10 Common Travel Scams

The friendship bracelet

This common scam involves someone approaching you and starting to put a friendship bracelet on your wrist.  Once they've successfully tied it on, they'll demand compensation for it.

Since it's pretty much impossible to get it off your wrist, you'll feel obligated to pay for it and, if you don't, they'll cause a scene.

There are different variations of this trick but they all follow the same premise - you touch it, you've bought it.  Don't accept a "free" item or service from anyone as they will almost always demand payment after you accept.

Travel Tip
Another similar money grab is when someone offers you a friendly tour of a local factory or business.  Your tour guide will demand a generous tip afterwards.  If you refuse, they may become angry and intimidate you to hand over money.

The found ring

For this scam, a seemingly friendly person will pick up a ring off the ground right in front of you and ask if you've dropped it.

When you tell them it's not yours, they'll examine it and show you some mark that "proves" it's pure gold.  Of course it's just a trinket but they'll try to sell it to you for a "good price" which is actually much more than it's worth.

What a deal!

Sometimes you'll come across a local man who "casually" brings up his lucrative export side business, remember the old adage of "if it's too good to be true...".

He'll tell you that he regularly buys valuable items like jewelry, watches, or carpets locally and then resells them in the US (or wherever you're from) for a high profit.

Naturally, because he's such a nice guy, he'll share how he does it and even show you a great local shop where you can buy all these valuable items.  Of course, these "valuable" items are just cheap knockoffs.

The slow count

This scam involves cashiers who return your change painfully slowly.

They're actually not lazy or slow but purposely counting slow in the hope that you'll lose your patience and just accept whatever change is given to you.  Of course you'll almost always be short changed in this situation.

Money switcheroo

Another scam cashiers will do is a money switcheroo right in front of your eyes.  These scammers are banking on you not being familar with how the local currency looks and will switch it out for coins or bills from other countries that look strikingly similar.

When you get change, double check that you actually got a 2 euro coin and not a worthless coin from another country that looks the same.  Old 500 lira coins from Italy, 1 lira coins from Turkey and 10 baht coins from Thailand look virtually the same but are each worth about 30 cents.
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Helper scam

This is a tricky situation because there are times when you're traveling where you really do need help.  Sadly, thieves also know this and will target lost or confused travelers when they're at their most vulnerable.

If you're having trouble with a ticket machine for the bus or train be cautious about the help being offered.  Thieves under the guise of helping you will actually take advantage of you by selling you invalid or overpriced tickets.

Also be wary of the help being offered at ATMs as they may just be trying to peak at your pin number so they can run up that credit card they just skimmed from you.

Finally, be aware that help is almost never free, so if someone offers to carry and load your bagsonto the bus, they will be expecting a tip when it's done.

Taxi scams

If ever you're going to be scammed on your travels it will be in a taxi.  Taxi drivers in alot of countries are known for finding all sorts of ways to overcharge you.

The number one rule is try to avoid getting into a taxi that doesn't have a working meter.  If you do have to take a meterless ride, always negotiate your price before you step inside.  Even with a negotiated price, some drivers will try to scam you with an additional toll or airport exit cost.

Having a running meter doesn't spare you from being scammed as some drivers will have a switch that speeds up the meter while others will just take an unnecessarily long route into traffic to increase the fare.

Knowledge is your best tool to combat taxi scams.  Before you arrive in a city, know the route you should be taking to your destination and approximately how much it should cost.  If you can, show a map of the route to your driver on your phone.  If you appear like you know what's going on they'll likely leave you alone.

Travel Tip
You should just accept that you'll inevitably be ripped off at some point by a taxi driver.At the end of the day the amount they scam you will only be a few dollars - hardly enough to put you in a miserable mood for the rest of the day.  Chalk it up as a travel expense and move on.

It's closed

This scam is usually perpetrated by a taxi or tuk tuk driver.  When you ask to go to a specific hostel or hotel, they'll inform you that it's actually closed or overbooked.

Of course they know the perfect alternative and are more than happy to take you there while they collect a nice little commission on the side.  Some places will actually copy the names of popular hostels and hotels in an attempt to trick you into thinking you've arrived at the right location.

You'll also see this same scam used for popular tourist attractions.  The driver will once again tell you that it's closed and offer to take you to a different location or shop where you'll be pressured to buy something or pay a hefty entry fee.

Fake cops

A well known scam starts with a random person stopping to talk to you asking you random questions.  Before you know it, two more people wearing uniforms soon arrive introducing themselves as the "Tourist Police".

The two "policemen" will flash their badges and inform you that the person you were talking to is suspected of drug trafficking or some other menacing crime and that you're now being detained by association.

They'll demand you hand over your passport and wallet for identification and, before you know it, you've been robbed by a few smooth criminals.

If you find this happening to you, don't cave into their intimidation tactics.  Instead, ask to have a closer look at their badges and to walk to the nearest police station to hand over your documentation.

Room inspector

You're in your hotel room and you hear a knock at your door.  Two men are there claiming to be the hotel's room inspectors and are here to inspect your room.

While you're outside the room being distracted by one of the men, the other is rummaging around looking for valuables to steal.

If you ever have "inspectors" turn up at your door, always call down to the front desk.
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