by John Webber
Travel to foreign countries can often come with the unfortunate side effect of falling for scams that we’d have otherwise been savvy enough to avoid. So in order to return home with nothing but happy memories in your suitcase, here are the eight most common scams to watch out for in cities all over the world.
THE TAXI SCAM
If ever you hear the words, “the meter’s broken!”, whilst getting into a cab, go ahead and get right back out again. This is one of the most common scams played on unsuspecting tourists who know not the base rate charged by taxis in the city they’ve just arrived in. Try researching before you leave or ask at your hotel to get a better idea of the fares you should expect, and if the taxi driver tries to hike the price, take full control of the situation by offering the correct fare. If in doubt, always note down the taxi’s license plate as many tourist offices will be able to flag scam taxis to the authorities.
THE THREE-CARD SCAM
It can be cards or cups, but the result is always the same: you leave out of pocket. That large group of people betting on cards or cups right under the Eiffel Tower are probably just out to get your money. Often making plenty of noise, the group pretends to watch a succession of people betting big on cards or cups – all unsuccessfully – until an unwitting tourist comes along believing he can outsmart his opponent. Invariably the cups or cards are rigged, and the tourist loses 50 euros, as well as the wallet out of his back pocket. Stay away.
THE LETTER SCAM
This scam often befalls English-speaking tourists abroad. You’re approached by a boy who says he heard you speaking English and would like your help writing a letter to his cousin who lives in New York. He invites you into a small shop, offers you a cup of tea, and then proceeds to force upon you the entire contents of the shop for a rather steep price.
THE BRACELET SCAM
Another common scam in Europe, this one involves being grabbed roughly by the wrist by a guy who forces a bracelet onto it before you can say no. He now demands payment, saying that you tried to steal it. The same thing can happen with hats. Never pay for the item, just calmly return it and walk away.
THE DOUBLE DISTRACTION SCAM
As you make your way along the street, a girl runs right into you with her full Starbucks coffee. She tries desperately to clean the stains from your clean, white shirt as a growing crowd of people around you all try to touch as much as they can of you. Only later will you realise that the situation was a little odd and that you’ve no longer got your phone or your wallet in your bag. If someone you don’t know makes a big show of taking your arm or touching your hand in the street, keep a wary eye on your bag and back pockets.
THE BICYCLE SCAM
It’s wonderful to discover a city by bike, especially one as flat as Amsterdam. But be warned that scam bike rental places will happily rent you a bike for the afternoon, only to complain that you’ve damaged it on return. Often the scratches and dents will have been there before you rented it, so make sure you take plenty of pictures of the bike before you rent it to prove your point when you return.
THE GIRL-IN-THE-CLUB SCAM
Boys, be wary of pretty girls who approach you in clubs and chat flirtatiously at the bar. Well, trust them up to a certain point, but when they propose that you move to another, more exclusive, club where their friends will let you in for free, alarm bells should start ringing. Either her large group of muscular male friends will ply you with drinks and then demand that you foot the bill for the entire group, or you’ll wake up the next day back in your hotel room with nothing much in your pockets.
THE PETITION SCAM
How many times have you been stopped in the street and asked to sign a petition? Pretending to be students, or worse disabled, groups of scammers will approach you asking you to sign a petition, only to slip a hand into your bag when your attention is elsewhere.
“Do not go where the path leads, travel instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” @wbbrjp