- Scams happen around the world – and tourists are an especially vulnerable target.
- We compiled a list of some of the most popular travel scams.
- They include dishonest taxi drivers, fake monks, and the classic “lost ring” trick.
Tourists are often a scammer’s favourite targets – they’re likely to be unfamiliar with the area and ignorant of the local customs, and they’re probably holding a lot of cash.
Even the savviest travellers can wind up victims of a scam, so it’s important to know which types of scams exist around the world.
We looked at travel sites and tourism blogs to find some of the most common scams you’ll encounter as a tourist in various places around the world.
Learn the signs, and make sure you don’t fall victim to one of the gambits below.
Watch out for currency-exchange deals that seem too good to be true
In many countries, currency-exchange businesses prey on tourists who don’t know the local exchange rate.
For one, many businesses will advertise that they do not take commission on exchanges. That may be true, but they will hide the fact that their exchange rates are several times more than the norm.
If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
And watch your money when it’s behind the counter
Even if a currency exchanger charges you a fair amount, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. Another popular scam occurs when you slide your money under the window – the person behind the counter may hand you back counterfeit currency. Alternatively, the person could intentionally shortchange you, so make sure to count your bills before you leave the window.
Remember that ATMs and banks generally give better exchange rates than kiosks, so they’re usually not worth the hassle.
Always insist on using the meter in a taxi
In some countries, taxi drivers will try to make some extra cash off you if they mark you for a tourist. One popular way is to attempt to negotiate a price before you start your journey. Of course, the price will be much higher than what it would cost ordinarily.
Avoid this scam by insisting before you go that the driver use the meter. If a driver refuses to turn it on, find another cab.
Be on high alert when a taxi driver insists on taking you somewhere else
Another taxi-related scam occurs fairly often in Thailand and India. In this scam, a taxi driver agrees to take you to your destination but makes an unexpected stop along the way – to a jewellery store, a tailor, or another business the driver is in cahoots with.
Though you are unlikely to be forced to buy anything, it can make for an uncomfortable experience for all parties involved, so you’re better off insisting from the beginning that the driver take you directly to your destination.
Don’t accept gifts from strangers
One scam that occurs around the world involves fake Buddhist monks walking up to people and gifting them with beaded bracelets or medallions. Once the tourist accepts the “gift,” the scammers will aggressively demand money, which can lead to an awkward confrontation.
According to The New York Times, this scam takes place everywhere from New York City to Nepal and takes advantage of people’s desire to be respectful of other religions.
In some places, people will pretend to be deaf and ask you for money
A popular scam in Europe involves one or more people pretending to be deaf or mute. The scammers, often children, will approach tourists with a petition requesting donations to a charity and begin aggressively asking you to give them money.
At best, you’ll find yourself in an uncomfortable confrontation, but you also risk getting pickpocketed by members of the group if you linger too long. And for what it’s worth, as the YouTube channel Honest Guide found out, the scammers are almost certainly not deaf.
Don’t fall for the ‘lost ring’ scam, either
The “lost ring” scam is popular in Paris. In this scam, a person will approach you with a ring or other valuable-looking item and claim the person saw you drop it. When you say it’s not yours, the scammer offers for you to keep it anyway. After you accept, the person tells you he or she is poor and requests money from you, reminding you the person “gave” you the ring.
Corporate Travel Safety calls the lost-ring scam “one of the oldest and most famous of the tourist scams in Paris.” If you find yourself in this situation, refuse to accept the ring and walk away.
Beware of pickpockets … and people warning you of pickpockets
Tourists in unfamiliar locations should deservedly be wary of pickpockets.
Knowing this, some savvy scammers will stand outside high-trafficked areas like tourist destinations and subway stations and warn people of pickpockets in the area.
As the victims walk away, they will naturally double-check their pockets by giving them a quick pat-down. They will be relieved to find their valuables are still there, but not for long – they just signalled to the scammer’s accomplice nearby exactly which pockets to target.
And don’t trust someone who gets ketchup on your shirt
Another routine for scammers is to walk by their victims, “accidentally” squirt ketchup or mustard on the victim’s shirt, and then awkwardly attempt to clean it up.
All of that is a distraction – in all the commotion, their accomplice will sneak by and pickpocket you or steal your bags while you’re not looking, according to Travel + Leisure. Variations of this scam include scammers bumping into their victim and dropping bundles of papers, or even getting you to hold their baby.