We all like to think we are savvy travelers, wise to the ways of the road. But even the most astute fox can fall prey to some ingenious scam…we bet even Marco Polo was done in by some dodgy merchant in his early years. While most tricks are harmless and will at most see you poorer by a few bucks, recent reports have confirmed that the world is in a desperate state. Nowadays, travel scams are much more elaborate, detailed and harmful than they’ve ever been.
Here at MyTravelMoney.co.uk we’ve compiled a list of the TOP 5 most dangerous travel scams you are likely to encounter, and give you simple hints on how to avoid them. While some schemes are particular to certain cities or countries, most of the below mentioned antics are international. Keep your wits about you while traveling and remember: most people are not out to steal from you, but will certainly do so when given half a chance.
The Fake Taxi
This is by far the most dangerous scam of all. We’re not talking about the taxi that takes the ‘long way round’ the city to overcharge you a few dollars; we’re talking about a highly organized crime racket that has seen tourists kidnapped, robbed and even killed. A decade ago, the most you had to worry about in places like Peru and Bolivia was the odd pick-pocket, but nowadays getting into the wrong taxi can have fatal consequences. Victims are held captive for days while their bank accounts are systematically emptied, then (if they’re lucky) they get released.
ALWAYS take only licensed taxis, don’t share a ride with fellow ‘tourists’ who befriended you, lock all the doors and be completely aware of your surroundings. Above all, follow your instincts: South Americans may be friendly, but only after they get to know you. If a local is showing excessive friendliness, be wary.
The Fake Police
In some countries, it is not uncommon for police to stop you and ask to see your passport. While it may be compulsory to carry an ID in most countries, a photocopy of your passport will satisfy any bona fide authority. Avoid carrying your passport and all your money when out on day trips. Never hand over your valuables to ANYONE claiming to be a cop, no matter how shiny their badge is. If there seems to be a problem, insists on walking to the closest police station instead. Honest police will not mind. Whatever you do, never get in a taxi with anyone claiming to be a policeman; most often fake cops work in cooperation with the fake taxis mentioned above. These encounters don’t usually have a happy ending, so fight with all your might while you’re still in a public place.
The Run-over Scam
If you’re the adventurous type you’re much more likely to hire a car, rather than take public transport, when traveling. Be aware that in many developing countries, the moment you step behind the wheel of your own car, you instantly become the perfect victim for some desperate person. Don’t be surprised if cows, donkeys and sheep suddenly project themselves under the wheels of your hire car. A whack of a stick on their rear end is usually the catalyst. A run-over cow will cost you $500 in most countries, more so if you continue driving and are eventually caught. Distressingly, people have also witnessed locals throwing their babies in front of foreign driven vehicles; all in the name of a massive insurance payout. Be vigilant when driving and pay particular attention when crossing cities and villages. Needless to say, make sure you are fully insured.
The not-so-happy time
Oh how lucky are you! While out to a local bar enjoying a drink or two you get approached by a good looking girl/guy in the club. A few hours later he/she suggests you go back to your hotel room for some ‘happy times’. They may even suggest you bring back a couple of beers to enjoy in private. Be careful!
No need to be completely paranoid when traveling, just remember that in some countries tourists are seen as gullible, portable wallets. On the topic, compare travel money at MyTravelMoney.co.uk, and don’t be ripped off before you even leave home.