Some of the most common travel scams are widespread throughout many countries around the world. You may already be familiar with some whilst others you will become very familiar with once you begin travelling. Most are fairly harmless besides putting a dent in your wallet and your pride from being stung! Be aware and you should be able to avoid most of them once you know what these scammers are trying to do. Some are more serious, dangerous scams can occur. Refer to each country for security information that are specific to the country or region. Refer to your government’s travel warning website for current information.
NEVER, EVER, EVER, make payments for goods or services by wiring money. These transfers cannot be traced. ALWAYS make payments via direct banking (account to account) or Visa card so payments can be traced and any fraudulent activity investigated by your bank.
Pick-Pockets - You are at greater risk of pick-pocketing and bag snatching in crowded areas, public transport, cafes, markets and in resort areas.
Pickpockets – Pickpockets come in all forms, little old lady/man, mother with child, children, the well-dressed businessman and everyone in between so just make sure you have all your valuables and documents secured and preferably in a wallet/pouch under your clothes.
Purse Snatching – When walking on the streets, try to position the bag/purse on your body where it is difficult to grab it if people pass/brush by, and walk away from the pavements edge. Distractions methods such as an argument, a fight, or someone bumping into you may be used to perpetrate the crime.
Dirty Clothes/Shoes/Bird crap - Something gets on your jacket/shoe, (food, drink, dog poo) which locals may try and ‘help’ you remove/clean and while you are distracted with the fuss getting clean they are picking your pockets and/or walking off with the camera they offered to ‘hold for you’. Some just ask for a very high price for having cleaned your item for you. If something happens say you do not need help and walk off quickly and if they persist yell at them drawing attention to the situation and they will soon leave not wanting any attention drawn to them.
Packages - Remember NEVER carry anything for anyone (foreigner or local) through customs areas or across borders. However small or incidental the item may seem the item, even a book may have been tampered with and contain drugs which you will be liable for if found in your possession.
Taxi - Only use licensed Taxis which will have meters and above all to help insure your own safety.
Taxi - Don’t use taxis that seek you out, many seek you out so they can charge you more money. Use official taxi stands or hail an official taxi and walk past those who approach you.
Taxi – Taxi drivers overcharge unsuspecting tourists unaware of the costs when arriving in a new country. Ask a local the estimate cost of the ride or if available use the local registered taxis, especially from the airport.
Taxi Meter – Ask if they have a meter and if so ask them to turn it on. If not ask for a fixed price but before you agree a fixed price ask a local approximately how much it should cost. Don’t pay the driver until you get to your destination and are sure this is where you are meant to be. If there is more than one person travelling, make sure the price is for the whole taxi and not per person.
Counters – When checking in luggage at airports or arranging for car hire make sure you keep your luggage close and in sight and your documents secure. Do not leave documents just sitting on the countertop.
Fast Taxi Meter - Taxi drivers and tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) may have altered meters to run fast to claim a higher fare. Watch the meter isn’t ticking over at a rapid rate and if it is pick the driver up on it and tell them you want them to stop and let you off. Again ask a local approximately how much it should cost.
Broken Taxi Meter – A taxi driver may tell you his meter is broken and want to negotiate a fare. You could negotiate a fare (before agreeing on a price ask a local person what the approximate fare should cost) or get out immediately without paying and find another that will.
Reduced Taxi fare – The taxi driver may offer a reduced fare if you agree to stop at a few shops (that he gets commissions from) on the way. You don’t have to buy anything but you lose a LOT of time in these shops when you could have spent it sightseeing. If the driver does this to you, refuse to get out of the taxi and demand they take you to your destination. If they won’t tell them you will get another taxi and hail one if you need to.
Taxi to your Hotel - If your taxi driver says that the hotel/hostel you want to go to is closed, burnt down in a fire or full and suggest another hotel/hostel insist that they take you to your hotel/hostel they want to take you elsewhere that is more expensive and will make the driver a commission.
Taxi – Make sure you have small change to pay the driver as the often do not have change or offer change. You do not want to leave your gear/bags in the taxi and seek change from a local shop etc. use your bags with the taxi may disappear.
Taxi Luggage Fees – In some countries taxi drivers will try and to charge additional fee for your luggage when there is no charge. Ask a local. In some western countries taxis now have luggage fees. If you are told there is a fee ask the taxi driver to see the fee on their fare schedule.
Luggage – If the taxi driver says he will place your luggage in the boot/trunk make sure you stand and watch him until he closes it and make sure you watch it come out when you arrive. If someone is unloading your luggage as you are paying and you are alone, stop payment and get out of the taxi to watch your luggage and then continue the transaction. If there are two of you simply get one to pay and the other to watch the luggage. Luggage has gone missing.
