The Most Common Scams from Around the World
There’s nothing like traversing the world and exploring new countries and cultures, but sometimes the experience is spoiled by dishonorable people preying on uninformed travelers.
These crooks know you’re having fun and that your guards are down, which is the perfect situation to “attack” and steal your money or belongings. Some scams are so well prepared some tourists don’t even realize they were ripped off, but other times, you know it happened and get frustrated, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
However, if you make an effort to learn about the classic scams, you’re unlikely to fall victim to them and can just enjoy the positive side of your trip. To help, here’s a list of common scams around the world for you to get acquainted with.
Find the Lady Card Game – France
You’re walking along the street and see a group of people surrounding a stall. There are three cards on the table, someone is shuffling them around, and the people are betting on the right answer. In this case, where the Queen is. They’re either making easy money or losing in a silly way that makes you think you can beat the house.
The problem is that everybody is in on the scam. As soon as you start playing, they give you a few easy wins and then you just lose all your money (the house always wins). Other times, the game is just a ruse for pickpockets to steal your wallet.
Taxi Meter Not Working
When it comes to traveling, taxi drivers are probably the worst scammers. You don’t know the currency, you don’t know the distance, and you don’t know the cost of the fare, so if the meter is not working, they can charge whatever they want.
The reality is that the meter is most likely always working, but when taxi drivers know the passenger is a tourist, they turn it off — sometimes during the ride — and charge you an exorbitant amount of money. Alternatively, the meter is working, but the final amount is super high since it’s been rigged.
Closed Attractions – Asia
You’re on your way to visit a new and exciting tourist attraction, but as you approach the entrance, someone tells you that it’s closed. They’ll probably say it’s a bank holiday or religious ceremony, so you cannot enter.
The person will then mention another attraction that’s open nearby and offer to take you there. Most of the time the “other attraction” is not good, but the person will get a commission for taking you there.
So always check it for yourself if a place is open or not.
Tea Ceremony – China
Usually, two to four Chinese “college students,” who are in theory visiting the city, approach tourists with perfect English and invite the tourists to a traditional tea ceremony.
After walking through several narrow alleyways, they arrive at the tea shop and sample a selection of different teas. When the bill comes, the tourists are charged anywhere from $45 to $400! This scam is common in Shanghai and Beijing, so be aware when traveling in these cities.
Damaged Scooter – Asia
The moment you step off an airplane in Asia, you’ll quickly see an abundance of scooters — particularly in Vietnam as it’s the main mode of transport for locals. So, instead of using taxis or buses, most travelers rent scooters for a few days because it’s cheaper and more convenient.
However, when you decide to return the scooter to the rental shop, the owner tries to make you pay for damages that were already there. Most tourists end up paying because the owner has their passports as it’s a condition to rent the scooter. To avoid this scam, make sure you take pictures of the motorbike before taking off.
Border Crossing Scams – Thailand/Cambodia
If you’re planning on traveling from Thailand to Cambodia (or vice-versa) by bus, you need to be acutely aware of the many scams awaiting for you. The problem is so serious that many travelers choose to fly out nowadays in order to avoid headaches.
Basically, everything is a scam. The expensive bus with “air-conditioning,” doesn’t really have any and is super-hot; the fake immigration office that tries to charge a lot for the tourist visa; the tuk-tuk on the other side takes you to a “better hotel” for commission; and the ATMs at the border which charge $15 per transaction and only give out U.S. dollars.
Cheap Gemstones – Thailand
A local strikes up a conversation with you, saying he makes lots of money by selling gemstones back in Europe or America. He or she will show you where you can buy cheap gemstones and tell you the resale price is three or five times as much.
If it’s too good to be true, it usually is. The sad truth is that the gemstones are fake and the only people making money are scammers. Sometimes, the gems are indeed real but are ridiculously overpriced, which means you’re losing money either way.
Bird Poop Splat – South America
You’re waiting for a bus or walking along a beautiful square and all of a sudden, a stranger taps your shoulder to tell you there’s bird poop on your hair and back. As they offer to clean you up, you mindlessly put your belongings on the floor and another person sneakily steals everything.
The bird poop is just a way to keep you distracted (and worried), so it’s easier to rob you. Most of the time, the scammers use a mix of mustard and mayonnaise, and will aggressively insist on helping you.
Crowded Subway – Barcelona
This is not so much a scam as it’s downright theft and tends to happen on busy metros and buses. As you’re taking the subway from one point to another, a large group of people enters the carriage and suddenly, everyone is squeezed together.
However, it’s not a group of ordinary people, but several pickpockets who take advantage of the close quarters to steal the belongings of those around them. The best course of action is to put your bag or backpack in front of you and wallets and phones in the front pockets of your trousers.
Imposter Police Officers – Romania
Imagine you’re at a popular tourist destination when two uniformed officers approach you saying there’s been a recent problem with counterfeit money. They say they need to check your wallet to make sure everything is okay. By the time they’re long gone, you realize they stole your money.
Another way this scam works is when normal-looking people approach you in the evening and try to sell you drugs. As you’re trying to shoo them away, two “police officers” arrive showing their badges ask for your passport and wallet. They take your money as a bribe to leave you alone.
Money Exchange Errors
Changing money in a new country can be a stressful situation, especially if you’re in a place where coffee costs thousands in the local currency. If you’re unfamiliar with the bills, you’re the perfect target for a currency exchange scam.
As you try to change your money, you might be given 10,000 notes instead of 100,000 and only realize afterward. Sometimes, scammers give you old notes that are not in use anymore and you’re left with useless money. So always use official exchange bureaus or withdraw from an ATM.
12. Expensive Drinks in Club – Europe
You and your friends are having a night out when two beautiful ladies approach you and suggest a club they’d like to visit. You go there, have a few drinks, but when the bill comes, it’s around $200 or more.
If you ask for the menu and try not to pay, the bouncers surround your group and ensure the bill is paid. Sometimes, the drinks are not expensive, but when you try to leave the venue, there’s an “exit fee” that costs €100 per person.
13. Fake Transport Tickets
Imagine arriving at the bus or train station to leave the city, and be told your ticket is not valid? Or more specifically, that your ticket is fake? If that’s the case, you most likely bought your ticket from a dodgy person or travel agency.
It usually happens when you’re waiting in line at the ticket booth and someone offers you a “better” ticket for a cheaper price. Or the friendly taxi driver suggests an “amazing” travel agency that turns out to be bogus. Just make sure you always purchase your tickets from the official ticket office.