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Top 6 Common Travel Scams & How to Steer Clear

Traveling can be a fun filled experience, but unfortunately it could also make you an easy target for scams which lead to you losing your money or possessions.

Regardless of our reasons to travel, you can meet different people from different cultures. This can be a rewarding experience as you get the opportunity to learn more about these cultures and about the world we live in. It is however important to be cautious as there are scammers who prey on travelers. Scams are an unavoidable part of traveling, so it is important to know common scams that will be used as well as how to stay safe and avoid falling for them.

Here are some of the common travel scams to be aware of.

  1. Money Changing Scam

    This scam occurs by swapping out money when purchasing an item. When you give the shopkeeper, taxi driver or petrol attendant money in a local currency, they will give you less change than you should be receiving. They can also swap out notes with 100,200,500, etc. denomination with a 10,20,50 denomination and claim that you have not given them enough money for the purchase so they expect you to cover the remaining balance. This can be something that you easily fall for because in most instances you’re not familiar with the local currency or you might have been distracted.

    Tip: When you are making money transactions or purchases, you need to pay full attention and try not to rush the process. You should keep your eyes focused as many currencies have denominations that are similar in colour and design. You can verbally say the denomination when you hand over the money.
  1. The Mess on Your Clothing

    The aim of this scam is to get you to pay attention and lose track of your valuables. The scammer will either squirt sauce on you or a man starts pointing at you about a mess on your clothing. They offer to clean it up and produce a cloth to do so. While they are cleaning the mess either them or an accomplice will flee with your wallet. After he leaves, you will realise that you have been pickpocketed and that your purse or bag has been stolen. Other ways that you can be pickpocketed include a local trying to woo you. The aim is always to divert your attention to something else as a way to pickpocket.

    Tip: It is important to be aware of your belongings at all times especially if someone approaches you in the street. Try not to entertain strangers, be polite and keep walking. If they offer you anything or to clean you up, don’t let them do that and you should kindly decline the offer. You should be aware of the people behind you during these interactions as they could target your possessions.
  1. Fake Souvenirs

    When getting souvenirs, it can be hard to determine whether they are really authentic, locally produced or whether the materials are sustainability sourced. Fake souvenirs are very common. The sellers will claim that they were made by local artisans, when they are actually mass produced items that were created by workers who are underpaid and work in poor conditions.

    Tip: When buying local crafts, such as earrings and baskets, ensure that you buy them directly from the person who sells them. If you are unsure about who made the item, look for the “made in” tag.
  1. Ticket Scams

    You might have bought a ticket for a train, but when you arrive at the train station someone approaches you, they engage you and then look at your ticket. They frown and inform you that your train has been cancelled, however they are willing to sell you a new ticket or they will give you alternative transportation so that you receive a refund and purchase a new ticket. You then go to an off-site office where you pay for a new ticket, but when you try to board the train you are told that your ticket is fake and invalid. You also cannot find your seller so you lose your money.

    Tip: Your ticket is perfectly fine and the person who offers to sell you a ticket is in cahoots with someone at the unofficial ticket site. The ticket you receive might be legit, but it may be marked way up. Do not give away your ticket and go ahead and continue to make your way up to the train.
  1. Bar Scam

    When you arrive in a new country you might want to have a taste of the night life. You might be approached by an English speaking man who wants to know you better and asks to take you out for a drink at a local bar he knows. You go there and after you have been drinking for a while, you are presented with an exorbitant bill. You might refuse to settle the bill, but the man forces you to pay.

    Tip: You are allowed to make new friends when traveling, but be cautious of these new friends who want you to go to unfamiliar places, especially if they are members of the other sex as this might be a set-up for a big bill.
  1.  Closed Attraction Site

    You might be approached by a passerby or a taxi driver while at an attraction site who informs you that the site is closed at the time, but they would happily take you to another site until that one opens up. The scam is that the attraction site you wanted to visit was open the entire time and the person who helped you receives payment for delivering you to another attraction site.

    Tip: Check the opening hours of the site before you leave to go to another site and kindly refuse to go elsewhere. Do not engage with people who stop you in the street, thank them and keep walking.

Additionally, see Festive Season Traveling Tips Everyone Should Know.

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