Luggage - At airports, train/bus stations and even hotels official and unofficial porters may try to pick up your luggage and start carrying it for you with the expectation you will pay for it. Tell them no (Thank you) and if they persist tell them you are not going to give them any money, repeat it several times if you have to. If they carry it and demand money tell them you told them I said “no”, and was you were not going to give them any money.
Scooter/Bike Hire – Make sure you take photos of the condition of the bike before you take the scooter out and point out any damage to the owner, this way you are less likely to be accused of damaging the bike on its return. Even if you do take this precaution you may still be scammed and accused of damaging the scooter/bike and asked to pay hundreds for repairs. If you do try and report it to authorities they may do nothing because they could be in on the scam too. Others scams involve scratching it or disabling it. Scooter/bike hire is very risky. * Insurance may not cover you in a crash if you don’t have a motorbike licence or are affected by alcohol.
Stolen Scooter - You may be provided with a lock and two keys to secure your scooter/bike one for you and one for the rental company. It gets stolen. You report it stolen and the rental company says you have to pay big bucks to replace it according to the contract you signed and they hold your passport until you make the payment. Unbeknownst to you the rental company may have followed you and used the other key to steal your bike when you have stopped and left your scooter locked. Take/purchase your own lock and key and only provide a photocopy of your passport.
Car Rental - Rental companies offer ‘unlimited mileage/km’ but may have conditions which are in your contract but not mentioned by staff, ‘unlimited’ may only be contained to a certain area etc. Always read the terms and ask staff what the conditions are and get them to point these out in the contract. Otherwise you may be hit with a big excess mileage/km charge etc. which is all in the fine print.
Airport – Watch your items carefully when going through airport security. All valuables, passports, documents and electronics such as laptops, tablets, mobile/handy phones etc. should be placed in a tray on the belt for x-ray only when you are ready to walk through screening. Scammers operating at some airports usually working in pairs and may place items in their pockets for security to send them back and empty their pockets delaying you going through and getting your valuables. While you are being delayed their accomplice is collecting your valuables and making off with them.
Bus – Do not store anything under your seat or in overhead luggage space. Keep all valuables on your lap.
Oil Leak – Especially in developing nations, you may have someone try to flag you down in your car to alert you to a 'problem' with your car. They will tip oil on your wheel or elsewhere etc. and suggest a mechanic they know around the corner can fix the it, making a tidy profit alongside the garage owner.
Flat Tyre – You may have assistance to help you change a tyre, make sure that the help does not help themselves to the valuables in your car and make sure you place any bags from the boot/trunk in the car cabin rather than beside your car when removing the spare tyre from the boot/trunk.
Fake Police – You may be pulled over by a 'police car' and approached by a 'policeman' who advises you of the broken the law. They may offer you to pay the fine now in cash to avoid a log complicated process. You may be provided the following options; to pay the inflated cash fine, be issued with a real ticket or be let off with a warning. If you say you did not do whatever they are accusing them of and won't pay they may ask you to go down to the police station, you may wan to call their bluff and say okay, if i is apparent that they are simply after a handout.
Car Hire/Rental – Larger companies are now generally more relaxed about general wear and tear on vehicles however there are companies that will try and hold you responsible for any tiny scratch. Given you have to provide your credit card details to hire and the company can charge whatever it wants to it, if the agent tries to rush you through the pre-hire inspection and won't note any damage take a photo for your records in case of dispute at the end of the rental. Note, many companies have huge excess for claims. Many insurance companies now provide car hire excess cover, check how much excess your policy covers.
Car Trouble - A local may approach you on the street and say that their car has ran out of gas/fuel or has broken down a few blocks away. They'll just may ask for money for fuel or ask you to follow them to prove they are telling the truth. Walk away, ask yourself why would they ask a tourist a few blocks away for help and not a local close to where the car broke down? They are scammers.
International Driving License - There is no such thing even though many websites will try and sell you one, you need to obtain an International Driving Permit from the agency/body that issued your regular drivers licence.
Bus/Train – Buses and Trains are also targeted by thieves, helping themselves to your valuables. Keep valuables on your lap, do not place on the floor or in the storage rack above.
Bus/Train – Protect your bag/purse on crowded public transportation, thieves slit the bottoms of purses or bags with a razor blade or sharp knives, removing the contents.
Accommodation – Avoid touts or anyone offering to walk with you to your accommodation, tell them to go away you do not need their help. If they follow you tell the accommodation staff that they did not bring you there so they do not make any commission from you, nor will any commission be built into the price for your accommodation.
Accommodation – Confirm that the rate for the room/campsite is per room/site, per night and have this printed out for you, especially if you have not pre-booked and are a walk-in.
Hotel Closed/Burnt Down - If your taxi driver says that the hotel/hostel you want to go to is closed, burnt down in a fire or full and suggest another hotel/hostel insist that they take you to your hotel/hostel.
