Most Common Travel Scams (and How to Avoid Them)
As frequent travelers, we are always aware that there are many travel scams, and anyone can be a victim.
“Life is not just about breathing, it is about having your breath taken away,” said Alfred Hitchcock. Happiness is in the unexpected, but there are some unforeseen things that we would like to avoid, especially when travelling, so as not to spoil the pleasure of the holidays. If in the vast majority of cases, stays go wonderfully, there are still some scams which you can avoid. These “tourist traps” obviously leave a bitter memory. Because prevention is better than cure, we are going to describe some common scams that happen around the world.
When Locals Become Scammers
The Taxi Driver and His Meter Out of Order
It is classic that while leaving the airport, you order a taxi to take you to your hotel. The corrupt driver then explains to you that the meter of his vehicle is out of order but that he can still drive you to your hotel. After arriving at the hotel, they will ask you to pay more than the regular fare.
To avoid this kind of scam, ask the taxi driver from the start how much the fare will be. If he does not answer you or tries to coax you by explaining that he does not know but that it will surely not be expensive, get out of the vehicle and take another taxi, this will save you from paying a huge amount unnecessarily. Clearly, if you take the taxi, either the meter works or the driver gives you the exact price of the ride from the start, otherwise, run away!
A Full Hotel or Closed Tourist Site
If you choose a taxi to drop you off in front of a hotel and they tell you that it is unfortunately full, beware! It happens often that taxi drivers earn a commission when they bring customers to a hotel with which they are complicit. Always ask to go to the hotel chosen and check for yourself what the driver says.
The same kind of scam takes place in front of tourist sites. Before you even reach the entrance to the site, a very smiling person comes up to you and explains that the site is closed. She then kindly offers you another supposedly popular tourist activity and takes you there. This person will receive a commission, and you will visit a site that you had not planned to discover. If you are unlucky, it will cost you more than you originally planned to visit!
Simply check at the reception of the tourist site which you have planned to visit during its opening hours.
A Guardian Angel Comes to Your Rescue at the ATM
ATMs abroad can sometimes be a real headache. A charitable soul may see you struggling on the machine and offer to help. Unfortunately, some take the opportunity to note your credit card code. A few minutes later, your credit card is stolen.
To avoid this scam, type your code out of sight. Also, remember to set the machine in English to have a better understanding of the withdrawal instructions.
A Hand Comes to Your Aid Because Something Just Dirtied Your Clothes
You are walking around town, and suddenly you find yourself doused in liquid or bird droppings. You tell yourself you are really out of luck until someone comes to help you clean your clothes. A few minutes later, you realize that you no longer have your wallet. Your helping hand is gone with your means of payment and your identity papers!
Even if the intention may seem nice, gently refuse the help of the people who will come to help you in this kind of situation.
The Fake Police
It is hard to tell right from wrong when you are impressed by the uniform, especially in an unfamiliar country and when you do not speak the local language very well. The “police” ask you for your papers for a routine check and leave with your full wallet.
To avoid this scam, you must be vigilant and not panic. If you have any doubts, call the police to confirm the presence of police in the neighborhood where you are. If they take off at high speed, there is a good chance they are not part of a municipal police squad!
Unsecured Wifi Hotspots
Be careful, some Wifi access points can be hacked to access your data. Even though internet access may be necessary for work or to connect with your loved ones, it can cause trouble for you.
To avoid this, the easiest way is to ask a café, hotel or tourist office for the nearest secure Wifi access.
They Play with Your Sensitivity
Beggars and Gangs
It is difficult to not move in front of a child, a pregnant woman or a young mother, or a mutilated man who asks you for money to survive. Unfortunately, in some countries, gangs are rampant in the city. The money you give to these people in need will have to return to the leader of the gang, who uses them as a source of income.
If you want to help them, give them food or clothes that they can use for their comfort and survival. Avoid giving money.
Free Bracelets or Pretty Flowers
You are quietly sitting on the terrace sipping your cold drink when a person comes to slip a friendship bracelet on your wrist or offer you a flower. A few minutes later, they come back, insist heavily on getting paid and get angry. You quickly feel embarrassed and surprised because you thought this person had given you a gift. The eyes of the surrounding crowd are heavy, and you give in, putting your hand in your wallet.
So you should always kindly refuse this kind of “gift”, it will save you a lot of trouble.
When the Scam Touches Passion
The Famous Thunderbolt
They flirt with you, compliment you, the big game… In short, you fall madly under the spell of the scammer who tries to bamboozle you, and it works! Their little exotic accent capsizes your heart, and you are trapped in the meshes of the net. Once they are sure that you have their mercy, they will do anything to keep in touch with you and regularly ask you to send them money.
To avoid this, the first option, you tell them from the start that you are broke to curb their enthusiasm. The second option is you remain suspicious and not allow yourself to be approached by people who are a little too considerate and insistent. Save your heart and your wallet!
Our Final Word
I have to admit that when I was younger and a more inexperienced traveler, I fell for a couple of these scams. So be vigilant. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Despite these few tourist traps, you should not stop yourself from travelling. As Gustave Nadaud said, “To stay is to exist but to travel is to live”. Just take the time to analyze the situation and remember these little tips during your trip. Your stay will only be better for it.