Education, Travel

How to Avoid Scams When you Travel

Are you fond of traveling to other countries? Or you simply need to go on a business trip to a country you’re not really familiar with? Here’s our friendly advice. Watch out for the travel scams. Stay vigilant and safe all the time. There is a whole culture of people that just prey on tourists. You are one of the best victims ever when you are a tourist. Why is that? Because you don’t know the rules of where you are. In fact you probably don’t even know how to complain to the police wherever you might be, and the most important one is that you will probably be gone in a couple of days so there is really not much chance of reporting anyone and getting them caught. So as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, otherwise, you may end up in tears and regret having traveled at all. Here are a few pointers that we can offer to typical wanderlusts.

Know Common Scams

Discover the different kinds of scams committed by people in different countries especially the place you intend to visit. One of the very first things that you should do to avoid getting tricked is to be aware of the possible rip-off in the first place. You’ll immediately know there’s something fishy going on if you are aware of how these crooks operate. By fishy, we are referring to the suspicious feelings and not the fish sold in the market of course (ok, that was weak, but it made us smile). Here’s what you need to do. Check out Google for scams common to certain countries, particularly those in which you plan on visiting. Check out the travel forums and search scams. You will be surprised what you find.

The Keyword is Beware

Always beware of strangers who try to befriend you. There are locals who are sincere in helping foreigners but some of them may be dubious characters or even a bit more criminal. They approach you and try to offer helpful advice. Trust your instinct. If you feel something is not right, avoid the person and go to a police station. A rule of thumb is if you are in a tourist area, be wary of anyone that talks to you. As much as it might seem rude, just learn to politely say no. The more they push you, the more chance it is a scam. Even if they try and make you feel embarrassed rejecting them, anyone that does that is again, probably a scammer.

Don’t believe anything

The prefix “con” of con man, stands for confidence. What that means is that they inspire your confidence and trust. They are extremely good at it, as that is how they make their living. We know there are a lot of lovely people out there that are willing to help you and just want to make friends with foreigners, but until you have a bit more experience in wherever you are going, we would suggest you just don’t believe anything anyone says. If you have any doubts, you can always ask the guard or official or employee in the area you are, you’ll probably get a better answer.

Faulty Taxi Meter

If you’re taking a cab from your hotel or the airport, there’s the chance to be victimized by cab drivers who’ll pretend their meters are defective. Then, they’ll charge passengers an unreasonable price that could be several times more than the standard rate. How do you deal with this predicament? Negotiate the rates before getting inside the taxi. If the driver refuses to use the meter, just look for another cab. If the driver tries to make trouble, feel free to make a scene just to attract other people. If the experience is extremely bad, make sure you take the taxi’s ID number and report them to the local police. The local taxi licensing boards and police are usually quite aggressive in going after bad taxi drivers. One of the things we learned to do in our travels was when we got to the hotel, we asked the doorman to pay the taxi driver off. Of course we would give the doorman the money, but the doorman knows the rules and won’t take any problem from the taxi driver and pay them what it was worth, not the overinflated price that they try and get from you.

Beggars

Never give money to children or mothers carrying infants begging for money. They walk around wearing dirty clothes and without any shoes or slippers to arouse the sympathy of tourists. Actually, you don’t help by giving them money because they get accustomed to relying on alms. Worse, these could be another kind of syndicate that uses kids or women to beg for money. Also if you give money to children, as much as it is a sweet thing to do, you will suddenly find that you are surrounded by children, and a lot of those children have been taught to pickpockets. Those little hands move very fast and can go places you don’t expect. If you really want to give children money, toss it away from you and then firmly say no more.

Don’t Flaunt Money or Jewelry

Avoid carrying a lot of cash. Just bring enough to pay for what you purchase or eat. It would be better to leave it in your hotel’s safety deposit box (not your room) or use your credit card for dining and shopping. As a bonus, you can earn travel rewards for all your purchases. Don’t wear jewelry that can attract criminals if you want to go around the city. Dress in simple clothing and footwear. With some countries that have a high poverty level, you would be surprised what people will steal. If you’re walking in Brazil with anything nice, you can find it being ripped off you when you least expect it. You can also be held up at gunpoint where they will take everything you have, and when we say everything, we mean including your underwear. You may not believe that, but it is true. When people are poor, even underwear is a prize.

Fake Bills

If you need to exchange money for local currency, look for legitimate foreign exchange outlets, banks, and hotels. Avoid transacting business with people you don’t know or small establishments. Familiarize yourself with the country’s currency in the Internet or upon arriving at the airport so you’ll know the prevailing exchange rates. Just learn to politely say no, even if they get annoyed at you. And of course the more annoyed they get, is the higher the chance it was a scam in the first place.

A Final Word

Get the exact address and telephone numbers of your embassy or consulate in case your passport or any other important documents get lost or are stolen. It will help if you also know the location of the nearest police station. Be alert. You certainly don’t want to encounter problems that can ruin your vacation. We always used to say jokingly, that the first words we learn in any language as we travel were “Help! Police!” and right after that “I want my lawyer”. It is humor, but knowing how to call for the police can get you out of problems. The police might not be there, but just saying those things will make other people around look and pay attention, which is the last thing a scammer wants.

We hope you never get scammed on your trip, but if you do, don’t get upset, just consider it a badge of experience. We have all been scammed, and sometimes a new scam still slips between the cracks and gets us. So just consider it a badge of honor, and tell others of your experience to help them not get scammed. So in a nutshell, just be polite and say no thank you to anyone or anything that you are not 100% sure of. Happy travels.

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