Travel is often depicted as an enchanting journey filled with stunning vistas, exciting cultural encounters, and unforgettable experiences. Yet, it can also be riddled with unexpected risks and potential dangers. In this article, we will share about common global Scams while traveling and how to protect yourself.
Being aware of these perils is not to deter the spirit of adventure but to arm oneself with wisdom for a more fulfilling and secure journey. This article aims to highlight the dangers of modern scamming tactics that locals used against foreigners while providing effective ways to protect yourself.
Table of Contents
The Friendship Bracelet Scam
Paris, the city of love and lights, is not exempt from travel scams. An infamous one is the ‘Friendship Bracelet’ scam, often played out at popular tourist destinations such as Montmartre or near the Sacré-Cœur.
A friendly individual will approach you, start a casual conversation, and try to tie a ‘friendship’ bracelet around your wrist. Once it’s tied, they will demand payment, sometimes quite aggressively.
Protection Strategy: Politely decline any such ‘gifts’ and avoid letting anyone put anything on your body. If you face such a situation, remove yourself from it as quickly as possible.
The Overbooked or Close Hotel Scam
This scam is quite common in many countries, particularly India. Upon arrival, your taxi driver will tell you that the hotel you’ve booked is overbooked, closed, or in a bad neighbourhood. Instead, they’ll recommend another hotel (where they get a commission).
Protection Strategy: Always confirm your hotel booking before you travel and arrange an airport transfer through your hotel if possible. If that’s not an option, insist the driver take you to your hotel regardless of what they say. If there are indeed issues with your hotel, handle them directly with the hotel staff.
The Fake Police Scam
In many cities worldwide, including Buenos Aires, Argentina, and some parts of Eastern Europe, you might encounter the fake police scam. Someone will approach you, posing as a police officer, demanding to see your wallet for counterfeit money or your passport. The ‘officer’ might attempt to take your money or personal details during this process.
Protection Strategy: Never hand over your wallet or passport to anyone before confirming their identity. You can ask for their badge number and let them know you’ll call the local police station to confirm their identity.
Damaged Rental Scam
This scam is prevalent in many beach destinations where scooter or jet-ski rentals are popular, such as Bali, Indonesia or Phuket, Thailand. After returning your rental, the operator accuses you of causing damage and demands exorbitant fees for repairs.
Protection Strategy: Always take detailed photos or a video of your rental before using it, showing any pre-existing damage. Only rent from reputable providers, preferably those recommended by your hotel or travel guide.
The Fake Ticket Scam
Popular in many large cities with major tourist attractions, such as Rome or London, scam artists will pose as official ticket sellers at venues and sell counterfeit or grossly overpriced tickets.
Protection Strategy: Always purchase tickets from the official venue or a reputable online source. Be wary of individuals selling tickets outside of the attraction, particularly if they are offering a “deal” that seems too good to be true.
The Spill on Your Clothes Scam
In this scam, which can occur anywhere but is particularly prevalent in South America, a stranger will accidentally spill something on your clothes. While you are distracted, an accomplice may attempt to steal your belongings.
Protection Strategy: If something like this occurs, secure your belongings first before trying to clean up. Be wary of overly helpful strangers who immediately appear to assist you.
The Taxi Meter Scam
In many major cities, some taxi drivers take advantage of tourists by not turning on their meters and then charging an exorbitant fee at the end of the ride.
Protection Strategy: Always ensure the meter is running before the taxi starts moving. If the driver refuses to turn on the meter, get out and find another taxi. Alternatively, use ride-hailing apps where the price is set in advance.
The Currency Exchange Scam
In countries with unfamiliar currency, some unscrupulous merchants or money changers might take advantage of tourists’ confusion and provide a poor exchange rate or even counterfeit money.
Protection Strategy: In countries with unfamiliar currency, some unscrupulous merchants or money changers might take advantage of tourists’ confusion and provide a poor exchange rate or even counterfeit money.
The Free Wifi Scam
Free Wi-Fi can be a godsend for travelers, especially in airports or cafes. However, some cybercriminals set up unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots to gain access to your device and steal sensitive information.
Protection Strategy: Avoid using unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, especially for banking or other sensitive transactions. If necessary, use a VPN to encrypt your online activity.
The Begging Child or Woman Holding a Baby
In some countries, notably in parts of Southeast Asia and Europe, you might come across children or women carrying babies, begging for money or food. In some instances, the money given doesn’t go to the child or woman but to a handler controlling them.
Protection Strategy: While it is a natural instinct to want to help, donating to reputable local charities is a more effective way to offer aid. It ensures that your contribution directly benefits those in need.
The Car Rental Scam
In some vacation spots, you might rent a car and be held responsible for scratches or damages that were already there when you received the vehicle. You might be forced to pay hefty repair fees.
Protection Strategy: Always thoroughly inspect any vehicle you rent and document any existing damage. Make sure the rental company acknowledges these damages in writing before you take the car.
The Restaurant Scam
In some tourist-heavy locations, like parts of Rome or Istanbul, you might find yourself in a restaurant where the menus don’t have prices. After your meal, you’ll be presented with an outrageously high bill.
Protection Strategy: Always ask for a menu with prices. If there are no prices listed, or you’re told not to worry about prices, it might be best to dine elsewhere.
The Group Photo Scam
In tourist-heavy cities like New York or Paris, a friendly stranger might offer to take a group photo of you and your companions, only to run off with your expensive camera or smartphone.
Protection Strategy: Be careful about handing over your expensive devices to strangers. Consider using a selfie stick or asking a staff member of a nearby establishment to take the photo.
The Shoe Shine Scam
A common scam in cities like Istanbul involves a shoe shiner “accidentally” dropping his brush. When you pick it up and return it, they offer a free shoe shine as a thank you but then demand payment once they begin.
Protection Strategy: Be cautious about accepting “free” services from strangers, as they often expect payment in return.
Traveling is an incredible way to explore the world, embrace new cultures, and create unforgettable memories. While scams and pitfalls do exist, they should not overshadow the beautiful experiences that travel can provide.
By arming yourself with knowledge about potential scams and adopting smart practices, you can significantly reduce the risks and navigate your journey with confidence.