1. The Grabby Cabby
We’re all familiar with cab drivers who take the long way around, but what about cabbies who tell you that your hotel has burned down and offers to take you to another (where they collect a commission)? Or this scam: you pay the cab driver and hop out only to notice one of your bags has just sped off with the cab driver!
The solution: Confirm your reservations yourself so you can’t be fooled, and pay attention during your cab driver transactions: count the bags carefully, and check to be sure you haven’t left anything on the seat. Only after that do you hand over the payment.
2. The Pizza Flyer Credit Card Scam
This one tormented the Disney hotels in Orlando, Florida last year. Tired parents and kids come home from a busy day at the park to find a helpful “free delivery pizza” flyer. They decide to order in and get some rest. The friendly person at the pizza place takes their order and their credit card number.
No pizza ever arrives, and the traveler’s credit card number has been sold over the Internet to a foreign country where charges are being made quickly and quietly.
The solution: never, ever give your credit card number out over the phone. Just don’t. That goes for the hotel personnel who call and ask you to verify the number (another version of the scam). If that happens, go to the receptionist desk and handle it directly.
3. The Hot Dog Con Artist
This particular scam is as old as time and it’s done in various ways: spilling a drink on a tourist is a common one.
Here’s how this one works: a passer-by who is eating a hot dog, squirts mustard all over a tourist, prompting that tourist to put down their bags to clean up the mess. While the hot dog con artist is apologizing and helping the tourist, an accomplice steals whatever they can reach and gets away free of notice.
The solution: don’t let others distract you to the point that you lose control over your belongings. Hand your stuff to a fellow traveler, if possible, and work out a system of watching each other’s backs.
4. The ‘Helpful’ Tourist Advisor
Some ‘good samaritan’ tourist advisors – that kindly guy on the street, that friendly woman with the baby carriage – are helpful advisors in name only. Sometimes they just want to get close, perhaps to help you decipher a map, while they pick your pockets.
In other cases, their intent may be more sinister, such as sending you down the wrong path where you can be mugged by an accomplice.
The solution: pay attention when you’re offered help, keep your distance, and watch your valuables. Better yet, get your help from a trusted source – ideally, your own tourist guide, a smartphone app, or the concierge at your hotel.
5. Foreign Currency Errors
No one handles money in a foreign currency with as much confidence as they do their own native currency. Travelers are often cautious about cash transactions and that hesitance is the clue a thief needs to confuse you. Reduce your risk by having and paying with smaller bills and learn the currency conversions, or use a smartphone app to help you.
The solution: avoid the problem altogether by paying with a credit card for the best exchange rate, but check that receipt carefully!
6. Let’s Practice English
This scam occurs in different versions around the world, but the gist of it goes like this: a pretty young person stops to chat with you and asks for some of your time to practice their English skills. They want to better themselves and get a good job, and you feel sympathetic.
The problem is they take you to a place where they know the management and when it’s time to pay the bill, it’s either an outrageous amount or your credit card number has just been stolen.
The solution: decline offers to help unless you have a way to know the person is legit. Keep your credit card close, watch when it’s run through the machine (if possible), and verify your receipts.
7. The Pickpocket in the Back of the Bus
This is popular in cities with bus tours. Pickpockets – usually working in groups of two or three – scope out the tourists and pick out which ones to rob. While one causes a disturbance, typically in the back of the bus away from the driver, the others steal your small valuables.
This scam works especially well if the bus frequently stops and has exit doors in the back.
The solution: again, stay aware and don’t let distractions cause you to lose control over your valuables.
8. The Market Squeeze
Cramped and congested passageways of market places around the world make the perfect scenario for a pickpocket technique called “the squeeze”. As the crowd presses in around you, you may find yourself crammed between many people with no ability to move your arms. By the time you get free, your pockets have been emptied and the thief is nowhere to be seen.
The solution: watch yourself in crowded areas. Keep your wallet and purse very secure and hidden and avoid thick crowds.
9. Free Music for Everyone
This one is popular in New York’s Times Square and it goes like this: a musician hands a tourist a CD even offering to autograph it. Once it’s in your hands, you’re suddenly surrounded by a host of friends as the musician demands cash and refuses to take the CD back.
The solution: don’t accept things people hand you, and if you get in this situation, place the item on the ground and walk away.
10. Sticky-fingered Monkeys
This one is common in Bali where the monkeys are allowed to roam free. Some enterprising people train the monkeys to retrieve wallets and other valuables, but in some cases, the monkeys are just curious themselves.
The solution: hold tightly to purses, wallets, and backpacks and secure items like glasses that can be easily snatched. Otherwise, you could be looking for a treat to trade with a monkey.