Being scammed while travelling can be a huge issue for travellers. To the local’s tourists are easy pickings as when travelling you are generally distracted by the sights, sounds and flavours of a new exciting place. Besides the usual pick pocketing that happens worldwide where there are large crowds involved I have been witness to other more elaborate scams whilst travelling. Here are some examples of known scams and my advice on the best way to avoid them.
To avoid pick pocketing I like to have a second wallet on me that is semi obvious, a decoy if you like, that has nothing in it except a piece of paper with an abusive message on it for the thief or just a picture of yourself laughing and pointing at them. I have never had my wallet stolen but would love to see the look on the thieves face when opening the wallet to see their score only to have nothing but a surprise in it for them.
Being self aware on public transport goes without saying. Large cities such as London, Paris or Barcelona are renowned for their transit thieves.
Always carry your bag or backpack on the front of you while on public transport. Having locks on your bag will not deter a professional thief. I have seen people have their bags cut open and valuables taken without them having the slightest idea.
Cities like Buenos Aires have a massive counterfeit problem with their money. Many people have been scammed this way and everyone is in on it. Money is usually transferred through street vendors or taxis. The fake money is exceptionally well copied and can be very hard for a traveler to tell the difference between real and fake. I always have a really hard look at the money when arriving in a new country and get used to the feel of it in my hands. Usually a fake note will feel different first rather than look different.
When travelling through Johannesburg airport even as a transfer, make sure that your bag is plastic wrapped. This airport is out of control with theft from bags from baggage handlers. Everyone I know who has been through there has had something stolen. On my flight alone there would have been close to fifty people finding valuables missing at the end of their journey.
Again, locks alone are not a deterrent as if they see something of value on the x-ray in your bag they will just cut the lock and say too bad.
In New York after stepping off the train two guys saying that they were agents for the local taxi service and I could pay a negotiated fee upfront for my taxi approached me. Potentially saving me dollars on the full fare. I was lucky enough to see straight through their scam but sat back and watched as others gave twenty and fifty dollar notes to these guys. They would then hail a cab for them, even help put the bags in the cab for them but once the cab door was shut they disappeared faster than Houdini. The passenger was then left to still pay the cab driver his fee, as obviously the driver had no knowledge of taxi agents.
This article is not supposed to put you off travelling or scare you into believing that everyone is out to get you but just to show you that while travelling these things can happen. So the more aware of your surroundings you are and also of other people around you these situations can be easily avoided.
People are very clever with their scams and I really don’t blame them for what they do. Usually they are just like you and I trying to earn a dollar to survive. If only they put their skill and cunning to a legitimate profession I am sure they would be very successful at it.