There are unscrupulous people all over the world and no one is immune to them. Below are a number of travel scams to look out for.
1. Catching a Taxi – the broken taxi meter
If you catch a cab from an airport or train station you run the risk of falling for this scam – the broken taxi meter. Always ask before your bag goes in the boot if the meter is working. If it’s not working go to another cab otherwise you might pay a huge fee. It’s a good idea to investigate travel forums on the destination you are going to and research any taxi issues. You may find that the advice is to only use a certain coloured cab as this is the state-run company and therefore more trustworthy.
2. Your Hotel is closed
Another scam that taxi drivers try on is to tell you that the Hotel you have told them to take you to is closed due to repair or overbooked – they will then suggest another hotel (usually owned by their associate) where they can organise a better room for you. Always confirm with your hotel via email before you travel that your reservation is secured. If your driver tries to offer you a “better” hotel stand firm and request to be taken to the hotel of your choice.
For me, I usually get the hotel transfer from the airport – I know it is more expensive but it is easy, they are there waiting for you, there is no negotiation required, and you can sit back and relax.
3. Nothing is ever free
If someone approaches you and tries to put a bracelet on your wrist, give you a flower, tell you that you dropped the ring they are holding, give you information brochures, etc do not accept it. Once you have is in your possession they will create a scene and hassle you for money. Simple put your hand up in the stop position and say no and continue to walk on.
4. The friendly local at the ATM
If a friendly local approaches you at an ATM offering to help you avoid local fees or work out the currency etc avoid them – as they are probably trying to skim your card to empty your account later – walk away.
5. Photo Offer
You’re in front of an iconic place and you’re taking a photo of the group when someone offers to take the photo for you. As you get ready with your fellow travellers you look up and you can’t see the person or your expensive camera or iPhone – you’ve been scammed.
6. Fake transport tickets
Never buy a cheap plane, train, bus tickets from someone off the street – even if it is really really cheap and the’only reason they can’t go is due to a family illness!
Always but your transport tickets from the transport office – whether that is online or in person.
7. The friendly “which cup is it under”game
This story comes from a fellow traveller. She was in Rome with her husband walking along the street. There was a fellow with a game on the sidewalk – three cups and you pick the cup which hides the shell. They stopped for a look and the guy put on a show. He held up the first cup – no shell. He held up the second cup – no shell. He then took her hand and placed it on the third cup and said she could place a bet that the shell was under the third cup.
A few people had gathered around and were egging her on. She went to pull out her purse and two men dragged her to the ground and the other bystanders held down her husband. They took her purse, her camera, and her confidence.
The lesson – keep walking – it is not street theatre it is a scam.
Travel is a wonderful experience and it is fabulous to be able to travel the world. There is no need to be scared of scammers you just need to be aware that they are there and not to fall into their trap.