Hotel Switch - Your taxi driver may even take you to another hotel completely and try and tell you this is the one you asked for. Ask them to take you to your hotel and say you will not pay anymore fare because it was their mistake, if they argue them tell them you will get out and get another taxi, offering half the fare because they did not take you to your destination. You must have your luggage with you, it won't work if your luggage is locked in the boot/trunk.
Hotel/Café Wi-Fi - Check that the wi-fi is actually working before you sit down or check in to your accommodation. Many will have the ‘wi-fi here’ sign, only to tell you once you have settled in your seat or checked in that it’s ‘not working at the moment’.
Hotel/Hostel - Always take copies of your passport and if an owner wants to keep your passport give them the copy. If they say they want the original tell them the copy has all the same information and if they insist tell them you will find another Hotel/hostel. Some hotel owners may use your passport as a bargaining tool to extract more money from you than agreed.
Break-ins – Do not rely on the security of your accommodation even in hotels/apartments/holiday units. Documents and valuables are often stolen from rooms, even from the room safe.
Apartments – Online scams involving apartments worldwide that are being advertised for rent but don’t even exist. Apartments are booked then on arrival they don’t exist. Unless they are from a reputable company that someone has recommended, do not use them. Anyone asking for the money to be wired is a scammer. You may be able to check on google street scape that the place actually exists?
Fake booking sites – Scammers may shadow (copy websites to look the same) known accommodation booking sites offering low rates, taking 'bookings' or hackers may hack into accommodation providers systems and hijack bookings. Their methods are usually quite evident offering ridiculously low rates and wanting payment made to overseas bank accounts or sent via wire (western union) or the like. These are also used to steal your identity.
Booking Accommodation – People using third party booking sites such as Airbnb have been caught out. You will be asked to communicate outside the site and then asked to pay outside of the site, usually wiring payment. The first golden rule is not to book or PAY outside their platform. If a deal is too good to be true it usually is! Sometimes owners want to book outside of the system because they are charged high commission, if so they may have their own website. If you pay by Visa or direct deposit bank to bank then the risk is lower. You could also ask for a phone number and call.
Hotel "Inspectors and Maintenance" - Hotels do not have inspectors. If someone knocks on your door and claims to be hotel inspectors or there to carry out maintenance, ask them to wait, shut and lock the door and call reception to ask if they have been sent by the hotel. These scammers will enter your room and one will talk to you distracting you while the other quickly gathers up your valuables all in a matter of minutes.
Identity Theft – Do not leave your documentation in your hotel/hostel room thinking it is secure. Any number of staff will have access to your room and able to enter and take note of all your personal information to enable them to assume your identity and gain access to your bank etc.
Accommodation Offers - You may arrive at a bus/train station/airport and be approached by a local with brochures for a hotel/hostel. There are a number of scenarios:
- Genuine people in need of business show you photos of their rooms and are usually fair prices or even a discounted price to get your business so you can recommend them to others.
- Scammers will tell you they have good priced accommodation and they can take you there. If you agree to go there is the risk of theft on the way there or once you arrive at the hotel the rooms with the quoted rates have been filled but they have other rooms available at a higher price (this way they bet a bigger commission).
Renting - Classified ads are placed on popular traveller or accommodation websites for rental properties, or rooms. The 'owner' asks for a deposit, application fee, hold fee, etc. to be wired. Wire money and you will not see the property or your money again. Never pay for long term accommodation sight unseen.
Owners - 'Renters' will contact owners and want to secure the property, they will send a 'cheque' for a deposit to secure the property then advise the owner they want to only to cancel and suggest they wire the money instead. The cheques are fake and the owner is out of pocket if they wire money.
Renters - 'Owners' advertise accommodation at usually too good to be true prices, arrange for a viewing and can't make it (or other excuse) or simply as you to wire an application fee or holding deposit etc. Once the money is wired, the owner has disappeared.
Card Trouble - Hotel staff may have trouble with the your card which should make you take note and watch what they are doing. If you receive a call in your room wanting to confirm details of your card. DO NOT give them any details over the phone, this is a scam they will use this information to use your card. Ask them their name and tell them you will come down and see the manager, if they persist just hang up.
Payment - Especially in developing nations if you pay for your accommodation on check-in make sure you get proof of payment. Some try and ask you to pay again as you are leaving, if you have come in late and tired and stayed at so many places you may not remember what you did. If they will not give it to you, write it down and ask for the name of the person you paid it to.
Hotels with the same name - Quite often popular hotel/hostel names will be cloned. Make sure you know the address of your intended hotel/hostel.
Hotels - Most hotels are reputable however some may try adding creative charges, fees and debit your credit card to recoup for 'damages'. Take photos of the room on arrival to counter any damage disputes. Also check for online reviews, these usually turn up any bad practices.
