Vacations are about relaxing, and not having to worry about being scammed into losing your money or belongings. When traveling, it’s easy to fall victim to scams because your guard is down and you’re in an unfamiliar place, and that is exactly what con artists are relying on in these 10 specific cases of extreme tourism scams.
Because these thieves are aware that you’re from out of town, they consider you an easier target, which is why most people who are robbed are foreigners on vacation in a place they’ve never been before. Being informed about some of the scarier things that can happen to you in certain places is important so that you’re prepared and know what to expect if you ever find yourself in these unpredictable situations. You might want to trust everyone you meet while on a trip, but it’s critical to remember that there are sketchy people out there, no matter where you go.
Just in case something similar to these 10 extreme tourism scams happens to you, it’s a good idea to know how to handle them, without getting hurt or in trouble, before heading off on your next vacation. Eventually you’ll be so travel savvy you’ll know how to navigate a new place safely and without worry, regardless of where in the world you are.
10 The Pizza Delivery Menu
In Orlando, Florida, guests staying in Disney World hotels were scammed into giving out their credit card numbers when they ordered pizza off of a menu slipped under their door. Always make sure that the company you’re ordering food over the phone, or online, is a legitimate one. Stick to companies that you’re already aware of or ask your concierge where they think you should order from. Identity thieves are prone to zoning in on hotel guests, in the United States its common for guests to receive late phone calls, appearing to be from the front desk, asking them to give out their credit card number. If this happens to you, hang up and call the front desk to see if the request really came from them.
9 The Aspiring Musician
In New York City you’re bound to run into some sketchy characters, but this scam just seems downright nervy. In Time’s Square, you’ll find a group of so-called aspiring musicians, trying to get you to buy their demo. When they pass you their CD so that you can check it out, they won’t take it back and will hackle you into keeping it and giving them money instead. Along with the help of their friends, they refuse to accept the fact that you don’t want the CD, and cause a scene, yelling at you and accusing you of stealing. You’re pressured into finally handing them over some money because you’re so embarrassed. The best solution, if you’re ever caught in this predicament, is to put the CD on the ground in front of the con man and calmly walk away.
8 The Camel Hump
While vacationing in Egypt, you’ll notice a lot of Egyptians with camels waiting patiently outside the pyramids in Cairo. Don’t accept their offer of a photo-op on the animals, they’ll charge you before they help you get up on the camel and won’t let you off of it until you pay them again for “dismounting charges.” The animal is eight feet tall, so it’s impossible for you to get off on your own. Never agree to anything that isn’t approved first by your tour company. If you really want to get a picture of yourself on a camel, let your tour guide know in advance so that they can arrange it for you, that way it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg.
7 The Fake Baby
The Fake Baby ruse is common in Europe, but especially in Rome. Women pretend to be carrying a baby in their arms and then drop or throw the doll to divert your attention. When you’re distracted, their partner in crime, usually a small child, steals your belongings without you noticing. It’s important to put your valuables in a place that is hard to get to, like inside of your jacket or a bag tightly strapped to yourself. Be aware of pickpockets drawing attention to themselves while you’re on vacation. By making sure your stuff can’t be easily stolen, like not keeping your wallet in your back pocket, you won’t make yourself a target.
6 The “Free” Massage
In Columbia, while lying on the beach, you might fall victim to women approaching you claiming to give you a free massage. You accept the supposed act of kindness, but when the woman is done she goes back on her promise of it being free and asks for money. The con artist won’t stop bugging you until you pay her, and there is no walking away from the situation. Remembering that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, or a free massage, is best in this situation. Don’t get tricked into thinking you’re being offered a gift, with the poverty levels so low in Columbia people are not at liberty to do anything for free. Turn down the massage before it begins if you don’t want to pay a crazy amount for a spontaneous and unprofessional massage.
5 The Tight Squeeze
The sidewalks of Bolivia are notoriously busy with foot traffic. With the amount of people milling around, it’s tough to make sure your possessions are safe and secure. The thieves in Bolivia are usually strong men, who surround you so that you’re unable to move, and then go through your pockets and bags. Taking vehicles or bicycles to get where you need to go is a good idea in a place like Bolivia, it helps avoid the danger of walking around amongst the pickpockets. But if you do decide to travel by foot, plan to take routes where they’ll be less people, in less populous areas. The downtown areas are especially bad.
4 The Disappearing Luggage
Be wary of immoral cab drivers in Las Vegas. They’ll offer to help you with your luggage, and then quickly rush off before you realize you still have bags inside the cab. It’s best to keep everything with you in the back seat, where you can keep an eye on it. It’s also a good idea to try to decline any offers of help from the driver, just in case. If you have to keep your bags in the trunk or you do end up needing help unloading them, make sure to write down the driver’s information, as well as the cab company and number. This way if anything does happen you’ll be able to call and report your missing stuff. You don’t want to lose your money in Vegas before even getting the chance to gamble it all away.
3 The Bad Cop
This type of tourist scam happens in foreign countries as well as in America. A thief, dressed as a police officer, can approach you asking for identification, and when you pull out your wallet, they’ll grab it from you and run. There have been other, more dramatic, cases in which vacationers are kidnapped by fake police officers in order to access banking information. Wherever you’re planning on visiting, be informed about what cop cars and uniforms look like in that area. Always ask to see a badge number and identification in these cases, real police officers won’t mind proving to tourists that they’re legitimate, because even they are aware of this type of scam.
2 The Lost Money
Two scammers work together to pull off The Lost Money scam. You’ll be approached by someone who will claim to have just found money on the ground near you, and will ask you if it was yours. When you deny being the owner of the lost money, the thief will ask you if you want to split it. Just then, a second guy will come out of nowhere claiming that the money found is his and that he wants you both to give it back to him. The first thief will pretend to admit to taking the money, will pay his “half” and you’ll be forced to also pay half of whatever amount the other guy claimed to have lost. Try to steer clear of strangers approaching you with odd requests, and if you do get caught in a suspicious conversation, tell the person that the best thing to do with found money is to call the cops, and proceed to do so.
1 The Stolen Wallet
This happens so often, and in so many places around the world, it’s one of the most popular ways in which people get robbed when on vacation. A thief will come up to you and claim that you stole his wallet, so that when you empty your pockets and show that the only wallet you have on you is yours, the thief will run away with it, all the while claiming that it's his own. Because you’re in a new place and are probably unfamiliar with the people and culture, you’re less likely to stick up for yourself and make a scene. When stuck in this uneasy situation, simply and calmly claim that you did not steal anyone’s wallet and walk away. If the thief continues to bug you, you have every right to tell them you’ll call the cops for your own safety.