Avoiding Tourist Scams
Unsavoury characters love to take advantage of tourists. The following common scams from around the world could happen to anyone. So whilst we don’t want people to get too worried, we do have a few handy tips to ensure you don’t become a victim.
Broken Taxi Meter
The driver informs you the meter is broken. When you arrive at your destination you are told the fare is hundreds of dollars. Always negotiate rates before the driver takes you anywhere. Always sit in the back with your luggage and do not put it in the boot – you don’t want the taxi driver to drive off with your belongings if you refuse to pay an abnormally large fare. You always have the right to get into another taxi that doesn’t have a broken meter – not all taxi drivers are scammers.
You are with your family or friends at the Eiffel Tower and a stranger offers to take a group photo of you all. You all pose happily and before you know it the stranger has run off with your expensive camera and all the photos of your trip. Always best to ask fellow tourists or local staff to take photos. Judge the situation carefully if a stranger offers first.
Motorbike, Scooter or Jet ski
You hire a moped, motorbike or jet ski and it is somehow damaged when you return it – or worse, gets stolen. The rental guy insists you pay high prices to get the damage fixed or to buy a new one because it was stolen (when it was taken by the owner and back at the business already). Always take photos of the bike before you ride it and get your own lock, not the one provided by the hire place. Ensure its kept secure overnight. A common Jet ski scam is painting over dents and scratches with water based paint so it washes off and the damage magically appears when you return it. If you believe you are being scammed offer to contact the local authorities. The scammers will usually back down.
Card skimming is a common scam in many different countries. Always make sure that you do not expose your PIN number and if shady looking people are around – try a different ATM. Always let your credit card / bank know you’re travelling overseas and try to monitor your transaction statements when travelling.
Someone is having a meal and accidentally squirts sauce on you or spills their coffee on you. Then a friendly stranger offers to help clean you up, whilst they’re wiping up the mess they are also picking your pockets (or having an offsider do this). Always find the nearest bathroom and politely decline a stranger’s help.
Be wary of any strangers aggressively flirting with you and attempting to get your attention. You may be the victim of distraction whilst someone steals your luggage or picks your pockets. Also, don’t let them convince you into buying them drinks at a bar, you might get stuck with an inflated drinks bill.
The taxi driver tells you that the hotel you booked has been closed and they take you to a more expensive hotel. What you don’t realise is that the hotel you booked is still open. The taxi driver will get a commission from the more expensive hotel for the referral. Tip; call the hotel to confirm before you take the word of the taxi driver.
Free bracelets, necklaces or good luck charms
Often targeted at women, a friendly local engages you in a little chat before placing a friendship band or a lucky charm necklace on you. Once you are wearing it and it’s “yours” – they demand money. Be very wary of people offering you free things and never let them place it on your body. Remember the old saying; “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”
A person approaches a tourist offering them drugs for sale. A policeman suddenly turns up, flashing their badges and asking for your passport or ID. Tourists then offer them money for their passports back or to not get arrested. Always confirm their ID and call the local police station. If this isn’t possible, tell them your passport is in the safe at the hotel and they need to escort you there.
If you’re a victim of a scam you should contact the local police, the Australian embassy or consulate, and your travel insurance provider on their 24/7 emergency contact number as soon as practical.