Travelling is amazing, as long as you can avoid the trap of travel scams.Yes, there are some pickpockets, scam artists, and even pushy timeshare salesmen out there, but don’t let that ruin your next trip. For the most part people all over the world are welcoming, vibrant, and good-natured. Be smart and be aware, and enjoy your adventures with confidence. Watch out for these common scams from around the world the next time you go abroad.
1. The Discount Subway Card
This is a common rip-off that you may encounter in the more bustling American cities like Washington D.C. and New York City. While you are happily museum hopping or heading to a Broadway show, someone may approach you and offer a ‘discounted’ metro card. You say, ‘great,’ hand over some cash, and accept the bogus card.
Riders are cautioned to only purchase fare cards from official sellers or kiosks to avoid losing money on this scam. The alleged ‘discount’ cards are usually worthless or carry less value than you had purchased them for.
2. Poser Police
This is a scam that you may encounter in Central and South America or Central Asia. A couple of men, usually in plain clothes but sometimes in uniform, will approach you and demand to see your passport, and possibly your wallet. They may briefly flash some sort of official looking badge and claim to be local authorities performing a routine check or inspection. They may relieve you of some of your cash in the process, or bribe you to get your passport back if you hand it over.
To avoid this scam never hand over your wallet to anyone! Don’t hand over your passport either. You can insist on walking (not driving, never get into a car with people you are unsure of) to the nearest police station to straighten things out. This usually is enough to deter potential thieves.
3. Packs of Begging Kids
You may run into this scenario if you visit the more urban tourist hotspots of Italy, like Rome or Milan. A group of young, wide-eyes boys or girls will come up to you, often presenting a cardboard message and pleading for handouts. While you read over the scribbled message and try to figure out how to cope with the swarm of upturned hands and pleading eyes, one of the youths goes for your wallet. Don’t be fooled by the beggar act; it’s all a scam. To avoid this trick don’t start engaging and simply walk away.
4. The Circuitous Taxi Driver
Las Vegas is one of the most exciting US destinations, and also a place where you can find yourself in unwanted situations if you don't keep your wits about you.
Sin City is known for long-hauling – where a taxi driver will take you on a long, winding route just to bump up your fare. Avoiding this common scam is simple. Know your route and have an idea of how much your fare will be before hopping in a cab.
5. Free Tickets… to a Timeshare Presentation
Heading to Florida or California to escape the cold Canadian winter? Watch out for those pesky timeshare scams. If someone offers you free tickets to an attraction or a show, then realize that you may be unwittingly signing up for a three-hour long, high-pressure sales pitching timeshare seminar! Unless you are interested in timeshares, be wary of people handing out freebies in cities like Orlando, San Diego, and Las Vegas.
6. Is That Mustard on Your Shirt?
This is a textbook trick that you may run into anywhere in the world. Something spills on you, seemingly by accident, and a helpful local swoops in out of nowhere to help you clean up. While you are dealing with the mess and expressing your gratitude, someone else may pick your pocket. When anything strange suddenly happens, try to stay aware of your wallet and any valuables on your person rather than getting caught up in the moment.
Don’t fall into the trap of being an undiscriminating tourist. Understand the common scams that you may encounter where you are travelling, and learn how to avoid them. Soak up the sights, relax, unwind, and do it as the wise word traveller.
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