It’s important to know that there are some common travel scams that prey on the unwitting traveler, and as much as we encourage you to go out and explore the world (while traveling in Anatomie’s great travel fashion gear) it’s important to know the scams that are out there.
Tourists are usually easy to spot from a mile away for most criminals. They look around at everything like it’s new to them, because, well, it is. Here’s how to deal with some of the common travel scams, and general advice for staying out of reach of the underworld.
Photo credit: Moyan Brenn/Flickr.com
One travel scam is for criminals to dress up like police officers and use their perceived authority as an easy route to your money or valuable documents.
Passports are a valuable document that are frequently targeted. When a person dressed as a police officer demands a spot fine (read bribe) due to a visa technicality or other made-up reason, always demand to go to the nearest police station and deal with it there instead. If the officer is genuine this will not be a problem.
Unfortunately, in some parts of the world even genuine police officers will try to extort you, and going to the station might offer little in the way of protection. Zimbabwe is one place that is known for its roadblocks, where if a traffic officer gets hold of your driving license for inspection, you may not get it back until your bribe sits heftily in his back pocket.
If a taxi driver offers you a deal too good to be true, then it definitely is. If a taxi driver offers you any deal at all, don’t take it. Their job is drive you to your destination and nothing else. Always use registered taxi services, and make sure the driver knows you know where you are going, especially if you are alone.
To avoid any chance of a travel scam, always pay in small bills, and make sure to count the payment in front of the driver before handing it over (otherwise this could result in him saying you gave him the incorrect amount of money). Keep this in mind: unregistered taxis could essentially kidnappers, or at very best someone with a potentially unroadworthy or stolen car. You get into their car at your own peril without any legal contract between you and the driver.
Car Rental Companies
Car Rental companies are notoriously bad in just about every country, no matter if they’re an international or local company. Some charge penalty premiums if you have your own insurance, and some rent out cars with empty tanks which you inevitably return with more gas in than what they started out with. Some rent their vehicles with “full” tanks, but when you fill up before returning the car the gauge seems to have climbed higher than it was when you started. Almost all charge ridiculous prices for even the most basic extras, such as a car seat for your child, or drop off at a different depot. These can be almost as much as the entire daily car rental.
While this is not so much a common travel scam, per se, always research before choosing a company to rent from, and always read the fine print!
Unfortunately there are pickpockets in every country and pickpockets target victims when they are least expecting it, and often create situations in order to lower their victims wits for a second. Keep your belongings close and closed at all times.
Foreign Currency Travel Scam
To avoid becoming the victim of a common travel scam, always try to deal with official institutions when changing money unless you are familiar with the local currency and how to spot counterfeit bills. Be aware that changing money through unofficial channels is illegal in many countries and can result in your getting scammed.
Try to always pay for things in small bills, and check your change carefully.
Street Urchins and Gypsies Travel Scam
Some types of street vendors will attempt the common travel scam by offering you something without saying a word, and when you so much as touch it they will demand payment, claiming they have made a sale and refusing to reverse it. Others will simply try to sell you fake or stolen goods under the guise that they are legitimate.
It is important to remember that many of these common travel scams can be avoided if you just use your common sense. Don’t ever be rushed into anything, don’t do anything illegal or anything even borderline against the law, and don’t accept unsolicited services.