The simple trick to stop you from getting scammed

Avoid pickpockets by keeping your valuables close to you and zipped up
Avoid pickpockets by keeping your valuables close to you and zipped up

If you’re travelling to a big city, or anywhere known for its tourist attractions, you can expect there to be the odd opportunist, or even established businesses attempting to scam tourists. From dodgy police to seemingly romantic gestures in Europe, scams can appear pretty genuine, so you may not realise it’s happening until it’s too late. However, a lot of the tricks used on tourists are very easy to avoid if you know what they are and what to do. 

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from getting scammed overseas is to research the common scams in your country of destination before you go. This is as easy as typing into Google some easy key words. Say you’re travelling to Thailand, for example, simply type into Google ‘travel scam Thailand’ and you’ll see a lot of helpful results. 

Here are some of the most common scams to watch out for around the globe. 

1. The directions scam

If you have a map out or appear to be a lost tourist, someone might approach you and offer to help. While this could be a genuine offer, you’re much better off saying you’re fine and don’t need help, and then asking someone else. Good places to go for directions are convenience stores or restaurants. The person offering to help you could have been a scammer who would give you directions or walk with you to where you need to go, and then ask for money.

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2. The romantic rose scam

This is a common one in France and Italy. If you’re walking down the street or along a canal, a seemingly kind man may offer a lady a rose as a romantic gesture. If the lady accepts the rose, the scammer will demand money from you. If you’re walking as a couple, they may call the woman beautiful and call the man a cheapskate for not buying a rose for his lovely lady. 

3. The friendship bracelet scam

Popular all over Europe, if someone offers you a friendship bracelet, do not accept it. It’s common for people in the streets to offer friendship bracelets to tourists and if they accept, they’ll tie the bracelet so tight it won’t come off, and then demand payment for it.

Read more: The passport rule that could ruin your holiday

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4. The gold ring scam

This scam involves someone approaching you and asking if they dropped their gold ring. Once you say no, they will tell you they can’t keep the ring because of religious reasons or a different excuse, and then tell you that you should give them money for it. The rings are just polished copper. 

5. Broken taxi meter

This is very common in Central America. You might hop in a taxi at the airport and the driver will tell you the meter is broken. If they tell you this, get out of the taxi and get in a different one. If they are already driving when they tell you this, ask to get out of the taxi because you only want to travel with a metered taxi. If you don’t, when you arrive at your destination you will be charged a huge fare.

6. Fake police

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The fake police scam is popular in many large cities. Generally someone will approach you in plain clothes and ask if you want to purchase illicit substances. Even if you say no, people dressed as police will swarm you and ask you to hand them your passport, which they will then steal. Never hand anyone your passport and if they insist, say you will come back to the police station with them before handing it over. If they say no, just walk away. 

7. Injured or child beggars

It’s more difficult for people to say no to children or injured people who are begging on the street. Some people recruit children to beg on their behalf, so it’s best not to support this business model.

8. Group photo offer

If someone approaches you and offers to take a family or group photo for you, it’s a good idea to turn them down as they may just run off with your camera. Instead, ask someone who also looks like a tourist if they can take a photo for you, and return the favour.

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Read more: The clever trick to remembering where your photos were taken

9. Special goods deal

One of the joys of travelling is talking to the locals, but if a local tells you about a lucrative side business they have selling gemstones, rugs or other luxury goods, they may be a scammer. They might offer to sell you their goods directly, or tell you places (owned by their friends) where you can get a good deal.

10. Uncertified guides

In popular tourists attractions there may be locals watching for people who look like they may need or want a guide. If someone approaches you and asks you if you’d like a tour, use your best judgement, asking them first what their credentials are and if the tour is free. They may spew out some random facts that are just made up. If you do want a guided tour, visit the information booths at the attractions for certified tour guides. 

Do you have any tips to help travellers avoid scams? Let us know in the comments below. 

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