7 Common Travel Scams and How to Avoid Them

Woman carrying a backpack while walking on a crowded street.TZIDO SUN / Shutterstock

When you find yourself in a new unfamiliar place, it is easy to fall into the scam you never thought of at home. Here are some of the most common travel scams – and how to avoid them.

Whether it's your first visit to a city or if you're in a different country that uses a different currency, disrupting your routines and your usual expectations makes you an easy target when traveling. Let's look at the scams most commonly used by unscrupulous locals with tourists.

Taxi scams

Taxi scams have a long tradition (and a lucrative business). This is one of the most common scams, and you can crack for them as soon as you arrive. There are some different categories.

The simplest is that your taxi driver overloads you excessively. It can quote you a flat rate much higher than the tariff in force, to use a summary counter which goes up too fast or to take a hijacked route.

Another way to charge extra for taxis is to include extras, such as toll bridge fees or pick-up fees at the airport. And they will load them twice: once automatically on the meter and another time at the end of your journey.

Especially in Asia, taxi drivers can inform you that your hotel, tourist attraction, shop or restaurant is permanently closed or during lunch / nap / on Wednesdays. But the good news is that he has a friend who rents rooms / knows an alternative, and he will take you with pleasure.

Of course, your hotel is not really closed. It will just overload you, take you on a tour of the city where you will be pushed to buy things, then get cashed by the trade you visit.

How to avoid taxi scams

Taxi scams are easy to avoid with two simple rules:

Use only authorized taxis rented from an official taxi stand or by a trusted person. Do not hail taxis on the street or, worse yet, take a taxi without a license. When you do, you expose yourself to the risk of being ripped off. Instead, take a taxi from an official taxi rank or ask the concierge / waiter to call one for you.
Know how much your trip should cost. Ask your caretaker or waiter what is the approximate amount of your trip or check online. So, if the driver tries to make you pay more or if the meter goes up strangely fast, you can ask to be let out. You can also use Google Maps to make sure you follow the most direct route to your destination.
Avoid taxis entirely. Services like Uber, Lyft and Grab are available in most countries and, as you pay with a credit card, it is harder to get ripped off.

Fake Tickets and Sketchy Listings

Crowd in front of commercials for Broadway plays in Times Square, New York.Allen.G / Shutterstock

Does this guy sell you Hamilton cheap tickets on Craigslist because he can not leave without notice? He lies. This super cheap and well located apartment? Also a lie.

Counterfeit tickets for events and attractions (or real tickets sold at double the price) are also scammed. If you are planning to visit the Louvre and someone offers you discounted tickets for € 10 on the street, it is tempting to buy them. However, when you arrive at the Louvre, you will discover that the tickets are fake and that it costs you 10 €, plus the cost of the real tickets. Or again, someone could offer you £ 10 discounted tickets to the British Museum, but when you get there, you'll discover that it's free.

Airbnb has also conditioned people to the idea of ​​renting accommodations other than hotel rooms. Two scams regarding the list of apartments I personally encountered are as follows:

Inscriptions on Craigslist that do not exist. The rogue asks for a deposit via bank transfer or Western Union, and then never responds. When you arrive at the building, everyone is puzzled. It happened to my mother-in-law in New York.
The owner wants to "cut off" Airbnb. Once you have booked, the "owner" contacts you directly to tell him that he was in conflict with Airbnb and that he wanted to "delete" it. She asks you to pay a down payment to another site and disappears.

How to avoid fake tickets and classified ads

Only purchase tickets for events through official sources, such as the website, at the ticket office or at your hotel concierge. Never buy discounted tickets from people on the street.

Only book your accommodation from reliable sources with some protection, like the hotel's website, Airbnb or Hotels.com.

Currency traps

Fraudsters want your money. If they can make you give it to them directly, they will do it. And when you do not know the motto you're using, it's even easier to be fooled.

Counterfeit banknotes are a problem all over the world. Watch for the changes you receive, especially if you pay with a big bill. If you do not know the currency well, you probably will not notice that you were given counterfeit money before you try to spend it.

The opposite is when you pay with a big note and then you are accused of using counterfeit money. They can even use a wrong note when you do not look. In this case, they will insist that they must legally confiscate the counterfeit – and you still owe them money.

Plus, if you use a currency exchange on the street, they could simply exchange your real dollars for fake ones.

You must especially be careful when using a map abroad. Tourists are easy targets for card collectors because they tend to have money and, if they wait a few days before trying your card, you will probably have left the country and will not be able to sue. court. My brother (he is Irish but lives in Alabama) was skimmed at a bar at JFK airport as he was going home for Christmas.

How to avoid currency traps

Familiarize yourself with the local currency upon arrival. Find out what it looks like, what are the different denominations, etc. You will never be as comfortable as a local representative, but you will at least know what the person on the front of each invoice looks like.