Hotels - Allowing hotels to collect your credit card detail puts you at risk of unauthorised debits. You may be accused of damaging property, the only way to protect yourself against this (besides finding a hotel that does not keep card details), is to photograph the room and all its facilities on arrival and departure, including the contents of the mini bar. In case of dispute you can call your credit card provider and dispute the charges to your card and providing the photographic evidence will assist your claims/case.
Hotel Facilities - Most hotels are reputable however some may charge for use of facilities which you would normally assume are part of the room rate, microwave, oven, air conditioner, swimming pool, etc. Make sure you are clear that all facilities are inclusive of the room rate provided.
Hotels - Unscrupulous hoteliers may take advance payment and then try to evict you due to some made up offence and naturally not offer a refund.
Hotels - Inspect the room before you check-in. Some hotels may try and put you in a smaller ot lower standard room than you booked.
Hotels - A hotel may have water perfectly safe for drinking but will have signs indicating water should be purchased, usually at highly inflated prices. If you have such signs in your room, ask a local tourist office if the water is safe to drink from the tap.
Hotel – Taxi drivers, touts, etc. will try to tell you your hotel is full, burnt down or any other story to convince you to choose another more expensive accommodation option so they can take you to another and make a commission from you.
ATM/ABM 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 – Keep your credit card in view for all transactions. Do not allow retails to make transactions out of site as the may use mobile sim cards to transmit the cards details to criminal gangs. Try to pay cash for all purchases.
Visa Card – Tourist may be overcharged on their Visa transactions, check the amount is correct before signing, entering your PIN or tapping payment on paywave.
Shop assistant - the shop assistant/cashier is speaking on the phone while making your transaction with your credit card. Listen and watch carefully that he/she doesn’t take photos of your card with the phone’s camera.
Wrong note - When you make a purchase or pay for your taxi pay careful attention to the note you provide. They may tell you you haven’t given them enough, you are sure you gave them the 100 and not the 10 they are waving back at you? To eliminate opportunity for the switch of the note ask them to provide the change before you hand over your cash. Make sure you pay attention to every transaction and check your change.
Street Exchange – Money exchange on the street has inherent risk of both short changing you and robbery.
Money exchangers – Some money exchangers may try and rush you and do quick calculations on their calculator, a quick count of the money and finish the exchange and send you on your way. Do not be rushed, ask the rate of exchange and commission and ask how much you will get for your $100 (for example). Take the calculator and do the sums yourself and check the conversion is correct and at a decent exchange rate. Some will calculate incorrectly and do you out of some cash. Always check.
Money Exchange – When the money exchangers count your money make sure they count the notes by laying the notes individually on the counter. If they do not do this, take the money and count it again in front of them in his manner. Some may leave the notes folded in a rubber band counting notes that may be doubled over (counting notes twice). Don’t feel the need to rush.
Border Crossing Exchange – Only exchange the smallest amount to get you to the nearest town. Most money exchangers will give you extremely bad rates knowing full well you have no other option.
Unacceptable notes - Make sure the notes you receive as change are not ripped/torn or too worn as they may not be accepted for payment by other shop keepers. If they are hand them back and ask for another.
Coins – Look at coins and make sure you are given the correct change and the coins are not from another country and being palmed off to you.
Internet banking – Never do internet banking in internet cafes/shops, some may have security cameras set up pointing at the keyboard/screens or spyware installed to monitor keystrokes and record passwords and personal details to access your bank accounts.
E-commerce sites – This applies both at home and while travelling. Phony e-commerce sites lure you into typing in your credit card number and other personal details, your account is debited but there are no goods or services and your personal details are now at risk. These sites are usually offering too good to be true deals.
Overcharging 'tourist prices' – Try and do your homework prior to arriving in a country so you know what the local prices are. Some will try and charge you higher prices while other blatantly have 'tourist prices'. Tourist pricing may apply to accommodation, attractions, menus, etc.
Change – Always take careful note of what money you present for payment and what change is given. Many vendors try and tell you they don't have change, tell you you gave them a different note, talk to you or distract you in the hope you will forget about your change and may tell you you have to take goods in lieu of change.
Change – Check your change and make sure you have been given the correct change and not a 100 note/bill instead of a 1000. Some country's notes have similar colours.
Torn notes/bill – Check your notes/bills that are given in change. Do not accept any notes that are not in good condition, no rips, writing, etc. as they may not be accepted in other places. Some countries particularly Myanmar(Burma) will except nothing but perfect $US made after a certain year.
