Earlier this spring, I watched a younger, solemn man dressed as a Buddhist monk method a visitor at the Mall. He showed him a petition to build a temple and slid a bracelet manufactured from prayer beads onto his wrist. The visitor was pulling money out of his wallet when I intervened and advised him that he had fallen for a scam.
When we are on our very own turf, the scam artists are as apparent as that so-called Nigerian prince presenting you a cut of his inheritance. But on foreign territory, we are extra liable to deceptions. Maybe we are strange with the nearby customs and don’t need to offend, or perhaps our jet lag has dulled our Spidey senses.
“This is a common, international problem, mainly in towns wherein you’ve got crowds and people let their shield down,” said Michelle Bernier-Toth, the State Department’s dealing with the director for Overseas Citizen Services. “People don’t document it to the police or us because they feel silly and embarrassed.”
Bernier-Toth, who has lived in Africa and the Middle East, can empathize with scam victims. She has been one herself — twice. In Johannesburg, she began withdrawing her budget from an ATM when a man asked if she needed help. In a flash, he palmed her card, slipping beyond her buddy, who became posted as her lookout. The second time, she turned into in cab in Istanbul when the driver handed her out-of-stream forex as change.
To make certain, swindles occur all over the international, to every type of traveler. To reduce your probabilities of falling prey to unscrupulous types, Bernier-Toth offers this recommendation: “Be polite, but wary; believe, but verify, and just say ‘No, thanks.’ ” Also, check the State Department’s use of records for indicators unique on your destination. For instance, for the journey to India, the department warns, “Major airports, teach stations, popular eating places, and vacationer sites are frequently used by rip-off artists looking to prey on-site visitors, frequently with the aid of growing a distraction.”
To assist you in noticing the hoaxes, we assembled 10 of the most commonplace ploys worldwide and provided tips on the way to defend your self from them. We also contacted the State Department and Global Rescue, a corporation that assists imperiled vacationers, for a sampling of locations in which those scams often occur. Note that those swindles are at the milder aspect of the criminal spectrum, with the perpetrators basically seeking to steal or squeeze cash out of you. They do now not generally involve violence, even though they could depart a darkish bruise in your vacation — and your ego.
The scam: The cab driver (or tuk-tuk driving force) claims the meter is broken and fees an outrageously inflated fee . . . The cabbie informs you that your vacation spot — an inn, temple, museum, teahouse — is overbooked or closed and takes you to his friend’s lodging or enchantment. He prices you a higher fare, plus earns a kickback . . . The motive force takes a convoluted route, jacking up the price.
How to avoid it: Never hail a cab from the road. Ask a reputable status quo to call you a cab or hire an authorized taxi through an authentic outpost. Know the experience’s general value — ask the hotel concierge or consult a web fare calculator — and verify that the meter works. Know the address and hours of operation of your vacation spot. If the driving force tries to take you to some other place, firmly repeat your desired place or terminate the journey. Use Google Maps to maintain the driver’s sincerity and on course. To avoid cabbies entirely, use a journey-hailing service along with Uber or Lyft.
Bonus: No cash modifications hands, eliminating additional scams. Activate the Follow My Ride (Uber) or Share My Ride (Lyft) tool so that buddies can music your whereabouts.
The rip-off: A passerby squirts you with a liquid, condiment, or fake chicken dropping. At the same time, you check out the splotch, companion pickpockets you. The squirter can also try to smooth the spot, another diversionary tactic. Other distract-the-traveler ploys encompass an elderly individual falling, a woman tossing a baby or cat at you, or someone dropping a wallet and accusing you of pocketing the contents after you pick it up. In a similar vein, someone on a scooter or in an automobile intentionally crashes into your automobile and tries to remedy the incident with the aid of disturbing cash.
How to keep away from it: Secure all your valuables before heading out for the day. For example, stash wallets in lower-resistant baggage that lock or in hidden pouches — any strategy so that it will thwart sticky hands. Ignore your appropriate Samaritan impulses and no longer retrieve any treasured gadgets, including humans, from the ground. In the vehicular twist of fate state of affairs, wait for the police to reach, assuming you may trust law enforcement. If you’re in a rustic with corrupt cops, contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.
Sample destinations: Rome, Istanbul, India, Paris, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Egypt, Chile, Ghana
The rip-off: A guy in Buddhist monk apparel ties a bracelet around your wrist. A stranger affords you with a sprig of rosemary. A woman offers you vegetation or henna. A “disabled” person hands you a % of tissues. Think a thank-you’ll suffice? Nope. The so-referred to as present-giver wants money, and if you don’t pony up after accepting the item, the person will purpose a scene. In some other attempted-and-proper scam, a person unearths a gold ring on the ground and asks whether or not it’s miles yours. You say no, but the character offers it to you besides and then badgers you for cash.
How to keep away from it: Never receive unsolicited items. In reality, don’t even look at the object, or you may find yourself with a friendship bracelet wrapped around your wrist. Return the item and stroll away.
Sample locations: Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, Paris, Cairo, Rome, Kuala Lumpur, Barcelona
The rip-off: You lease a motorbike, automobile, or water scooter and are accused of adverse the automobile. The condominium company demands cash for the maintenance. Be conscious that the damage may be real, though you have not been guilty. A worker would possibly have trailed you and bashed up the condominium while you had been out of eyeshot.
How to avoid it: Rent via a reputable company. Take images of the automobile before you leave the premises and preserve a watch to your apartment always. If the war of words escalates, touch the police or embassy.
Sample locations : Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Greece, Bahamas, Italy, Mexico
The rip-off: The currency trading sales space offers you counterfeit cash or obsolete notes . . . A cabdriver, restaurant, or store claims you paid with faux cash, switching your actual notes for fake ones. Or you receive (now not-so-) funny cash as trade.
How to keep away from it: Familiarize yourself with the foreign money and alternate money only thru valid assets, including banks and resorts. Always test the quantity of forex against the receipt in case the worker swiped some bills. Pay with smaller denominations and never rush the transaction: Count out the money as you pay and double-test the alternate. To avoid changing cash altogether, use pay as you go foreign money cards or ATMs. For the latter, check out the gadget for skimmers (gadgets that scouse borrows your password) and put up a pal as protection defends throughout the withdrawal.
Suspicious invitations and petitions
The rip-off: A nearby wants to exercise English or wishes help writing a letter in English. The person takes you to a shop, wherein an employee pressures you to buy something . . . A stranger invites you to a teahouse, restaurant, or bar. At the cease of the meal or drink, the waiter delivers an exorbitant bill and insists which you pay it . . . A disabled individual or a charity employee asks you to sign a petition and donate cash to a cause; an accomplice may carry your pockets for the duration of the interplay . . . A faux tour operator offers you a tour or safari that never materializes.
How to avoid it: Never take invites from strangers, offer translation offerings or interact with individuals wearing a clipboard. Only take tours with certified operators.
Sample locations: China, Thailand, Turkey, Spain, Malaysia, India, Tanzania