Scams To Avoid As A Tourist
Your new passport is ready for new stamps. Your luggage is prepared. You have stopped by the store to buy a set of travel-sized toiletries for your carry-on, put a hold on your mail, and made arrangements for someone to tend your plants. You are unquestionably prepared to travel. Perhaps you're anticipating trying different foods, having experiences abroad, or going to historical sites. However, you probably aren't planning on falling for a tourist scam.
More than 25 million Americans visited foreign countries in 2008. That's a lot of potential victims for an expert con artist! Using your common sense is the best defense against being a victim of crime. Keep your wits about you, pay attention to your surroundings, believe your gut, and take the necessary safeguards. Traveling is meant to be enjoyable. Traveling doesn't have to be a terrifying or unsettling experience. It's important to travel wisely and be aware of what to avoid. So let's introduce you to some of the most prevalent scams around the globe.
A good Samaritan is someone who goes above and beyond to help another person. You can wish for a good Samaritan to guide you when you're lost while traveling in a foreign land. Unfortunately, some so-called "good Samaritans" are just swindlers. Some individuals will volunteer to "assist" you in using an ATM. Be careful because all they're want is your PIN number. Alternately, some criminals may install a "trap" in the ATM that will make it consume your card. Before using any ATM, be sure nothing is protruding from the card slot. A device to steal your card might exist. Others would linger at railway terminals and inquire as to whether you require assistance in buying a ticket before stealing your money and fleeing. People that volunteer to show you to your seat at train terminals should also be avoided. They'll ask for money when you arrive.
You might have a flat tire while driving and a car might come up next to you and the driver will kindly let you know. While someone helps you change the tire, a companion helps himself to your wallet or other belongings. Frequently, the persons who flag you down are the same ones who initially punctured your tire. A common scam in Spain involves an older woman offering you a branch of rosemary as a token of affection. After reading your fortune, she will seize your hand and demand payment. How can you prevent being a victim? Avoid eye contact and refuse anything that is offered to you. You must buy any tickets. Use the concierge service if you require assistance at a hotel. Never give someone your PIN or allow them to assist you at an ATM.
Money Changer Scam
Because you might not be familiar with the local currency, many thieves seek to take advantage of this. In popular tourist destinations, some cashiers will count out your change very slowly and with confusing pauses in the "slow count" trick, hoping you'll just take what they're holding out to you and walk away. The money they hold in their hands is frequently much less than what you were entitled to. When you do get change, check it before you leave the area. The old 500-lira coins of Italy, for instance, resemble the 2-euro ones there. The distinction? Coins worth 500 lire are worthless. Additionally, try to refrain from paying for anything with a big bill. When you have actually given someone far more than one, some cab drivers or cashiers will argue that you gave them one by accident.
You should exchange your money for local currency when you reach your travel destination. You can come across individuals giving superior conversion rates—better than the hotel or regional bureau—on the street or in the airport. But this is not the time to shop around. In many cases, these black market transactions will leave you holding a collection of bogus currency or a bundle of newspapers sandwiched between two real bills. How can you prevent being a victim? Find out what the local currency looks like before you go. Make sure to count your change. Only exchange money at designated locations. Use little bills to pay.
Fake Law Enforcers
Police officers are meant to be on your side in every nation. However, it's also simple for con artists to assume the identity of police and utilize the resulting implied power to steal your money. The method is as follows. The majority of scams occur in well-known tourist areas. Tourists are often unfamiliar with the standard law enforcement uniforms, thus anyone can put on an official-looking outfit because it's simple to do so. A con artist approaches you while posing as a police officer. Under the guise of "protecting" you, he will inform you that there has been a counterfeit bill issue in the region and request that you check your wallet for any offending currency.
After searching through your wallet, the pretend police officer will hand it back to you with a clean bill of health. By the time you notice that some of your money is missing, he will have long since left. Fake authorities at train stations, roadblocks, and other official locations are variations of this scam. They may simply take your wallet or passport and flee. How can you prevent being a victim? Never, ever give somebody your wallet or passport voluntarily. Recognize the appearance of the local law enforcement uniform. If you are unsure about someone's identity, ask for their name and ID number.
Scam Cab Drivers
Taxi drivers can easily con unwary tourists out of their money. They take advantage of you being a stranger in a foreign country. Once more, it's crucial to understand the local currency. If you hand a cab driver a big bill, he might drop it and then pick up a smaller bill that's hidden, complaining that you didn't pay enough. Some people will put increased prices for nights and weekends on the meter during the week. Some people may give you one fare quote but then charge you twice when you get to your location. Some cab drivers collaborate with nearby hotels to present you with a "package deal" at the airport.
But when you get to the hotel, you discover that the cheap rooms have inexplicably all been taken. Your stay at the hotel is then outrageously priced, and the cab driver also gets a commission. It is also advantageous to understand your destination well. Make sure the cab driver is aware of your knowledge if you know the trip to your hotel should take no more than 15 minutes. Avoid being persuaded to take "shortcuts" or alternative routes that could end up taking 45 minutes or more. How can you prevent being a victim? Plan your trip and accommodations in advance. Use a hotel or restaurant to call a taxi if you need one. Pick only cabs with obvious branding and phone numbers when hailing one on the street. Never get in a car with an unmarked driver; you risk losing more than just your pocketbook.
There are so many varieties of this fraud that we just cannot mention them all. The main idea is that someone creates a diversion while another person steals your wallet. Pickpockets frequently collaborate. One common scam in Europe goes like this: You're going down the street, minding your own business, when you catch sight of a lovely woman arguing with a street vendor. She gets into a heated fight with the vendor, who is accusing her of stealing, and eventually a crowd forms. The woman will occasionally even start taking her clothes off to demonstrate her innocence! Her accomplice is robbing victims of their wallets and other belongings as you and the other onlookers stand there staring.
Other ways to divert attention? You'll get something "accidentally" spilled on you. Or maybe someone will offer to clean off the bird droppings on the back of your shirt. You'll be surrounded by young people who are pleading with you for food or money. Before you will collapse an elderly woman. Some even claim that when you immediately reach out to save a baby being shoved at you, someone steals your valuables. How can you prevent being a victim? It's bad that a lot of fraudsters and robbers try to take advantage of your compassion to defraud you of money. You run the risk of being a victim anywhere there is a crowd or a scene. Be wise and avoid carrying an open bag and keeping your wallet in your back pocket. To prevent theft, keep your bag slung about your body. Wear a tiny purse or pouch below your clothes.