The popularity of my story about getting scammed in Morocco led me to thinking about other common scams that travelers seem to fall into. Below is a collection of the most common scams I’ve seen or heard of while traveling. Keep in mind that in every country, there are good people and bad people. But sometimes when you travel, you become so excited by all the new wonderful experiences; you are less aware of your surroundings and more likely to fall for scams. You are a prime target to become “the mark” for some clever scammer.
All the Single Ladies
This one is aimed primarily at the single gentlemen travelers. Usually a local will strike up a friendly conversation with the mark and invite them out for a fun night on the town at some really exclusive club. There is always the promise of beautiful woman and a fun time. Upon arriving at said club, the mark finds out that all these promises and more have come to pass. The woman are beautiful, and what luck he is having with them! One, two, three girls all surround the blushing mark.
“You should buy these ladies a drink,” suggests the mark’s new friend.
And maybe the mark does buy them a drink, because it’s only polite. But maybe he doesn’t. Either way the girls seems to have plenty of drinks either way and night is a smashing success. The Mark even limits his own beverage consumption since he’s on a tight budget. All in all things are going well. That is until the bill arrives. And it’s huge. Suddenly the girls fade way, replaced by some huge muscley dude. The mark’s new friend makes a big show of being intimidated.
“Friend, you should pay the bill, we bought all of these drinks.”
The mark doesn’t remember ordering seven drinks, let alone 20 drinks for those girls. Furthermore, he’s pretty sure the price of drinks isn’t $25. But, at this point there isn’t much to be done. Muscley dude will make sure you pay up even if that means a escorted trip to the neighborhood ATM.
Moral: Insist on paying for everything up front from the bar tender, and know that if something is too good to be true, it probably is.
In this scam, a helpful local appears to tell a confused tourist while actually leading the mark and their money to a place where the Scammer earns a commission. Usually the mark is just looking for a ride somewhere or directions. He stops a cabbie or a tuk tuk and inquires about a location. Or he asks a nearby local (who has carefully stationed himself by an attraction) for directions.
“Oh, no sir, today is a national holiday, that palace is closed!” cries the Scammer, obviously distressed at your predicament.
It’s not a national holiday. The palace is definitely open. Your hotel didn’t close because of an earthquake (or if it did at least double check first). The restaurant you heard about in lonely planet hasn’t move. The Scammer sees the mark looking for a popular tourist location and diverts him by claiming that its closed. That way he can get the mark to wherever he wants to go. Usually the scammer is even nice enough to lead poor unsuspecting mark to this new place.
Moral: Always check to make sure a place is closed with your own eyes before going somewhere else.
Fear of the Unknown
This one gets travelers all the time because it starts out looking nothing like a scam. In fact, in the traveler’s home country it is exactly how business is conducted every day. The traveler eats a meal, takes a taxi or allows someone to carry their luggage. However, as soon as they finish the meal, or get to their destination, they have become the mark. The mark didn’t think to agree upon a pre-determined price since they assumed it would the standard fair fee. Unfortunately for the mark, the scammer is now demanded a huge sum – 10 times the price it should have cost. Since the service has been preformed, the meal has been eaten, there is no going back for the mark – and now it’s time to pay up. And pay up big.
If the mark argues, the scammer gets more and more upset. Usually there is the threat to call the police who may be involved in the scam. Eventually, to save face and avoid trouble, the mark pays up and makes a hasty get away.
Moral: Always agree on a price beforehand
What about you? Have you ever fallen prety to a common scam while traveling? What steps do you take to avoid them?