Check your currency carefully. Make sure the amount is correct and the notes are real.

Be careful when you hand over money or your credit card. This will not necessarily stop a qualified crook, but if they see you are watching closely, they will be much less likely to try something. There will be another brand soon.

When withdrawing money or exchanging currency, do so only at a bank or other official exchange service. The ATM of a bank is much less likely to be inaccurate than that of a local bar.

Guilt Trips

Guilt trips are not technically a scam, but rather an uncomfortable situation. Someone will approach you in the street and try to give you something, such as a friendship bracelet, rosary beads or Buddhist charms – and they can be quite powerful. Once you have accepted, they will insist that the payment be made. If you refuse, they become strong, aggressive or insistent in the hope that you will pay them to prevent a scene. All you pay for is more than the value of the tack.

It happened a few times. Once, a monk (or rather a crook dressed as a monk) put a charm around my neck and insisted that I pay him. On another occasion, I was in a train and on each seat was a small bundle of disposable tissues. I assumed it was an advertising campaign, but a few minutes after the start of the trip, a woman demanded that anyone who took the paper tissues pay them.

A similar scam is being conducted in some stores. The staff offers you a cup of tea or a drink while you sail. If you try to leave without buying something, they accuse you of having abused their hospitality and are trying to make you feel guilty by making a purchase.

How to avoid guilty trips

Do not accept anything from anyone for free, especially on the street.

If someone apparently gives you something for free but insists that you pay for it, give it back politely. If they start making a scene, ignore them. Most locals will know the scam and will assume you are in the right.

Damaged rental

When renting a car, a motorcycle, a jet ski or anything abroad, you have to be careful about imaginary damage. This is what happens.

You rent the vehicle and continue your joyous journey. When you make it, the person in the rental company reports damage caused by scratches, damage, imaginary damage and insists that you caused them. Of course, the cost of the repair is exorbitant.

How to avoid damaged rentals

To avoid this scam, film a video of all rented vehicles. If there are scratches, bumps or bumps, call them in the video. If you can, have the rental agent with you while you do that. In this way, when you return the vehicle, you can prove that the damage was present during the rental.

Similarly, when you rent a vehicle, never leave your passport or your ID as a guarantee. They have the right to request this information and photocopy it, but if you have the choice between paying a large deposit or leaving your passport, pay the deposit. If they have your passport, they can prevent you from leaving the country hostage until you pay.


The thief's hand reaches the pocket of someone's jacket in the street.Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

While pickpockets are straight thieves rather than scammers, the two overlap when a scam is used to distract you so that someone can take your pocket. For example:

Someone plays the three-card mounts or the hull game while a pickpocket works the crowd.
A street artist or street artist plays as a pickpocket (possibly independent) makes the crowd work.
Someone spills him the drink. While she pats you, apologizing profusely, she is also taking your pocket.
A well-dressed tourist asks you his way. As you help, he takes your pocket.
Someone asks you to sign a petition. As you do, your wallet is stolen.
You use an ATM and a local offer to help you. She disappears with your money.

How to avoid pickpockets

Pickpockets are hard to avoid as they walk right up to you. Be especially careful when someone invades your personal space. The man who asks you for directions can be sincere or maybe also take your wallet. Likewise, if someone turns you over, step back and do not let him congratulate you. Maybe they are just clumsy and you can clean everything up yourself – or it was a distraction for them to slip your wallet.

Pay attention to the amount of money you keep in your wallet and in the place where you keep it. It's better to use a silver belt. Also be sure to leave a backup bank card in your hotel room. That way, if your wallet is stolen, you still have access to money.

Counterfeit products

This might surprise you, but the stalls in the street markets are not official Nike dealers. This gentleman also does not sell genuine Ray-Bans (75% off) from a roadside rug. Almost all (let's be honest, that's all), branded products for sale in street markets are imitations. If they are real, they are stolen.

Another market scam attracts you with things such as handmade carpets, high quality bristles, local products, and more. You inspect them and see that they are well done. You buy one, and it came out to be packed for your return flight. Once back home, you find that you bought a cheap polyester carpet or a counterfeit product. The genuine article has been changed when it was sent to be packaged.

How to avoid counterfeit products

Do not buy branded products on a street market. No, it's not a cheap Rolex for sale. No, these nikes are not, the logo is turned the wrong way. If an agreement seems too good to be true, it probably is.

When buying an authentic, artisanal or local product, do not let it pack so that it can not be inspected. Insist that you can do it yourself; In this way, they can not replace the product against a fake. If you can not pack yourself, do not buy it.

Dealing with scams is an unfortunate part of traveling. In Europe or Asia, you will certainly meet someone who will try to take advantage of you. With a little prior knowledge and common sense, everything will be fine. Make it clear that you know what they are doing and that they will look for an easier mark.

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