In this day and age, wherever you go, there will always be scams. You can look at every country’s crime index and safety index, but you can never tell when unfortunate things can happen to you. As frequent travelers (and those just starting their adventures in life), people tend to think that they know more and more about the destination the longer they read articles and blogs about it. The reality is that there’s no way you can always outsmart the locals—especially talented thieves.
In many parts of the world, thieves and shady characters lurk behind the shadows of tourists and travelers, because they’re the most vulnerable in an unfamiliar city.
It’s impossible to predict when you’ll be scammed, but it’s possible to avoid it from happening. Know what common scams are and what to do should you be about to fall prey to one. Be a step ahead of the thieves. They’re everywhere and observe potential victims all the time.
1. Overpriced cabs
The most common scam involves taxi drivers overpricing passengers. Taxis near the airport, tourist hotspots and train stations usually pull this scam.
Once you hop into a cab, the driver will inform you that the meter is broken, and in the end he’ll just charge you a (hefty) sum upon arriving at your destination. Some drivers may not even restart the meter unless you notice it. Sadly, once you fall victim to this rip-off, you have no other choice but to pay.
Another scam cab drivers often do is take longer routes to your destination in the hopes of raising the meter price. And since you’re unfamiliar with the place and trust the local driver’s knowledge of maneuvering through the maze of streets, you’re unaware that you’re already being scammed.
What to do? The best way to avoid this is to negotiate the rate upfront with the driver. Also, before you get into the cab, ensure that the meter is working and restarted to the base fare and research your route beforehand. What use is your GPS or maps app if you don’t utilize it to track the distance from one destination to another, right?
2. Closed or overbooked hotel
This one involves cab drivers as well, but this time there are accomplices. Basically, when a driver picks you up from the airport and you tell him to drop you off at a recommended hotel, he’ll in turn tell you that the hotel has already been closed, burned down or is too expensive.
Then, the driver will suggest a “cheaper and better” accommodation and offer to take you there. Of course, he’ll receive a commission for it too.
What to do? This is where your research skills will come in handy. Look for an affordable and credible hotel weeks or months prior to your visit in the country you plan to visit, in order to avoid such situations and to ensure you have a place to lay your head at night once you arrive.
3. Bump and snatch
You might already be aware of this one, since the technique is the most common among thieves, but this method is usually done by a group with “swarmers” and a snatcher.
It works this way: When you’re in a crowded place, accomplice thieves begin to swarm around you as a distraction. All the while this is happening, the pickpocket will start lifting or slicing your bag open to steal your valuables.
Another tactic thieves do is snatch a victim’s wallet, purse or smartphone as they get off the metro or bus just before the door closes.
What to do? Leave your valuables, cash, and travel documents in the safe in your hotel room—that’s why it’s there. If you carry items of worth in your backpack or purse, place them in different pockets, so that a thief can’t grab everything out all at once should he or she have the chance. Nevertheless, always keep your bag close enough to notice if anyone touches it and never be oblivious.
4.“You have a stain on your jacket”
This is quite common in a lot of places. Mind you, even if the scam isn’t common in one location, it doesn’t mean you should shrug it off.
What these shady people do to execute this maneuver is to stain your clothing. It could be anything from mustard, wine or excrement. There could also be an accomplice who points out the substance on your clothing, or the spiller himself mentions it and offers to help.
While you take your time wiping off the stain, the thief is already stealing your valuables from your open backpack or bag as you grab tissues from inside it.
What to do? Resist from wiping it off until you find a safe place. Also, refuse help from strangers even if they have good intentions, because, unfortunately, you never know who’s truly a good Samaritan and who’s not.
Although it’s nice to help the vulnerable, in this case beggars, be aware that not all are penniless. They can be a member of gang that is hunting for their next victim, and it could be you. These apparently elderly, injured or disabled, pregnant women or women with sleeping infants most likely have a “helper.”
The method is that as you take out some loose change or bills from your wallet, a helper nearby is observing you. As you walk away, the helper follows and pickpockets you, because he or she already knows where you keep your money. Some beggars may also be part of a syndicate to collect money for them.
What to do? Since it’s impossible to determine who’s real and who’s not, skip giving money to beggars. Instead, opt to buy the person something to eat. If they’re really down and out, they won’t refuse it. If they do, then walk away.
Have you ever had a similar experience during your trips? Warn your fellow travelers and share it with us!
About author: Chie Suarez sails from the PH. Although she found her passion for traveling quite late, she enjoys it now with her family and dog. She also writes for Kims Luxury Accomodation & Romantic Getaways in Toowoon Bay, NSW, Australia.