Gem stones – A tuk-tuk driver, a local, whoever may approach you and have a nice old friendly chat but will then start telling you some fanciful story about gem stones. As soon as you hear gemstones, diamonds, whatever stones you know everything else to come out of their mouths is a scam. You may be asked to “financially guarantee” a deal by providing your credit card number and signature, asked to transport them or told you can buy them cheap and sell them for a fortune at home. Just say you are not interested and walk away. The same goes for anything else that anyone spins as a get rich quick proposition, they are never true and it always ends in tears (you losing heaps of cash) WALK AWAY. You don’t know anything about gems stones so don’t get suckered into dealing with them you are likely to end up with worthless pieces of glass.
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.
Ticket Box – At tourist attractions be aware ticket sellers may take your money and take a long time to process, talk to other people or have a chat to you and then hand you your ticket ‘forgetting’ to give you your change. They may also do this to try and short change you, always check your change.
Tourist Attraction Closed - Arriving near the entrance independently or by taxi you may be approached by a local that advises you that the attraction is closed due to a holiday, official visit, riot etc. Just keep walking to the main entry as the attraction is usually open, they may tell you this just to try and take you on an expensive ‘alternate’ tour to local shops where they will get a large commissions. The rare occasion that an attraction is closed find your own alternative because anything that involves locals approaching you on the street will inevitably end up costing you a lot of time and money.
English Practice at Café/Bar – People/Students may want to practice their English and suggest sitting in a cafe or bar. When the bill comes it is outrageously high and those you sat with are nowhere to be seen. Decline any offers to go anywhere and if you want to just offer to sit and chat on a nearby bench/seat or if you do decide to go don’t order anything and you will not have anything to pay. You will soon find out if they are genuine or not. If you do find yourself in a similar situation a loud voice saying exactly what the situation is (so anyone else who speaks English will know what’s happening too) ask if anyone speaks English and ask locals what the prices are and if this doesn’t get the owner to back off tell them to get the police.
Snatch and Run – 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 phones GPS tracker and have an access password.
Bag/purse – In cafes, internet-cafes and restaurants don’t place your bag beside, under or on front of your chair you should place it on your lap. While you are distracted the thieves may take advantage and take your bag.
Offered Food/Drink - A local will befriend you and at/on the bus or train or station and after a while will offer you sweets/food/drink/gum (besides the fact it could make you ill because of poor hygiene during preparation etc.) it could contain a drug sedative to knock you out and while you are out to it they will steal your valuables. Most people will be genuine in offering food but it only takes that one time you meet the wrong person. It is hard when most people are being so kind, I always use the rubbing and pointing to the belly (stomach) indicating you are not well and this is usually stops the offers and is a polite refusal that doesn’t offend. Cigarettes have also been used to drug people.
Waiters – A waiter may pretend to drop the note you just gave them to pay your bill and switch it for a smaller note under the table and stand up and claim you haven’t given them enough to pay the bill. When given the bill look at the total and give them the money stating how much the bill is and how much you are giving them.
Excessive Bills - In tourist shopping districts, tea houses, bar strips, strip bars, massage parlours and karaoke bars men may be approached by young women who invite them to a ‘special private bar’ for drinks or a Taxi driver may suggest the bar to you (taking commissions). You don’t asked the prices and you only had a few drinks but the bill you receive is massive, you query the bill, security gets heavy with you and demand payment. They may say they will call the police, if they do say this tell them okay get the police. At this point however they may get nastier and force you to pay at gunpoint even escorting you to an ATM to get the money out. Men may also be approached by a local man with nice young women in tow and asked to join them with the same outcome. If you do end up in this situation, pay by credit card to enable you to leave and then cancel your credit card immediately and dispute the charge. These are many scenarios, same result! Best just to stay away.
Free Entry - Strip bar touts will invite you into their clubs with promises of a complimentary drink and free show. Once you get up to leave they will ask you to pay a (excessive) Membership fee. They become aggressive if you do not pay.
Beautiful women – A beautiful local woman may befriend you in a bar and you go back to her place for the night. The following day you’re feeling on top of the world until she turns up with her brother, father, cousin or all of them and slaps you across the face screaming that you had raped her. The group then mention going to the police and getting you thrown in jail. All can be forgiven if you are escorted to the nearest ATM and hand over a wad of cash.
Groups – If you are with a group of people and someone befriends you and tries to get you to separate from your friends, be very concerned that they may have ulterior motives and aim to take advantage of you.
Dual/Tourist Menus – A bar or restaurant will entice travellers with cheap meal deals only to swap this menu with the 'tourist menu' with higher prices. If you are shown a menu take the menu with you and confirm prices before you order your meals and drinks. If they do not want to give you them menu move onto another place. Often 'tourist menus' will be provided as a matter of course, especially in popular tourist destinations. Head for less touristy areas for better prices.
Street Performances - When watching street performers make sure you have a good hold of your valuables, this is a perfect workplace for the pickpocket when someone else is distracting you for them.
