Avoid these 8 scams when travelling abroad

Unscrupulous elements exist in every major city of the world, looking for gullible tourists to con. Don’t be a victim.

Are you travelling abroad? 8 scams to avoid

We travel to experience nature, see different cultures, gorge on exotic cuisine and enrich ourselves. The joy and zeal of travelling can be slightly dampened with unpleasant experiences. The worst is getting scammed or robbed in a place that is alien to you.

So the next time you travel, stay alert and be aware of some of the most common travel scams that you could encounter.

Related: Going on a vacation? Here are some common scams you might encounter

1. Money exchange scam

Currency exchange scams are the most common. In countries where notes of different denominations are of similar size and colour, there is a possibility of you getting counterfeit currency or being handed similar-looking low-value notes by using sleight of hand.

How to avoid it

Always exchange money at banks or with government authorised money exchangers.

Scam common in USA, South East Asia and Africa

2. ATM scams

In high-density tourist areas, roadside ATMs are most prone to tampering. Scamsters have been known to attach a skimmer device to the mouth of the card slot that can read all your personal information.

How to avoid it

Always use ATMs of reputable banks and if your card gets stuck, contact the bank helpline immediately.
Scam common in Europe

Related: The rising problem of fake job scams in India

3. Taxi scams

Everyone has fallen prey to some taxi scam. You could end up paying exorbitant rates for a short trip and get scammed due to rigged meters. On other counts, you could be taken on a wild goose chase around town racking up a huge bill. You could also get coaxed into going to a destination or establishment where they can get a commission for bringing in a customer.

How to avoid it

Do your homework about transport options. Try using designated taxi stands where possible and use Google Maps to ensure you’re not being taken for a ride.

Scam common in every city of the world.

Related: Going on a vacation? Here are some common scams you might encounter 

4. Fake officials scams

Touts posing as plain-clothed police officers could accuse you of breaking a non-existent law and force you to pay up a fine. Similarly, on trains and buses, fake officials say you’ve boarded the wrong compartment or bus and ask for a change or upgrade fee.

How to avoid it

Always ask the person to display their badge or credentials. Do not hand over your documents to anyone.
Scam common in Barcelona, Bangkok, Amsterdam and Mexican cities

5. Friendly local scams

The friendly local scam has many ugly sides. In some instances, they insist on taking you to a club or bar where you end up paying through your nose for a single drink. You could also end up paying for entertaining the person you just met. The risk of having your drink spiked and you being robbed of all your valuables is a genuine possibility. 

How to avoid it

Be careful of who you befriend. Research the place you are about to visit. Keep a close eye on your drinks and valuables at all times.

Scam common in Beijing, Shanghai, Budapest, Barcelona, London and Rome

6. The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan could be someone who gives you direction on how to find your destination and dupe you of your valuables and cash while you are distracted. At other times, the overtly helpful local may guide you to your destination and then ask to pay up, putting you in an awkward situation.

How to avoid it

Keep your belongings secure, avoid engaging with people who seem over-friendly. Use technology wherever you can.

Scam common in Many popular African tourist spots

7. The switcheroo

Not all scams are pulled off by cons; service providers in certain countries look to dupe gullible tourists. This is especially prevalent in areas where travellers look to buy expensive handicraft or antiques. The salespeople are notorious for showing genuine expensive items and then securely packing cheap dummies while another salesperson distracts you with other things. 

How to avoid it

Avoid buying ‘artefacts’ on impulse. Do your homework on the authenticity and keep a hawk’s eye until you leave the store.

Scam common in the Middle East, Latin America, Egypt and Cambodia

8. The menu mystery 

At famous tourist squares or shopping streets, you are bound to find many interesting roadside cafes with ushers coaxing you to have a look at the menu at the steward's table. Many cafes are known to have a cheaper decoy menu at the entrance to make the fare seem affordable. However, once you get in and dine, you are asked to pay an inflated bill from another menu, forcing you to chew more than you bit.

How to avoid it

Avoid entering restaurants and cafes which are too persuasive. But if you do, keep the menu card with you and tally the prices mentioned in your bill.

Scam common in Italy and China

To pack up

A lot of these scams can be avoided by doing adequate research before you travel. Just as you would search for places to see and things to do, look for things to beware of at every point in your destination. Enjoy your travel but stay alert at all times. Avoid keeping cash, valuables and jewellery out in the open or at susceptible places. Have a contingency plan in case things go wrong and remember to arm yourself with all local helpline and embassy contact numbers. Have a look at common travel scams you’re likely to encounter (and how to avoid them) to help you prepare and be on guard.

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