Updated Travel Scams

Updated Travel Scams


Latest Travel Scams

Friendship/Braided Bracelets

Young males chat up what are typically female tourists with a friendly demeanor which quickly involves taking their victim’s hand and braiding a bracelet around her wrist or finger. As he braids the colorful strings, he flatters her as if he might just be hitting on her and is simply giving her a present. When he finishes the braiding, he solicits his victim for money explaining it is his work and sole income. Since it is difficult for the victim to undo the bracelet herself, she is stuck with an item and a guilt tripping seller standing before her. Some negotiating generally follows though it is easy to see why scammers migrate toward this scam in high tourist count areas.

Solution? Don’t let strangers start touching you. It compromises yourself and your possessions.

Squirting Mystery Substances On Victim’s Clothes

Pickpockets require some distraction to do their job. One ploy is to squirt food or something highly visible on the victim. While the scammer apologetically cleans up the mess, another pickpocket is “lifting” valuables from the distraught victim. This scam is most infamous in South America.

Solution? Stay alert; keep valuables concealed and secured.

Need Surgery/Medical Treatment Scam

One of the most sinister of scams, medical scams involve the scammer, (a doctor), wrongfully encouraging his patient to have surgery when no surgery is needed for the patient. Unfortunately, this scam is basically global. China, however, leads the pack by imposing a surgery quota on surgeons in order to receive subsidies.

Solution? As tourists may have emergency room needs following an accident or mishap, accompanying friends have proven invaluable to some would-be victims of this scam.

Honduras Money Changer

This scam involves some finger dexterity and is usually done by young males. The money changer offers to change money at a rate more favorable than the bank rate. The scammer uses a calculator to show the exchange rate they offer. When they type in the victim’s amount to change they are multiplying a memory key instead of the initial rate they offered thereby scamming the victim to a rate much worse than the bank’s.

Solution? Private money changers will always be popular, but do your own math; show the result to the changer to thwart the scam.

Chinese Art Scam

These scammers usually work in pairs or threes. They engage the victim in conversation and explain they are art students on their way to their gallery. They invite the victim to their nearby exhibition whereupon they greet their “professor.” They persuade the professor to allow their new found friend/victim to be allowed to make a purchase if desired. All the artwork are copies, so the scammers have a high profit margin.

Solution? Be knowledgeable on what it is you are purchasing.

Chinese Tea Scam

Similar to the Chinese Art Scam, the scammers are usually late teens/20 something females who work in pairs. They approach tourists stating they would like to practice their English. Depending on how well they build rapport with their victim, they will quickly suggest going to a place to get something to eat or drink. At their chosen tea house (or other venue) the scammers will receive a secret commission from the severely over inflated final bill take.

Solution? Go to a place of your own choosing —preferably one you’ve already visited.

South American Bus Theft Scam

This (typically) South American scam involves a long-haul passenger bus attendant rearranging passengers so they are somewhat separated from their carry-on baggage. The thief for the attendant gets valuables from the victim’s bag en route using a box cutter or knife if need be. The thief gets off the bus at his earliest convenience.

Solution? Be aware who is within reach of your baggage. You snooze, you lose.

Strip Club Scam

This scam involves non-disclosed or ambiguous pricing for entry fee, drinks, and women’s company. Once the victim has had a drink (in a club he believed would be a strip club) and chatted briefly with a woman who approached him for conversation, he is presented with an outrageously expensive bill. This is almost always followed with the threat of violence as the victim is informed he shall not simply walk out of the club without settling the bill.

Solution? Research online, but be wary of fake reviews. When in doubt, leave it out of your tourist itinerary.

Counterfeit Goods In Retail Stores

This scam is especially popular in Southeast Asia where knock-off goods are sold at virtually every night market. The retailers may be leasing space in nice malls or upscale shopping areas which appear free of any street venders, but buyer beware. In such areas, some stores within airports present knock-offs as the real item under the designer logo.

Solution? If the store seems economically out of place, it probably is. Many 1st world cities cannot even sustain a market for exclusive, luxury goods. If the sidewalk outside of the “Gucci” store has litter, is broken, or is missing altogether, buyer beware.

Wrong Change

Some employees make a habit of trying to scam tourists within the course of returning change for a good or product at every opportunity they get. As tourists are often unfamiliar with the local currency, the scam is even more likely to take place in countries which have dual currencies such as Cambodia. That is, the victim would need to convert 2 different currencies into their own to check for accuracy. That is awkwardly time consuming when there is a que of people waiting to pay behind the victim.

Solution? Learn the currency, but still take your time counting change. Also, be polite as what may appear to be a scam could be an honest mistake.