Magic tricks - Someone on the streets may want to show you a magic trick, try to avoid stopping as people have been robbed while watching or participating in the trick.
Menus – Ask to see the menu for food and drink pricing, unsuspecting travellers have been handed exorbitant bills after dining.
Spiked Drinks/Food – 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/food 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.
Drugs – Possession and supply of drugs is a serious offense in many countries and heavy penalties can apply including the death penalty.
Children - Children should NEVER be given money. This encourages them to beg and follow tourists to collect money rather than go to school. You give to children and you destroy the childs future. If you want to help, seek out a local charity and contribute to the welfare of all the children and community.
Dirty Clothes/shoes - Something gets on your jacket/shoe, (food, drink, dog poo) which locals may try and ‘help’ you remove/clean and while you are distracted with the fuss getting clean they are picking your pockets and/or walking off with the camera they offered to ‘hold for you’. If something happens say you do not need help and walk off quickly and if they persist yell at them drawing attention to the situation and they will soon leave not wanting any attention drawn to them.
Item found – Someone will drop something and you stop to help pick it up, or try and give it back to them. While you are helping, thieves are helping themselves to your valuables while you are distracted. If you see someone drop something, call out to attract that persons attention for them to came and pick it up.
Begging - In developing nations children can be taken from their villages by organised crime gangs and put on the streets to beg, even those with disabilities. Some children have been purposely disfigured to invoke more sympathy. You should never give children money. Give to local recognised charities instead.
Donations - Children, teens, monks and grannies (anyone) may approach you with a sign explaining about a charity that they are raising funds for. They are collecting donations for themselves and sometimes for a street gang that sends them out. While they distract you they may even have an accomplice to pick your pockets. Don’t give money to people on the streets, if you want to donate take the time to find a local charity where the money will help the whole community.
Beggars - Beggars may approach tourists while dining outdoors, having coffee, meals or at bars etc. They will come right up next to the table and ask for money or food. A shake of the head or a no usually moves them on.
Bracelet – Kids/women may offer and then tie a tapestry ‘friendship’ bracelet around your wrist, once it is firmly tied they will promptly ask for money for it. They may say it's a gift, a gift from the church or a souvenir, any number of reasons to try to tie it on. If payment is not forthcoming then they may create a scene demanding money. Avoid getting into this situation by not allowing them to tie the bracelet in the first instance. If they do tie a bracelet without your permission and demand they take it off and don’t give them any money, tell them you are going to have it cut it off if they persist. If you refuse to pay they may yell out that you have stolen it, do not get embarrassed or be intimidated by them, counter it with, "scammer, get it off, you are trying to cheat me". If you do want a bracelet agree a price before they tie it on. There are several variations, some ask you if you want to see a magic trick, some say that it is free for the woman then place one on the man asking big money for it, and one will tie the bracelet and demand money while another picks your pockets. Some try to intimidate you and take you to the ATM to withdraw money just walk away.
Flowers – Men, women and children may hand you flowers (like they are handing you a gift) then ask for payment for them, just hand them back. If you read this you shouldn’t get caught, if you do and they do not take them from you simply place them on a table or the ground and walk away.
Bird seed - Men, women and children may hand you bird seed to feed to pigeons (like they are handing you a gift) then ask payment for the seed, sometimes outrageous amounts. Pigeons should be avoided anyway as they can carry disease.
Offers - If anyone tries to hand you anything, don’t take it, touch it, or even look at it. Nothing is for ‘free’, if someone offers you something 9.9/10 they will want payment for it.
Pick-pockets – Pick pockets come in all forms, little old lady/man, mother with child, children, the well-dressed businessman and everyone in between so just make sure you have all your valuables and documents secured and preferably in a wallet/pouch under your clothes.
Volunteer – Fake organizations are created and offer ‘placements’. You could pay money and may even arrive at a destination to find nothing there. You have to research the organisation and don’t just believe everything on their website. Search on the internet for reviews by independent people to ensure the company is legitimate and try and contact people who have participated to ask what their experience was like. Many reviews can be in the form of blogs.
Friend Robbed - You may receive an Email from your friend’s Email account saying that they have been robbed and asking you to send them some money. Their account has most likely been hacked. Check with your friend or their family directly to confirm if it is true or not. Do not automatically send/wire any money.
Broken camera - Someone may ask you to take a photo of them but you can’t get the camera to work? You call them over and as they take the camera/phone back it falls to the ground. They may then either ask you to pay for repairs or pick-pocket you as you bend down to pick it up. If it does happen to you and they ask money for repairs say no and if they insist say you will get a police officer. Genuine people will ask you to take photos of them but just be aware of this scam and be careful when you hand the camera back.
