6 Common Scams to Watch out for When Travelling
#1 Taxi Driver Scams
There are a whole host of taxi driver scams to watch out for. Most of them can be avoided by using common sense and taking standard precautions.
One of the common taxi scams is the taxi-dash scam in which the driver pulls away when you get out of the car to retrieve your bag from the boot. This can be avoided by simply paying the fare once you have retrieved your luggage or, if only travelling with smaller items, keep them with you on your seat.
Another common scam, especially in less developed countries where taxis are unlicensed, such as in Mongolia, is where you negotiate a fare to your destination but when you arrive the price has suddenly multiplied by the number of people in your party. The driver will insist that the fare he quoted was the price per person so if negotiating a fare in advance make sure you ask the driver to confirm the total cost.
#2 Fake Friendly Local Scam
This is a common scam in popular tourist destinations that makes you especially vulnerable if you don't look like you know where you are going. In the typical scenario a person will casually walk up beside you and strike up what appears to be an innocent conversation. At some point they will ask where you are going and will tell you that they know the quickest way to get there and will offer to show you the way.
One of two things normally happens next. One - which is the worst scenario - is that you get taken to a secluded place and you get robbed at knife-point. The second scenario is much more harmless but still a source of much annoyance and time-wasting. This is where the guide will take you to a hotel other than the one you wanted to go to or will take you to the shop of a 'friend'. At either of these places you will be confronted with an incredibly pushy person who will try to intimidate you into buying something or checking into the hotel at exorbitant rates. The door may be locked behind you as part of the tactic of intimidation. The person who led you there is normally on commission with such places. If you find yourself in this situation remain calm and politely but firmly insist on leaving.
#3 The Travel Agent Scam
I am telling you about this scam based on my own personal experience of it happening to me. A few years ago I flew to Delhi for my very first visit to India. My flight was delayed so I was incredibly tired when I landed at 6am local time. I had done some research in advance and learned that you should arrange your taxi from the pre-paid booth in the arrivals hall of the airport. I did this and all was well until I went outside and a guy took my receipt off me and directed me to a waiting taxi in the line.
On setting off the driver asked me where I was going which I thought was odd given that I had pre-paid for a trip to a specified destination. I told him where my hotel was as I had the whole address written down. He said he didn't know it and started to tell me that there was major religious festival on in the city which meant that all the hotel rooms were full. I didn't pay much attention to this as I had my hotel reserved and just wanted to get there.
He then started pointing out some hotels and quoting the room prices to me which were 100x more than I had paid for my hotel. Again, I was tired and wasn't taking too much notice. After a few minutes or so we stopped at a travel agents office and he asked me to go inside with him to ask for directions. The travel agent told me that he had heard many bad things about my hotel but offered to call them up to get the directions. I sat across from him as he dialled the number, said something down the phone in hindi and then passed me the phone. I spoke to a voice on the other end who told me my room had been double booked and that he could not honour my reservation.
I was starting to get annoyed at this point but still hadn't fully understood what was going on. The travel agent then started to repeat the driver's story about there being a religious festival on in Delhi and that I would struggle to find another room available at such short notice. He offered to call a couple of hotels up for me to see if he could find a room. He called the first hotel and passed me the phone to speak to the person on the other end. The guy on the other end told me that he had one room available but he quoted me a price that was seventy times higher than the price of the hotel I had booked!
He rang another hotel and the same thing happened. At this point the penny dropped and I realised I had been speaking to the same person on the other end of the phone every time. Knowing that I was being played I insisted that the taxi driver take me to the hotel that I had booked. I told him that he knew exactly where the hotel is located and that I will get very angry if he didn't take me there. He went into a massive sulk but still made one final attempt to take me to another hotel that he assured me was definitely in my price range - no doubt some place where he got commission for dropping off unwitting tourists.
Eventually, after refusing to accept his alternative hotel, he dropped me off in the neighbourhood where my hotel was located. He pointed up an alley and told me the hotel was located up there but that cars were not allowed. I was so fed up at this point that I got out and walked. I set off up the alley but never did manage to find the hotel. However, as the religious festival was bogus I had no trouble finding another hotel for a reasonable price.
#4 Hotel Pay Scam
You've booked a hotel and when you check in you are asked to pay the full amount for your stay in advance. When you come to check out later you will be met by a different person at the reception who will ask you to pay for your stay. You will argue that you have already paid but unless you can produce a receipt they will insist on payment and threaten to call the police. This is a scam so hold your ground and continue to insist that you have already paid. If you continue to experience threatening behaviour then threaten to call the police yourself. An easy way to avoid all of this is to insist on being given a receipt for your payment at check in.
#5 The Distraction Scam
This scam is often carried out by more than one person. In this scenario someone may 'accidentally' bump into you and drop some coins or some papers on the floor. The scam hinges on your decency so relies on you being kind and helping to reach down and pick up the dropped items. While doing this the other scammer will have been robbing you with their hands in your backpack or your pockets.
There's another version of the distraction scam that occurs in cafes and restaurants. In this scenario the scammers will be targeting those who have valuable items such as wallets or cell phones on the table in front of them. The scammer will approach the table and place a piece of paper over the valuable item. This could be a map which they point to asking for directions or it may be a child who claims not to speak English and who is asking for food or money. When they leave they will discretely pick up your valuable item along with their bit of paper. Before you realise what's happened, they're gone.
#6 The 200 Euro Drink Scam
This is a common scam in Eastern European countries whereby a couple of attractive women will strike up a conversation with naive looking young men. It will start with them asking for a light for a cigarette and lead to some mild flirting. At some point the women will recommend a 'really cool' bar and ask the men to join them. The women will lead the men to the bar and when they arrive a round of drinks will be ordered. When the men get ready to leave and pay they will be asked to pay an extortionate bill which is normally a minimum of 200 Euros.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Matt Doran