Don’t fall victim to these travel scams
Travel is an amazing part of life. The chance to experience new cultures and see new sights is what most of us hope for at some point during the year. However while most trips will go off without a hitch, it’s good to be aware of the tactics unscrupulous people use to get their hands on your possessions.
After almost getting stung by one of the scams below on one of her many travels, Communications Executive and travel fiend Laura has put together seven common scams from around the world, and tips on how to spot them before they can cause you any trouble.
1. It rings hollow
Prominent in Paris cities, a naive-looking man or woman will hand you a ring they say they’ve found on the ground near you. When you say it isn’t yours they’ll ask you to check, saying it’s hallmarked as gold. As soon as you take the ring, they will demand money, saying you need to either give them a finder’s reward, or buy the ring off them cheaply. Of course the rings are worth no more than a few pounds!
2. Left holding the baby
A common distraction scheme used by pickpockets in Rome. A woman will throw a ‘baby’ (usually a doll or bundled up blankets) into you, relying on your instinct to act and catch the bundle. While you’re standing there surprised, a pickpocket will pat you down for what he or she can pinch. Keep your hands on your handbag at all times for this scam and avoid beggars on the street.
3. The faux wallet
In Ukraine an empty, generic looking wallet will be dropped on the ground, making it look as if it’s been stolen. When you subconsciously pat yours to check it’s still there, a pickpocket will be watching to see where it’s kept. Always be sure to keep valuables on your person at all times and discreetly hidden.
4. Gems galore
Travellers to Bangkok will be familiar with this scam. An innocent-looking taxi or tuk-tuk driver will inform you that the attraction you were planning on visiting is closed for a national holiday promising an even better trip which he won’t charge for! If you choose to accept (don’t) a friend of his will brag about the cheap gems he’s just bought, saying their value is worth triple back home! Of course it’s nothing more than cut glass, so don’t be lured in. Arrange tours through a reputable agency or your hotel.
5. Flirting with danger
One for male travellers in Athens. A very attractive young woman targets lone men, inviting them for a drink. After an innocent coffee she suggests moving onto a well-known bar for more drinks. When you arrive, you’ll be forced to buy bottles of drink, and won’t be allowed to leave until you pay the extortionate bill. In cash. Beware of strangers recommending you drink with them, or suggest a bar of your own.
6. All dressed up
Hotels in Barcelona have been targeted by opportunists, dressed in hotel security. They’ll knock on your door late at night after claiming to have been made aware about an issue with the air-con. While one looks as if he’s trying to help, the other will rummage through luggage looking for valuables. If someone unannounced turns up and your door, politely inform them you’ll call reception.
7. ‘Fake away’ meals
In America, scammers will slide take away menus under your hotel door hoping you’ll feel too tired after a day exploring to want to go out. You’ll call to ring through your order… which will never arrive. Instead, the scammers will take your card details and charge as much as they can on it before you realise. Only ever use the hotel’s kitchen, or ask reception for recommended eateries.
Remember these tips for any time you travel
• Leave valuables at home. Swap your wedding ring for a cheap alternative, and ensure you have insurance on your items
• Blend in with the locals as much as you can.
• Avoid being distracted – whether it’s people waving a newspaper in your face or asking you to fill in a survey, keep your wits about you.
• Trust your gut – if it seems too good to be true or you have a bad feeling, walk away.
• Research the area you’re staying in online and avoid bad neighbourhoods.
• Check foreign travel advice for safety and security tips.