Traveling is generally an exciting and enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t take much to ruin a good trip. Every day, unsuspecting tourists fall victim to sneaky travel scams. It doesn’t matter how beautiful or quaint of a location, there are always scammers waiting to prey on naive, money-toting vacationers. Most scams can be prevented by using your common sense, while others are trickier and harder to spot. Before you travel domestically or internationally, it’s a good idea to do your homework and brush up on these 10 common travel scams.
The overly helpful local
Whether you’re traveling in the states or internationally, you should be wary of the overly helpful local who might try to scam you. This scam can be initiated by one or multiple people, but the goal is generally the same. The overly helpful local may approach you and warn you about pickpocketing and the safety of your wallet. They will also offer help with the ATM, so they can either get a good look at your pin number or steal your cash on the spot. These overly helpful locals have also been known to scout out people with flat tires or car problems and ambush them. Many times, the local will assist you and demand a tip for their help. Beware of these overly helpful locals and try to get assistance from a reputable source or establishment.
The swoop-in is a carefully planned scam that preys on unsuspecting travelers. One of the scammers squirts mustard or a white substance that looks like bird poop and another person swoops in to wipe the mess away with napkins. While the unsuspecting tourist is being helped, another person or two come to the scene to steal wallets, purses, passports, and anything else they can get their hands on. Avoid becoming a victim of this scam by refusing help and cleaning the mess yourself.
The attractive flirt
This scam mostly applies to single male travelers who are easily smitten by attractive, foreign women, but that doesn’t mean an attractive male couldn’t pull the same stunt on a woman. The scam is fairly simple and quite predictable. An attractive, flirtatious woman approaches a single man and invites him to have a drink with her at a bar or nightclub. One drink can turn into several, resulting in an exorbitant bill at your expense. European travel expert, Rick Steves, says there are some variations to the scam, but warns against accepting invitations from complete strangers, especially when drinking.
It’s not every day that you see a monkey roaming the streets in America, which is why so many tourists fall for this unexpected scam. Once you get down on their level, everything is fair game for these furry creatures. The quick and nimble monkeys are trained to swipe your wallet, purse, passport, camera, sunglasses, and other belongings and run off. Then, a seemingly helpful local will offer to retrieve your items, but not without a fee or tip for their assistance. Oftentimes, the person who retrieves the goods is actually responsible for training the monkeys to be petty thieves. The best way to avoid this scam is to stay away from the monkeys or keep your important belongings out of reach.
Phony police officers
Scammers often go under disguise to make their ploy much more believable. A popular scam is to pretend to be police officers. They will stop travelers on the street and ask to see their wallet to search for counterfeit bills for their “protection.” While the fake police search your wallet, they might take some bills and credit cards in the process. Although it can be difficult to tell the difference between real police and fake police, you might want to study the city’s police uniforms to avoid falling for this scam.
Gold ring scam
The lost gold ring scam has been going on for years and is particularly bad in Paris. Scammers will approach tourists with a “lost” gold ring and ask if they dropped it. As tourists examine the ring, they discover the pure gold authentication and the scammer asks them to try it on. Once the person tries on the ring, they are stuck. The scammer will ask the tourist to pay for the ring, often at a much higher price than what he or she paid for it, then proceed to beg for money. Avoid falling victim to this scam by ignoring the scammers or simply tell them “no” in your language of choice.
While dining out abroad, watch out for the menu switcheroo. Restaurants that are looking to make some extra money will show tourists one menu before they order and present an overpriced bill after they finish eating. Anticipating a complaint, the manager or restaurant employee shows the customer a different menu with the inflated prices and insists that the bill is correct. This scam doesn’t always work out in the restaurant or establishment’s favor, but it’s a good idea to study the menu, keep one at your side, and brush up on the local language in case you have to argue your point. Also, before you travel, see if the U.S. Embassy has issued a tourist advisory that names certain places that have been known to rip off travelers.
The slow count
Another scam to look out for is the slow count, where cashiers purposely count a tourist’s money slowly, hoping that they will get antsy and leave before getting their total amount. The cashiers will take long pauses and move extremely slowly to make the process even more aggravating and drawn out. Avoid this scam by clearly stating the value of the bill and counting your money before you leave.
Overpriced taxi ride
Taxis are a necessary form of transportation when traveling abroad, so it’s important to keep your guard up when riding in them. The most common taxi scam is being overcharged by the driver. Avoid becoming a victim by using taxi stands, asking for the fare up front, and only taking taxis with meters in them.
The gypsy baby toss
If you’re traveling to Italy or Eastern Europe, you may have been warned about gypsies and their pickpocketing ways. A common way for gypsies to snatch your cash and belongings is to do the baby toss. Gypsy women will target single female travelers and approach them while holding a baby in a blanket, which is often a baby doll. Then, they’ll toss the baby into the travelers’ arms and another person will quickly steal their purse, wallet, jewelry, and anything else that’s accessible. The best way to avoid this shrewd scam is to steer clear of gypsies and beggars because they’re often up to no good.