in the hope that you’ll be a typical tourist who loses their patience and just accepts the change that’s given to them. Of course you’ll almost always be short changed in this situation.
5. Money switcheroo
Another scam cashiers will do is a money switcheroo right in front of your eyes. As foreigners the local currency is somewhat unfamiliar to us and alot of coins from different countries look strikingly similar in size and design.
When you get change, double check that you actually got a 2 euro coin and not a worthless coin from another country that looks the same. Old 500 lira coins from Italy, 1 lira coins from Turkey and 10 baht coins from Thailand look virtually the same but are each worth about 30 cents.
6. Helper scam
This is a tricky situation because there are times when you’re traveling where you really do need help. Sadly, thieves also know this and will target lost or confused travelers when they’re at their most vulnerable.
If you’re having trouble with a ticket machine for the bus or train be cautious about the help being offered. Thieves under the guise of helping you will actually take advantage of you by selling you invalid or overpriced tickets.
Also be wary of the help being offered at ATMs as they may just be trying to peak at your pin number so they can run up that credit card they just skimmed from you.
Finally, be aware that help is almost never free so if someone offers to carry your bags and load them onto the bus they will be expecting a tip when it’s done.
7. Taxi scams
If ever you’re going to be scammed on your travels it will be in a taxi. Taxi drivers in alot of countries are known for finding all sorts of ways to overcharge you.
The number one rule is try to avoid getting into a taxi that doesn’t have a working meter. If you do have to take a meterless ride, always negotiate your price before you step inside. Even with a negotiated price drivers will sometimes try to scam you with additional toll road or airport exit costs. Negotiate everything ahead of time.
Even with a running meter you’re not free from being scammed as some drivers will have a switch that speeds up the meter while others will just take an unnecessarily long route into traffic to increase the fare.
Knowledge is your best tool to combat taxi scams. Before you arrive in a city know the route you should be taking to your destination and approximately how much it should cost. If you can, show a map of the route to your driver on your phone. If you appear like you know what’s going on they’ll likely leave you alone.
8. It’s closed
This scam is usually perpetrated by a taxi or tuk tuk driver. When you ask to go to a specific hostel or hotel they’ll inform you that it’s actually closed or overbooked. Naturally they have a suitable alternative which ends up being a friend’s business or a place that pays them a fat commission. Some places will actually copy the names of popular hostels and hotels in an attempt to trick you into thinking you’ve arrived at the right location.
You’ll also see this same scam used for popular tourist attractions. The driver will once again tell you that it’s closed and offer to take you to a different location or shop where you’ll be pressured to buy something or pay a hefty entry fee.
9. Fake cops
A well known scam starts with a random person stopping to talk to you. He may just ask you a random question but he’s in on the scam. Before you know it, two more people arrive but they’re wearing uniforms and introduce themselves as the “Tourist Police”.
The two “policemen” flash some badges and inform you that the person you were talking to is suspected of drug trafficking, terrorism or something just as menacing and now you’re being detained by association.
They’ll demand you hand over your passport and wallet for identification and before you know it you’ve been robbed by a couple of smooth criminals.
The problem is, we’ve always been taught to obey the police so, naturally, you’re instinct is to do what they say. The last thing you want to do is get in trouble with legitimate police in a foreign country.
If you find this happen to you, don’t cave into their intimidation tactics. Instead, ask to have a closer look at their badges and to walk to the nearest police station to hand over your documentation. If this was indeed a scam attempt doing these things should scare them off.
10. Room inspector scam
You hear a knock at your door and two men claiming to be the hotel’s room inspectors are on the other side of it. While you’re outside the room being distracted by one of the men, the other is rummaging around looking for valuables to steal. If you ever have “inspectors” turn up at your door, always call down to the front desk.