South American countries cover a vast area and diverse terrains from the peaks of the Andes to the Atacama Desert. Some countries and destinations are popular on the tourist trails, but much is to be discovered in lesser known out of the way places where people are warm and welcoming.
Tourists are often distracted, caught up and in awe of the destination they are visiting, often not noticing other things or people around them. Here we share common tactics and travel scams that travellers should be aware of, so hopefully you will read the scams and recognise them if approached by a scammer so you can avoid them. You may not encounter any of them or you may encounter some of them, this list helps prepare you should a scammer target you.
Some of the most common travel scams are seen throughout many countries around the world in similar or various forms. Most are fairly harmless besides putting a dent in your wallet and your pride from being scammed! Some scams are more serious and quite dangerous, know how to recognise the signs to help avoid them.
Visit your government’s travel warning website for more information.
The good people of our world far outweigh those scammers, so be aware, stay safe, but most of all ENJOY!
Emergency - 105 Police, 116 Fire, 106 Ambulance, 119 Natural Disaster
Be Cautious in – Lima, Arequipa, Cusco, areas surrounding Incan ruins, Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport, Plaza de Armas (Government Square), the Plaza San Martin, Acho Bullring, Pachacamac, and any location in downtown Lima. Municipal markets as well as the Gamarra textile district of La Victoria , Puno, and Juliaca. Sacsayhuaman ruins outside Cusco, Choquequirao.
Pick-Pockets – You are at greater risk of pick-pocketing and bag snatching in crowded areas, public transport, cafes, markets and in resort areas.
Taxi – Major hotels have ‘service taxis’. Only take them from the front of well-known hotels. If you are unsure ask the concierge.
Taxis – Registered taxis in Cusco are identified by a blue decal displayed on the windshield of the vehicle, issued by the municipal government.
Taxi – Do not allow anyone to hail a taxi for you or direct you to a taxi stand, the risk is travellers take the taxi and are robbed, or held in an express kidnapping.
Smash and Grab – The targets of smash and grab robberies are motorists who are stuck in traffic or stopped at a light. Keep widows up and valuables out of sight as thieves will smash windows to access valuables.
Airport – Travellers should watch their luggage and belongings at the Airports, items have been stolen or you may be approached by bogus tour guide representatives. Make sure you confirm the identity of anyone claiming to be your guide and sent to meet you and who is trying to direct you what to do and where to go. Do not just follow blindly, no matter how tired you may be.
Airport – Vehicle target for robberies on the airport road.
Airport – Use the taxi Reservation desk at the airport to avoid the risk of a dubious taxi.
Bus – You are alerted to water on the floor wetting your bag placed between your feet. It is suggested you put the bag in the overhead rack. At the end of your bus journey your valuables are gone. Keep valuables on your lap, do not place on the floor or in the storage rack above.
Bus – Overnight buses are also targeted by thieves, helping themselves to your valuables while you sleep. Keep valuables on your lap, do not place on the floor or in the storage rack above.
Bus – Keep an eye on your stowed luggage on both overnight buses and day buses. Your luggage can be intentionally offloaded (stolen) at scheduled stops. When the bus stops watch the bags as they are offloaded.
Contact us if you know of a accommodation scam travellers should be aware of.
Street Money Exchangers – Counterfeit $US dollars bills/notes are passed on through these street money exchangers and can turn into violent robberies. Do not use these street exchangers no matter how good a rate they offer.
ATM – ATM tampering include fake covers that swallow or jamb your card in the machine or. If your card is swallowed and the bank is open have someone go into the bank and get a bank staff member to report it to, do not leave the ATM. If the bank is closed and it is not possible to retrieve your card call your credit card company/ debit card provider immediately.
ATM skimming – Devices can be attached to legitimate bank ATMs that capture account information by scan/skimming your card cloning it. They are becoming more sophisticated and more difficult to recognise, try and use ATMs inside banks and shopping centres.
Credit Cards – Whenever you use your credit card for payment make sure you keep it in sight at all times. Do not allow them to take it to another room or process it under the desk, watch them if they have to so you can clearly see the machine (going behind the counter if need be).
Counterfeit Goods – Fake designer goods and pirated material may be illegal to carry back to your home country and you may be breaking local laws purchasing fake goods.
Express kidnappings – A person is held short-term (sometimes in remote locations) to allow accomplices to empty your bank account with your ATM/cash cards. Release usually comes soon after their objectives have been met (emptying your bank account). You may be taken from the street using an ATM, drugged at a bar, diverted to another place or vehicle when taking a taxi, etc. and held until your daily limits are exhausted. Money and possessions are replaceable, this is what the scammers are after do not resist, people have been killed.
Cafes/Restaurants – In cafes and restaurants especially those outdoors don’t place your phone or wallet on the table or your bag beside, under or hanging on the side of your chair because of the risk of thieves running and past and snatching them. You should place them on your lap. Turn on your Mobile phone GPS tracker and have an access password.
Spiked Drinks – Be wary at bars, clubs, restaurants, and parties, do not leave food or drinks unattended, do not ask a stranger to mind your drink, do not accept a drink from a stranger (no matter how friendly they are) and do not accept a drink from a barman/woman or waitress that is not opened in front of you because these are all methods used to spike/taint/drug your drink. You should also look for ‘unopened’ bottles. Travellers are targeted and taken to the streets or hotels etc. where valuables are stolen and can lead to sexual assault and death.
Hiking – Do not walk/hike on tracks alone and take advice from locals whether the tracks are safe. Robberies can occur along these paths including historic ruins.
Ruins – Thieves target tourists around the ruins especially at dusk and dawn. Do not walk alone on paths leading up to and around ruins.
Bandits/Roadblocks – Road blocks can be set up by unscrupulous bandits mostly in rural areas blocking roads using rocks and tree branches over the road, bandits come out from the bushes and rob passengers at knife or gun point. Both locals and tourists alike are demanded for ‘donations’ to the cause or your valuables taken.
Virtual Kidnapping – A traveller journeys to a remote area with no mobile coverage, someone will contact their family telling them their loved one has been kidnapped, in an accident, found with drugs and in jail, or any other dramatic scenario, and ask for money to be sent by Western Union and/or demand a ransom. If you receive such an Email or phone call try to contact the person or their friends and family to find out first hand where they are and what their movements were. When calls are made the unrecognisable voice is explained away as a cold/flu/etc. and the friend/family members are told not to tell other members of the family. Often grandparents are targeted and information is gleaned from social media such a facebook or blogs. Try to substantiate the call by contacting other family members, friends, or the persons travelling partners before agreeing to send any money. If you cannot gain contact, or clearly substantiate the situation contact your government’s foreign affairs department in your country. Often referred to as the ‘Grandparent scam’.
If you have current information with regard to a scam or any content on this site please contact us to review and revise or add information.