The ATM Assistant, the Mess Take and the Here, Catch My Baby! Just a few of the tools of the trade meddling tricksters around the world employ to scam you of your optimism, your valuables and, most importantly, your dignity (but only if you get sucked in of course).
Here’s how to scam the scammer.
The fake copper
These troublemakers stop unsuspecting travellers, ask to see a passport and then demand cash-on-the-spot to correct the administration ‘error’. What to do? DO NOT hand over your passport or wallet, ask to see a badge and then demand a personal escort to the cop shop. If they don’t renege, at least you’ll have an exploit to selfie home about.
Wow, shiny things
“I have number one place to buy carpets/jewellery/gemstones/pashminas. Best range. Cheapest price. You look?” Probably the most liberally promoted scam instigated by commission-sucking drivers, this one will have you buying cheap and nasties before you can say, “ripped off”. Quash it with an “I don’t shop mate” ruling at the beginning of your tour.
You’ve just flown 24 hours via cattle class and the head’s a bit fuzzy. Cue uber helpful taxi-driving assassin. Fall for this old chestnut and you’ll probably end up driving around the boondocks (in an unlicensed rust bucket) miles from your destination, before being asked to pay an exorbitant fee that’s half your travelling budget because unfortunately ‘the meter broke’. Pre-negotiate people.
Closed? I don’t think so!
You’ve nabbed a (hopefully licensed) cab for a more-than-fair rate, but mid-trip you’re told the hotel/tourist site/retail store you’re headed to is either (a) crap, (b) overbooked or (c) closed. Your scammer’s undoubtedly believable source of reliability? It’s called ‘commission’. Keep drivin’ buddy.
After a leisurely day exploring the island via your rental car/bike/motorcycle/jetski, you return it, only to be slapped with a repair bill for damage that must have occurred while you were snoozing on the beach post- lunch in another lifetime. To avoid this? Take photos on your phone before you set off and bring your own lock and keys to avoid the vehicle being ‘stolen’.
The mess take
You’ve just been splattered with a poo bomb from above and wow, a helpful person in shining armour has just appeared out of nowhere offering to assist. Pick pocket alert! As you’re being cleaned up, you’re probably also being cleaned out. Stash your valuables smartly and remember what mum taught you and clean yourself up in future.
Keep it in your pants
Your wallet, that is. If an attractive, local lass (or lad) invites you for a drink or two at the local bar, unfortunately it’s probably not because of your astonishing good looks. Which you’ll find out soon enough – especially when presented with the tab, which has been significantly increased by the fact that she (or he) invited a few of their mates to join in along the way. In fleecing you. Cheers!
Fliers and tyres
If you’re lucky enough to be travelling around by car, watch out for Mr Sneaky driving alongside who may try and coerce you to pull over to inspect a supposedly flat tire and while you’re at it, snavel a belonging or two. Or Mr Marketing, who will place an enticing flier under your rear window wiper and when you pop round back to check it out, he’ll check out. With your wallet.
The BS detector
The mad and somewhat nervy scramble for clearance at airport security can become even madder if you fall for the scanner scammer. An annoyingly slow fellow passenger will take his time emptying (his own) pockets and feigning security measure ignorance. However, while you’re suitably distracted, his crafty mate will be nimbly lifting stuff from the conveyor belt. Watch your stuff like a hawk.
An unwelcome reception
Bleary eyed and semi-conscious, you get a call from hotel reception explaining that their admin system has crashed. Would you mind verifying your credit card details again? Don’t. Same goes for anyone who requests a copy of your passport. And no matter how hungry you are, check before you credit-card-order from that appetising little take-way menu that’s been slipped under your door. Faker alert!
Nicely done over
Many crafty scammers unfortunately prey on a traveller’s generosity, either faking injuries themselves or soliciting the young, old or injured to do their dirty work for them. And it’s often difficult to know who’s legit and who isn’t. If you’re approached by someone asking for money, be polite but avoid handing over cash and offer to buy them a meal instead.
Here, catch my baby!
This one is the tried and true fleecing instigator’s champion. Pickpockets will find any means possible to distract you, including drenching you in condiments or chucking a newborn infant at you. Yep, it’s not just an old wives’ tale. Stay alert, keep valuables tucked away and ignore pesky locals by exiting the scene if you have to.
Beware the hippy type who approaches you with a ‘free’ rosemary bracelet (it’s meant to be a sign of friendship and good luck), and launches into a serious fortune telling routine. Before you know it, you’ll be hounded for money and if you refuse, they’ll cause enough of a kerfuffle that you’ll be shamed into paying for it (whatever it was). Walk away. Swiftly.
You’re approached at an ATM (should be warning enough) by someone offering you advice on how to avoid bank fees. How nice! Except for the fact that they’ve got a card skimmer in their pocket and are memorising your credit card number as you’re having the conversation. Advice? Pay by cash, don’t share your PIN and watch for bank-stalking peeping toms.
Bag lady (or gent)
And finally, if you’re set to jet set off overseas and someone asks you if they can throw something in with your luggage for their long lost cousin who lives in some obscure Balinese village that you may or may not get a chance to catch up with, you know what to do.