Speak to any of your friends and family and it’s likely they’ll be able to recount a personal or secondary story of being caught off guard while on a trip. Be it as honeymooners, travelers, vacationers, or whatever you want to call it, we are all prime targets for scammers around the world. While it's hard to predict when and where we might be taken advantage of, thankfully, there’s a lot of understanding about common scams. So here’s a few to remember for your next trip.
Dishonest taxi drivers pull out all the stops. One is to be told that the meter is broken the moment you leave an airport or bus/terminal and then be quoted an astronomical price. Another is your driver getting lost on purpose in order for the meter to keep ticking for a few extra miles. Extreme cases might see a driver speed off with your luggage still inside the car. A South American favorite is to be informed that you have paid with fake bills. When you ask for the money back the driver will give a different bill (the actually fake one); you say sorry, hand over a new one and end up paying double.
Make sure you order a taxi by phone/internet or take one from official ranks, where possible. Glimpse at the serial number of your bill before handing it over, and count out the money aloud as you hand over the bills. It might seem like a lot to remember, but you'd rather be prepared than caught unawares.
Over-Friendly and Flirtatious Strangers
Male travelers are distinctively sought after for this trick. You arrive in a new destination and unexpectedly receive non-stop attention in a bar or nightclub. After a fun evening and racking up a hefty bar tab, your new drinking partner is suddenly nowhere to be seen. Making friends in a foreign country is one thing, but remember to keep your wits about when opening your tab or wallet to strangers. You'd be left to pay the bill; that is if you haven’t already been robbed of your money.
Free ‘Friendship’ Bracelets
A classic throughout big European cities, especially around the major attractions. This is often targeted toward female travelers. A happy-looking stranger will approach unsuspected victim and attempt to tie a ‘free’ bracelet around their wrist. Once attached, the person will then demand a payment for said bracelet and be more than happy to make a fuss if they say no. One variation of this is a magic trick that results in the bracelet appearing on ones wrist or fingers in seconds!
Avoid this by walking past anyone that you deem to be suspect and keep your hands in your pockets if they try to follow you. More often than not they’ll move on to their next victim.
The Closed and/or Overbooked Hotel
Taxi driver strikes again here! While driving to your accommodation, the driver will do their best to convince you that it no longer exists or is full to capacity. If you take their word then they’ll whisk you off to another place, which is likely to be more expensive and owned by one of their friends/accomplices. After you check in, the taxi driver will depart with a nice commission.
Contact your hotel prior to arrival to confirm your booking and to find out if they offer a pick-up service. And think to yourself, how would a taxi driver know if a specific hotel is overbooked or not?
Tuk-Tuk Shop Scam
Tuk-tuks are one of the most fun ways to get around busy cities, especially in Southeast Asian countries. However, be wary of drivers that offer sightseeing day tours. You’ll visit temples and landmarks but you’ll probably also be dropped off at a tailor or a jewelry shop. What follows is a few uncomfortable minutes listening to the shop owner offering their bespoke services.
Despite the time lost at the shops, unless you buy something it’s unlikely that you’ll lose out financially with this one and you will eventually get to see the sights as promised. Judge the driver’s rate; if it’s really cheap then chances are high you'll book a few store visits throughout the day.
Honorary Mention: Motorbike/Jetski Rental Damage
Ever visited a beach destination where it seems like every traveler and their dog is having a blast on scooters and jet skis? Then you’ll probably be aware that it's normal to leave your passport as a deposit. This is all well and good until you return your vehicle only to be told that you’ve caused serious damage to it. It then becomes a "my word against yours" situation and, if you refuse to foot the bill, you could end up being escorted to the nearest ATM machine.
Make sure you give the vehicle a thorough check before you accept it and register even the most minor of scratches.
While a trip could be magical, adventurous and everything you’ve ever dreamed of, make sure to be vigilant and avoid individuals who would likely want to take advantage of foreigners in a new destination. Always be cautious and wise in your dealings.