10 tricky tourist scams to watch out for!

Posted in High Risk Travel Insurance tourist scams, High Risk Voyager Travel Insurance on 19 November 2018

There’s nothing more exciting than waking up on the first day of your holiday in a new country, full of enthusiasm, excitement and raring to start the trip you’ve been planning for many months.

However, while in a different country with new surroundings and culture, it’s easy for tourists to become the victim of a crime and they may not even be aware this is taking place until it’s far too late.

We’ve put together 10 tricky tourist scams to watch out for so you can be prepared and alert for these tricksters next time you’re on holiday.

1) The Stain

Imagine this, you’re walking through a town square and someone comes up to you and points out you’ve got a stain on the back of your shirt. Surprised, you thank the person for informing you and they offer to help you wipe it off. Very kind of them, right? Wrong.

Whilst helping you clean off the stain (which they put there in the first place, by the way) they help themselves to the wallet that’s poking out your pocket.

If someone approaches you, the best thing to do is to thank them but just keep walking and get to a safe place where you can wipe it off yourself.

stain on white shirt

2) The Child Beggar

It’s heart-breaking to see a child on the street begging for food or money no matter what country you’re in. Most of the time this is a genuine cry for help and most of us are happy to lend a helping hand. However, in some countries child beggars have developed a tactic whereby a child will come up to you and ask for money. Then, before you know it you’re surrounded by a ring of children, one of whom will try to steal your valuables.

As hard as it’ll be, you need to walk away from this situation and not give the child cash.

child hand begging

3) The Group Photograph

You’re visiting a famous tourist attraction and a ‘tourist’ comes up to you and asks you to take their photo. Innocent enough right? Have your wits about you as this could be a scam!

If the phone or camera doesn’t seem to be working and you hand it back, it has been known that scammers will blame you for it not working claiming you must have broken it and cause a scene demanding you pay for repairs. Another similar scam is the ‘tourist’ dropping the camera or phone as you hand it back and while you’re helping them pick up the pieces, their accomplice picks your pockets.

group of travellers taking photo together

4) The Bad Hotel

While en-route to your hotel your taxi driver may mention to you that the hotel you’re staying in is either closed, it’s very bad or in a bad area. It’s easy to be suckered in by this as this person is local to the area so must know their stuff. However sadly, this is a scam. The driver will try to deter you to a more expensive hotel where they will receive a nice fat commission for bringing your custom.

The best thing to do is to tell the driver that you have a reservation and insist that they take you there and before you arrive call the hotel to ensure that they are in-fact actually open.

inside the taxi or cab

5) The Lost Tourist

You’re stood waiting to meet a friend, partner or bus and someone approaches you with a map claiming to be a tourist and asks for help with directions as they believe they may be lost. Of course your natural reaction is to try and help this person on their way but do so with caution. While the ‘lost tourist’ is distracting you with a map, their accomplice is on side to steal your luggage or pick pocket your wallet out of your bag.

The best thing to do in this situation is grip a little tighter on to our belongings and before the ‘lost tourist’ reaches you with the map, simply tell them that you’re also a tourist and don’t know the area so it’s best they ask someone local. Then just walk away.

2 tourists looking at the map for directions

6) The Taxi Re-route

Another taxi scam to be aware of is the driver stopping at local businesses whilst driving you to your desired destination. How this works is the driver will tell you they know of a great shop that sells jewellery / clothing or other products and insists on taking you there before dropping you off. Be firm in saying no to this as the taxi driver will be working with the shop owner to bring people through the door. This can lead to a high pressure and quite an intimidating sales pitch which could be unpleasant and a bit awkward for you to experience.

In this situation if the driver suggests taking you somewhere on the way to your destination just say no and ask to just be taken directly to your destination no matter how much they ask.

spice market

7) The Pick-pocket

You may be familiar with most pick-pocketing scams and by now you hold your valuables tightly and keep them hidden from sight. However, one that still seems to catch most people out are the pick-pocketers who commit this crime whilst working another job.

An example of this is going to a café for a nice lunch, nothing strange so far. Your waiter brings you the bill and then a few minutes later returns with another bill but another waiter comes running over informing him you have already received it and this whole situation looks like a simple, honest mistake.

However, what’s happened behind the scenes is the first waiter has brought the first bill over whilst the second waiter is watching where you pull your wallet from. Then, when the waiter brings you a second bill by ‘mistake’ the other waiter that comes running over is actually coming over to retrieve your wallet whilst you’re distracted by receiving a second bill.

pick pocket and stealing from someone else bag

8) The Expensive Flirt

You meet an overly friendly and attractive woman or man on the streets of your holiday destination and before you know it you’re heading off for a drink together. In your mind you’re thinking this could be the beginnings of a sweet holiday romance and you head to a bar of their suggestion and spend the evening laughing and drinking. Sounds great, right?

However, during the evening your companion makes their excuses to go to the bathroom and ceases to return stiffing you with the bill, and it is a LOT more expensive than you anticipate. Before you know it, there are two burly men heading your way forcing you to pay before you leave.

What you don’t know is, your companion and the bar are working together and pocketing the proceeds. If you do meet someone on your trip who insist on going for a drink, you choose the bar.

a couple in a bar

9) The Rental Damage

Whilst on holiday you may be tempted to hire a car or a motorcycle from a local dealer for a day or two so you can explore the island. Unfortunately, upon returning the transport you’re hit with a large bill due to damage to the vehicle.

This scam is pretty common in most places but more so in Thailand and the Philippines so it’s highly advisable to take photos in-front of the lender of the condition that the vehicle is in when you take it from them. This should hopefully deter them from trying to rinse you for money for damage that quite possibly was already there.

And don’t forget that buying Car Rental Insurance from the car rental company can be very expensive. If you’re planning on hiring a car, you could possibly save by buying your car rental insurance separately beforehand.

moped parked on the side of the street

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