Helpful locals – You may be trying to buy a ticket or find your way somewhere and a ‘helpful’ local may step in (even if you refuse the help) and force their services on you. They may then demand payment for helping you. Just say no and walk away, if they persist say you didn’t ask for their help and finally if they continue to follow you tell them you will get the police.
Photos – Locals, children all the way through to the grannies will ask you to take a photo of them and some may demand payment. Do not pay them and say, I did not ask to take the photo you asked me. Remember if you want to take a photo of a person always ask first. If you do ask and then they ask for payment you decide to or not to pay but DON’T give money to children it encourages them to skip school to make money from foreigners paying them to have their photo taken, again, don’t pay them they should be in school.
I've been Robbed – A distressed person may approach you claiming they have just been robbed, they will be a local from another city or refugees escaping a war-torn country or any other creative variation they come up with and ask you for money, just say no. If they persist advise them they need to go to the police to which they may say they (the police) will be of no help, advise them the police will be able to help you more than I can and keep walking. Ask yourself why would they ask you rather than the police or a local? It’s a scam.
Catch the Baby - Gypsy women will approach you and throw a 'baby' (doll) into your arms. Accomplices will pick your pockets in the commotion. These gypsies are very visible, never stop and keep moving, pushing you way through if you have to avoid them getting close to you.
Pay Public Toilets – Many places legitimately have pay toilets where the patrons pay to use clean, safe, facilities, usually a small token amount. However scammers sometimes stand outside the entry collecting money when the legitimate staff are inside. Some just stand outside a public toilet and demand payment whether payment is required or not.
No Pay, No Goods - Some street vendors may ask for payment before they hand over your item/goods. They take your money say you have not given them enough and demand more money before handing over the item. Take your item before you pay and try to have exact money to make a purchase so you cannot be cheated.
Street Fights - Street fights have been staged in front of travellers to provoke them to become involved. Footage is taken on any altercation and then used against the tourist blackmail of violence against the 'victim'. Do no become involve, if you see an incident get the attention of locals for them to help resolve.
Money found - This scam comes in many forms, using rings, wallet, etc. This one is a 'found' roll of bank notes from a passer-by walking next to you. You are asked if you want to split the money and a policeman arrives to ask you to prove you have not taken money by showing them your wallet they then take off with your wallet or a 'heavy' appears and says money is missing and you are urged to hand over money to get out of the situation.
Milk Powder Scam – Some just ask outright for you to buy them powdered milk, others change tact, talking and telling you about the area and then ask you to buy the powdered milk. They take you to a store to pay many times the value of the goods and once you have gone they return the goods to the store to split the profits with the store owner.
Begging - Children are used by organised crime gangs and put on the streets to beg, even those with disabilities. Some children have been purposely disfigured to invoke more sympathy. You should never give children money. Give to local recognised charities instead. Some gypsy children are expert criminals even from a young age.
Art school - You are met in the street by 'art students' or someone who owns a small local art gallery. They invite you to their school or gallery to see their work. You will then be pressured to buy one of their works, usually for an excessive price. You are never obliged to by anything from any store even if you are made to feel you should.
'Tours' – Some city tours are no more that shopping tours where the tour leader will take you to several local shops or 'craft centers' where travellers are hounded by sales staff to buy overpriced goods that the tour leader will make commissions on. Before you book tours tell them NO SHOPS. Avoid tours that include stops to these local sshops/crafts and if you are taken to them demand your tour leader takes you to genuine tourist sites. If you are taken to more shops, simply stay in car/taxi/van and refuse to go in the shops. they will make no money and will not be worth them taking you if you do not get out.
Gem stones – A tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw ) driver or a local guide may approach you and befriend you and then finally start telling you some fanciful story about gem stones (RED FLAG). As soon as you hear diamonds or any gem stones you know everything else to come out of their mouths is a scam. You don’t know anything about gems stones so don’t get suckered into buying them and especially not to buy them to make a profit reselling them; you are just as likely to receive pieces of glass or something just as worthless. Just say you are not interested and walk away. The same goes for anything else that anyone spins as a get rich quick proposition, they are never true and it always ends in tears (you losing a lot of cash) WALK AWAY. If you do want to buy gems ask for names of a reputable seller/store and compare.
Gem stones – You may be asked in a similar situation as above to 'export' gems and receive a commission. To do this you will be asked to provide a copy of your passport, credit card and other personal details, this information will then be used for identification theft or other fraudulent activities.
Carpets – As with gems you don’t know anything about carpets so don’t get suckered into buying them especially to make a profit reselling them at home. You are more likely to receive synthetic Chinese made carpet as opposed to genuine quality Turkish carpet if at anything at all, many carpets that will be shipped to you never arrive.
Shop purchase - When you buy any goods make sure that they packed in front of you and that you do not lose sight of them. The goods you were expecting to be packed/wrapped may be exchanged for inferior products or can have expensive parts removed.