Tuk-tuk Lack Of Communication Scam

For countries that use more than one currency, a scam spawns from the potential confusion as to which currency the tuk-tuk driver was confirming when he held up a certain number of fingers in the negotiation prior to the ride starting. So, the scammer will maintain that he was adamantly clear about the cost of the ride and the exorbitant cost despite the clear communication of the victim.

Solution? This is a case when it is wise to display the money as a confirmation to the agreed price before starting the trip. The visual anchors the words.

Jet Ski Scam

Thailand’s infamous jet ski scam is scary and expensive. The victim rents a jet ski from the scammer on the beach. The scammer holds the victim’s passport—and maybe cash—as a deposit while the victim enjoys the jet ski. On returning the jet ski, the scammer inspects the used underbelly of the jet ski pointing to “new damage.” The scammer demands outrageous money from the victim while the scammer’s friends gather around the emotional charged scene. The local police (often called to the scene by the scammer) purportedly receive a healthy kickback from the scammer.

Solution? Either don’t rent or video the entire jet ski with witnesses (which is still a risk as this scam is mafia driven).

Rug Scam

This scam is popular in India and Morocco. The quality of the “hand-made” rug is often misrepresented as well as misrepresenting the fact that it may be chemically dyed. The net result is that the victim could buy the same quality in their home country for less. The desire to take home an authentic “investment” which the victim knows nothing about is a big factor in this scam. The rug dealer will often enhance the scam by having an employee pose as a tourist who is a repeat customer supposedly reselling the rugs for profit.

Solution: Don’t buy rugs overseas. If you must buy one, make the purchase as small as possible. Even if you find top quality, bargains are more prevalent from time to time in 1st world cities.

Packing Scam

This scam involves any item purchased and then wrapped in-store. It could be a rug, ring, painting, etc. The more wrapping, containers, boxes “required” the greater the likelihood for a bait and switch only to be discovered at an inconvenient time in the future by the victim.

Solution? Keep your eye on the purchase. Be polite but firm.

Postal Stamp Scam

This ridiculous scam involves the postal worker taking money from the customer for postage for a parcel to be mailed. The postal worker is assumed to affix the stamps on the package but does not do so, thereby profiting the amount of the postage. The scammer also profits, however, from a package which is not going to leave the post office due to lack of postage. This scam is more popular in 3rd world countries.

Solution? Insist on seeing the correct postage affixed to the parcel. Going with private carriers is more money, but a safer alternative in this situation.

Reroute To Another Hotel Scam

Tuk-tuk and cab drivers are infamous in several regions for advising their victim that the hotel for which they have a reservation has just closed due to such and such reason. The scammer/driver then gets a commission from another hotel to which he brings the victim. This scam is even more elaborate in India where a man wearing a fake police uniform helps to reinforce the lie by stopping the oncoming vehicle stating that the road ahead is closed. The “policeman” will also nonchalantly reinforce that the such and such hotel issue is also true.

Solution? Confirm the reservation by email or phone. At the taxi stand, let the driver know you will go to your confirmed destination without hassles. Ideally, try to arrange hotel pickup from the airport.

Tour Guide Scam

Very famous in Morocco, but seen in other areas as well, the overzealous tour guide gets a commission for every purchase made by their customer. At the end, he will often hang-on for a greater tip than whatever was offered by his victim.

Solution? Say no once. Then, ignore their persistence in hanging on as they will soon abort their mission and go to another tourist.

Restaurants Over Providing

The waiter/scammer will bring the customers more dishes than were ordered. This scam is especially a nuisance in that it is difficult to know what is part of the ordered meal. Some items, for instance, may be served on separate plates anyway.

Solution? Inquire or ignore. Know exactly what you ordered. If some food/drink does not match, then don’t assume it is included.

Ukrainian Apartment Rental Scam

This scam usually involves the victim booking an apartment through a booking agency for a specific price for which he prepays. During the victim’s stay, mafia type scammers arrive to extort additional money for such and such fee/balance owed. Unpolished and unsophisticated though this scam may be, it is dangerous.

Solution? Know the agency’s reputation. Preferably book with a trusted local friend or use a well established booking site for renting apartments with reviews of each landlord from previous guests.

Restaurant Currency Confusion

Similar to scamming tourists by giving them the wrong change, this scam involves giving the incorrect change but feeds off the visual similarities of 2 or more currencies. For instance, in Croatia, the 20 kuna note is worth a fraction of the 10 euro but the color similarity might confuse certain tourists. Paying a hefty scam charge for a meal could happen if the customers have a large bill and are somewhat inebriated.

Solution? Learn the local currency well and try to have near exact change for whatever you expect to spend. Try to reduce transactions requiring a lot of change in return especially in tourist areas which accept multiple currencies.

