We live in a world where unfortunately some people try to take advantage of others for their own personal gain. Tourists are very easy targets and being aware of what to avoid will make things so much easier for you abroad. They say knowledge is power, so before you leave on your journey, take a moment to Google the most common scams for your travel destination. You will avoid nasty surprises.
After travelling for over two decades and visiting countries on all continents, I have had my fair share of attempted scams but luckily I only fell victim to one of them (details down below) so far.
Here are a few examples of the scams I’ve personally witnessed.
Some of the main attractions in Bangkok, are the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the Golden Mount. The tuk tuk drivers know this and will often tell tourists that the particular attraction they want to visit that day is closed. They will instead offer to take you to see other attractions. They will indeed take you somewhere else to visit another temple or whatnot but they will also take you to a store selling jewelry or a souvenir shop. These shops usually sell very expensive items. The tuk tuk driver will get a commission if you buy something. There’s generally a lot of pressure on you to buy something once in the store. This scam could not only make you miss an important part of your itinerary but could cost you a lot of precious time and maybe even money.
I’ve had tuk tuk drivers tell me that the Grand Palace is closed as I was standing in front of the main entrance itself. If you ever get a taxi or tuk tuk driver tell you that attraction is closed, just smile, say thank you and continue on your way.
Before heading to Nepal, I did my usual scams Google search and found something that talked about buying baby milk for people. Fast forward a few days later when I’m exploring the streets of Kathmandu and have this exact scam get attempted on me. Not only that but the guy also tries to pull a double play and brings me to an art store to buy expensive artworks. Luckily, I knew exactly where this was headed the whole time so no harm done. I will do a future post where I give more details about this little adventure.
This is more or less a scam but rather out right robbery with a bit of social engineering. In Cape Town there are a lot of places where the ATM machines are located outside. A lot of tourists will withdraw money using those machines. Being a foreigner not familiar with the system, it takes a bit longer using the machine as you fumble around reading everything, converting exchange rates in you head and all that. What some locals will do when seeing a tourist in line at the ATM, is stand in line as well as if they’re waiting for their turn. They often work in pairs. As soon as they see you struggling around with the ATM machine, the ask if you need help and move in closer. Most tourists don’t give a second thought to a nice gesture like this. As soon as you manage to withdraw money, the second partner in crime will come along and simply do a grab and go.
I’ve seen this first hand. Not only did this happen in broad day light but there were Police officers in their truck about 20m away from the scene. The cops knew what was going on before the thieves even grabbed the money as one of them had already opened the truck door and was out running gun in hand towards the thieves. I don’t know if they ever caught them.
This brings us to India. The only time I had no choice but to intentionally accept the scam and go along with it. I will write a post explaining all the details of this elaborate scam but for now let me give you the general outlines. It basically involves the taxi driver telling you that your hotel is closed and cannot be reached, getting you to talk on the phone with a fake hotel manager to confirm, bringing you to a “tourist center” where you are told that there is basically only 1 hotel left in the whole city and then getting you to book that hotel.
For reasons that I will explain in a later article, it was not in my best interest to argue with them.
These are just tiny sample of what’s out there waiting for you as a traveler. There are also varying degrees of scams and some have much less negative impact than others. You will never be able to avoid all the bad things in life but try to give yourself the best chances by doing a little bit of research before heading out there.