Safe Travel 101: Common Scams and Schemes Abroad

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Your vacation abroad should be a time to relax, but when you’re traveling to a foreign country you should always be on your guard.  It doesn’t matter if you’re on a beach in Rio, staying in Tuscany villas with friends, or in a hotel in China.  Criminals and scam artists are everywhere, and tourists and foreigners are usually their favorite target.  If you’re going to be traveling abroad soon, make sure you don’t fall prey to some of these popular scams.

The “Counterfeit Police”

You’re walking down the street when all of the sudden two uniformed men stop you.  They claim that they’re part of an anti-counterfeiting task force that works with the local law enforcement officials.  After quickly flashing you their badges, they demand to see the money you’re carrying so they can inspect it for fake currency.   You may be in a foreign country with different laws, but no police officer or other uniformed official would stop someone and demand to inspect their money for fake bills.  Don’t believe what they’re saying and politely walk away.  If you’re being pursued, go somewhere public and contact the actual local law enforcement officials.

Found Valuables

As you’re walking to your hotel someone in front of you suddenly picks up a nice looking piece of jewelry.  After they marvel at the high quality they ask if it’s yours.  When you say no they claim that they would love to keep it, but that they can’t because of religious reasons or because they live in a bad area.  Since they “found” the jewelry they offer to let you keep it if you give them money, but it’s only for the fraction of a price it would normally cost.  This scam is one of the oldest scams around.  The “high quality” piece of jewelry is usually just painted brass and fake jewels, and they person who “found” it noticed it because they purposely covertly dropped it in front of you.  Never purchase anything if you find yourself in this situation, even if you think you’re getting an amazing deal.

A Night On The Town

You’re approached by a very attractive member of the opposite sex that wants to spend time with you.  Maybe they want to practice their English with someone over dinner, or maybe they know of a hot new club that a lot of other tourists don’t know about.  Either way they want you to follow them to a new place for food and drinks.  Before the bill arrives your new friend excuses themselves to use the restroom, and almost as soon as they leave you’re presented with an extravagant bill that costs you several hundred dollars.  You don’t see your new friend anywhere, and when you try to leave some very large and armed people demand their money.  This scam has become surprisingly common abroad.  The best way to avoid a situation like this is to insist on picking the place you and your new “friend” will go.  If they insist on going somewhere they choose, it’s very likely that you’re being scammed.

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