Don’t fall for these travel scams! Part 1

Shady people love to take advantage of tourists, and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to become a victim. Here are some of the most common travel scams around the world. As travelers, it is easy to think that we are smart enough to avoid getting ripped off. But, the truth is, it happens to the best of us. Including me!

From getting ridiculously overcharged on cab rides to fake police officers, travel scams exist the world over. While it is nearly impossible to know when you will be scammed, it is important to know what kind of scams exist, and what to do should the situation arise. It sucks to get scammed by a stranger when you’re traveling on vacation. Even after 7 years of continuous travel, I still get caught off guard from time to time.

Here are some of the most common scams you’re likely to encounter. Knowledge is power! The more people who know about these scams, the less likely you’ll fall for them.


Broken Taxi Meter

Cab drivers near airports or train stations are known to pull this scam, but it can happen anywhere. When you get into a taxi and start to drive, the driver will inform you that the meter is broken and charge you a ridiculous price (to the tune of 100s dollars or euro’s if you’re not careful).

How To Avoid It:
Negotiate rates ahead of time, or ensure the meter is in fact working before you get in the car. If the taxi driver refuses to turn on the meter, or tells you it’s cheaper without the meter, get out and opt for another driver. Not all cab drivers are scammers.

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Spills On Your Clothing

Common in Europe, a traveler will be walking down the street and feel something plop on their shoulder, often times bird poop or a fast-food condiment. Then, a friendly stranger approaches and begins to wipe off the offending mess while plucking your wallet from your pocket or purse.

How To Avoid It:
The best thing to do in situations like this is to not allow someone to help you. Instead, go to a restroom and clean the mess off yourself.

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Fake Police Officers

The fake police officer scam is a popular one in many large cities. Most often, a person will approach a tourist and offer illegal items, like drugs. While conversing one or two other people will approach, appearing to be police officers and flashing “badges.” They will then insist the unknowing traveler hand over their passport and wallet. However, they are not police officers.

How To Avoid It:
Never hand over your wallet or passport. Request they show you their identification and then inform them you will call the police to confirm they are who they say they are. Or tell them your passport is locked up in the hotel safe, and they’ll need to accompany you to your hotel. If they don’t allow this, simply walk away.

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Attraction Is Closed

A common travel scam in major tourist areas, some friendly local (who just happens to speak excellent English) will approach and inform you that the attraction you want to visit is closed for any number of reasons (religious ceremony, holiday, etc.). Then they’ll guide you to a different attraction or shop where you’re pressured to purchase something or pay a lot for entry.

How To Avoid It:
Instead of taking the local’s word, head to the ticket counter or shop and see for yourself. Or ask someone else nearby for confirmation.

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Friendly ATM Helper

Someone approaches at an ATM cash machine to help you avoid local bank fees. What they really want to do is scan your ATM card with the card skimmer in their pocket and watch you enter your pin number so they can drain your account later.

How To Avoid It:
Never let anyone near you while you’re making an ATM transaction, and ALWAYS cover the number pad with your other hand while entering your pin code. If someone approaches, take your card and find another ATM.

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Travel Scammers Suck!

The truth is that no matter how prepared you think you are, you’ll eventually fall for some sort of travel scam. But don’t let this discourage you from traveling the world. Think of it as a rite of passage. Sure, it’s embarrassing to be tricked out of your money, but there are always worse things that could happen. It’s just a learning experience. At least that’s how I look at it! Come back next week for the second part of this article!

Have any questions about travel scams? Have you ever been a victim? Drop me a message in the comments below!

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