Online Bookings - Phony travel webpages have been set up with too good to be true deals that lours lure travellers to put in their personal and financial details and never receive the service/goods.
Cash back online - Be wary of Cash back offers online when purchasing flights, accommodation etc. There have been reports of codes being entered to apply for the cash back on purchase and the company saying no code was entered, no cash back is given.
No change – A store owner may say they do not have change and offer you something (goods) in place of your change. Just say no, if they are insistent and even give you a sob story, just say no and go to another shop.
Cruise Ship Art Auctions – Some cruise ships may offer Art Auctions claiming 'investment quality' pieces, if you do not know anything about art then consider the true value of the art and your ability to judge the worth given you would have been plied with copious amounts of alcohol before and during the auctions. Some purchases are even exchanged for other and completely different stock items. There is little to no recourse from consumer groups given purchases were made at sea.
Antiques – You may be approached at historical sites and offered a ‘relic/antique’ that this person has found at this site. It will look very old but it is a fake. Note in many countries it is illegal to export antiquities and severe may penalties apply while other countries you may require special permits. Check these laws before making any purchases.
Antiques – Sometimes arrangements are made with shop keepers and border control. Items are sold, confiscated by border control and then returned to the antique dealer/shopkeeper, only to be sold to another traveller to take to the border and have confiscated and so the scam perpetuates.
Taxis Free ‘Tour’- You may be offered a free tour or taxi ride which is out of town and once you arrive ‘at the shop’ you are given an ultimatum from your taxi driver to make a purchase or make your own way back into town.
Home Currency Payment – You may be offered to take payment of goods in your local currency to 'make it easier for you see how much it is, while there is nothing wrong with this you will end up paying more for your item/s using this type of transaction.
Gold – Buying gold is always a risk when travelling unless you have a gold knowledge of it. Some shops will calculate the cost using the current price of gold. Do your own calculations as their calculations may not be accurate.
Wi-Fi - If you have your own device and connect to wi-fi at your hotel/cafe etc. check with staff which connection is the correct network name. Scammers often set up a shadow connection (similar name as your hotel/cafe) from which they can then access your details, passwords, financial information, etc. "free wi-fi" are the ones to look out for especially if the network connection description says “computer to computer” or has a number of computers next to the network, these will be hackers. Turn OFF share files on your computer to further protect yourself.
Hotel Wi-Fi - A malicious pop-up ad prompts you to install a known software product before connecting to the hotel wi-fi. If you agree to the installation, it downloads malware onto your machine. Don’t accept downloads unless you are certain it is from a trusted source.
Fake websites - Travellers must check the security of the websites on which they make travel bookings. Scammers clone the sites and take payment for accommodation, tours, flights, etc. To help protect yourself check that the URL is correct, and look for the "https://" in the prefix of the web page address and the "lock" icon in your browser when you are on the website page.
Virtual kidnappings - A traveller journeys to a remote area with no mobile coverage, someone will contact their family telling them their loved one has been kidnapped, found with drugs and in jail and demand a ransom. If you get such an Email try to contact the person or their friends and family to find out first hand where they are and what their movements were. If you cannot gain contact, contact the government foreign affairs department in your country.
Medical Treatment - Be aware of visits to doctors and chemists who may try to advise you that you need additional (sometimes unnecessary) treatment for the minor aliment ailment that you sort sought assistance for. There is also risk of counterfeit medicines. If you are ill and require treatment contact your insurer or consular representatives for advice and recommendations of medical services.
Medicine or money for a sick family member - Practiced largely in developing nations where medicine for most is very expensive. A beggars will approach you on the street telling you the sad story of their child, mother, father, aunt or any other relative that are ill and in need of medicine. You should never give prescribed medicines to anyone else because of possible adverse relations, besides, if you give your medicine away you may not have enough for yourself and in some places it may be difficult find let alone to buy.
Kidnappings - ‘Express kidnappings’ have been staged from taxi rides or taken from the streets. Do not get into a car with a passenger already inside or do not allow other passengers to be picked up to share a taxi with you. If the taxi stops to pick up someone, (especially if you have told them you do not want to share a taxi) get out straight away and head to a safe place like a local shop or hotel. Whilst these incidents are rare, and limited to a few regions around the world, the numbers of kidnappings are increasing worldwide. You should not be alarmed, be careful, be sensible, and be vigilant by minimising the risk. Refer to your government’s travel warning website for current information.
Kidnappings - Kidnappings where tourists are taken and held for long periods to gain high ransoms do happen, however, usually only in a few regions of the world that most travellers do not venture. Business people and workers are mostly targeted however not exclusively as some are touristed areas. These include Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, and the southern Philippines, Malaysia (eastern Sabah). Refer to your government’s travel warning website for current information.
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