Fake Policemen Scams

Fake police are involved in scams more so in 2nd and 3rd world countries and take part in several variations of scams. Some attempt direct extortion based on fraudulent claims such as claiming the victim’s tourist visa is incorrect. Fake police have been known to falsely accuse tourist pedestrian’s of littering for the sake of imposing an instant cash fine.

Solution? Insist on going to the nearest police post for the sake of straightening out the matter prior to handing over any original ID documents or to discuss any alleged violation.

Begging Scams

Some countries, such as India, have agencies who represent beggars for hire. This allows a begging entourage to be established (giving the appearance of a family, for instance). Beggars have several techniques to increase their earnings which are already greater than the average person realizes. “Giving” (or thrusting, actually) small flowers, postcards, or other trinkets into the hands of indifferent tourists gives the beggar an excuse to harass the tourist for a donation. Although this is a simple scam, the tourist must throw the giveaway to the ground or keep them as the beggar will usually refuse to take the item back. This type of beggar tends to quickly go from docile to loud and obnoxious.

Solution? Just keep walking. If you are given an item, discard it.

The Monte Scam

This scam usually involves 3 playing cards, 3 shells, or 3 other objects where spectators must guess where the X item is after the dealer (scammer) shuffles the items around. Some sleight of hand is at play but the hustle is that the scammer always has friends who appear to be innocent tourists. The excited friends will make obvious bets and win big which lures in unsuspecting victims. At some point, one of the scammer’s friends will place an obviously wrong bet so as to further encourage the victim to place a bet. This scam has variations and usually involves a gimmick or sleight of hand.

Solution? Just watch, but don’t try to outwit this scam.

Costumed People For Photos

This scam involves scammers in period style costuming which fits with the tourist site. Tourists are encouraged to take photos of the seemingly well-placed characters. As the price for the photo is unclear due to excitement or supposed lack of communication, the scammers quote an outrageous price after the photo(s) are taken.

Solution? Establish the amount first clearly or just walk away afterwards as this scam is nonviolent by design.

Credit Card Scam

This well-known scam still catches a huge number of tourists every year. Nowadays, the scammer typically captures victim’s credit card information with a quick mobile camera shot as they pretend to be doing something else. The scammer could be a retail employee working the cash register or waiter/bartender or some service provider.

Solution? Keep your eye on both your credit card so it doesn’t leave your sight as well as your recent credit transactions to make sure you made the charges. With credit card companies on the victim’s side this scam is usually blocked early in the game.

Counterfeit Entertainment Tickets

Due to the quality of photo copiers, this scam catches many tourists. Scammers will prey on tourists who want to avoid a long que to an event by offering to sale their (fake) tickets. Of course, the tickets are ultimately worthless and the scammers will have vanished.

Solution? Buying direct is the safest answer.

Nonexistent Apartment Rentals

Ads posted online or in flyer format in tourist areas sometimes describe apartments which don’t exist. Private information volunteered by deal hungry tourists is captured when they call the scammer’s number posted in the ad.

Solution? Research and avoid agencies who do not have a well established reputation.

Fake Expensive Ring Scam

Fake expensive ring scams ensnare a lot of tourists. This scam is quite strong. The fake expensive ring has several variations. In short, a ring found on the ground appears to be an expensive ring such as a gold wedding band, but it is nearly worthless. In one version and prior to the discovery of the ring, a scammer will reinforce the value of their lost ring by broadcasting a reward offered for their “expensive” ring. When another scammer “finds” the ring, he will nonchalantly offer it for a modest fee. The well intending victim offers cash to reunite the ring to its owner who has vanished only to repeat the scam elsewhere.

Solution? Think long and hard prior to giving any stranger money for an unknown item. Once the cash leaves your hand that stranger will be gone —unlike a retailer, waiter, or brick and mortar service provider.

Flyer For Food Delivery

This recent USA scam involves flyers adverting food delivery. The ads are passed under hotel room doors despite hotels’ attempts to stop the scam. The food will never arrive, but the victim’s credit card information is stolen upon ordering the food.

Solution? Double check the reputation of the company prior to ordering.

Cab Drivers Taking The Long Route

This old scam involves cab drivers increasing the fare by driving a longer route than is needed to get to the victim’s destination. As the driver knows the local area, it can be difficult to know whether the driver is bluffing about his excuse for a longer route.

Solution? Nowadays, with an increased number of tourists having GPS, it is easier for tourists to follow the driver’s route. Apps are available to give extra information regarding real time inconveniences to reduce scam excuses. Use GPS on a smart phone. Let the driver know you have it running.

Date posted: 8th May, 2015

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