Travelling… Simply beautiful… It makes you see new places, meet new people, find a new love. Everywhere we go, we learn new things, may be even discover what we know is incorrect. But isn’t there any difficulty in travelling? Of course there is, especially if you’re not the holiday resort type. You get tired for starters, so tired, you may feel alone in times, in places where you don’t want to be alone. Is that it? Of course, not… Thanks to the tourism sector, travelling also includes dealing with tourist scam pros. Spruikers, middlemen, box clever taxi drivers, charming salesmen and even customs officers… All are waiting for you, arms wide open.
If you live in a touristic area, you may be thinking that tourist scams occur only in your neighbourhood. You’re wrong, simple as that. In every single country you could be the victim of a tourist scam, including the country you admire the most. Take a look for yourselves if you want, at the Scam Cities series from National Geographic. The first episode is Istanbul, Turkey, by the way.
Of course, taking the bull by the horns is totally up to you. What you have to do is simple: Keep an eye open! But what are the most common methods used by the professionals of tourist scam? Let’s have a look at the sub-branches together.
1. Middlemen (No, it’s not about the size)
Being a middleman actually requires a lot of skills from a below avarage knowledge of at least one foreign language (yeah, I don’t know why below average) to effective communication. Here’s a typical scenario:
You walk around at the most touristic spot of a city, looking obviously like a tourist (an experienced middleman can already read it in your face). Then somebody approaches, talks to you, quite a silver-tongue that one is… Looking around at the most touristic spot is already a good sign of your unfamiliarity with the area, so he goes on “here is famous for this, also for that, that thing tastes great blah blah blah…” You wonder, and ask… “Where can I buy one of these? Touchdown for the middleman! He takes you to one of his contracted shops (unofficially contracted, of course) right away and the next move of his is to make you buy something for three times the regular price. Right after the moment you make the payment, he always has an excuse to depart from presence.
Result? You pay an arm and leg for your purchase, and our middleman gets his cut. You don’t even know.
2. Three-card shuffle: Paying for a taxi rise
The scenario works more or less like this:
Say your ride costs $15, you don’t have any change, so you give the driver $50. This is the moment you should focus all your attention on the money you give! Because with a little distraction, the driver changes your $50 with a $5 bill. They he quite cheekily says “I think you’ve made a mistake here, you gave me $5”. Like a true illusionist… Expect a rabbit out of somewhere… So, as a result, you pay him $15 for the ride and $45 for his trick. Objecting may yield positive or negative results, it’s for you to give it a try.
3. “You mean the hotel that was burnt down last week?”
This could be a taxi driver, or just some random looking folk on the street. You just happen to let slip that you’re going to the hotel X. What they do is to insist that the hotel you want to go to was burnt down, closed down or locked down. That’s not it, as you may guess. They always recommend a Hotel Y, on whose way you already are, if you’re in a taxi. The result? You don’t get to stay at the hotel you want. But don’t be said, you’ve just made the day of a middle man.
4. The Not So Secret Art of Credit Card Fraud
As a matter of fact, there are numerous ways to pull this scam, people could even copy your card in a second machine, should you not be careful. But the fastest way is of course taking a portrait photo of your credit card. You give it to the cashier, s/he produces a good picture to be used later. It’s best to pay in cash when you can, or watch your card as it is being processed.
5. “Women, my old friend, are my greatest weakness…” Anonymous Scam Victim
In deed, a young (well, for most people) and beautiful lady is a weakness for many men. Tourist scammers, my old friend, are well aware of that. That’s why this gorgeous lady approaches you. You may guess what happens next. May be you are taken to a bar to pay the enormous check, or you’re taken to a dark alley to kindly donate your money and electronics, as well as your passport. Watch who you’re talking to, don’t forget that you play away this weekend.
6. Friends? Friends!
This groups operates within the same principles as the women that infernally approach you. They start chatting to you, regardless of the topic. S/he may even tell you that s/he hangs out with tourists to improve his/her language skills. They take you to a few places, then for a drink, they even pay for that! Such a trustworthy one! They you agree to meet in the evening for some more drinks, and that you do. But suddenly he has to go, and you’re left alone with a check that looks more like the invoice of a car sale. In most cases, paying like a lamb is the only option.
7. Unexpected Questions at Border Crossings
Unfortunately, this happens in some countries. Some customs officers in some countries may actually be in conspiracy with the heist gang camping 2 miles away from the checkpoint. The regular questions suddenly leave their places to strange ones like “Do you have gold or silver on you?”, “How much would they cost?”. The primary objective here is to determine your value so that they could decide if they would order the hijackers to do their job. If you make the mistake of answering such questions, that is, if you have on you what they find valuable, you get hijacked. I will not pronounce the name of the country to avoid overgeneralization (yeah, I know you’d do that), but this scenario was actually performed several years ago in one of the neighboring countries of Turkey.
8. “Oh, I’m so sorry… Let me clean this for you…”
The traditional style… They stage a fight, if you try to break them up, they steal your money. They spill something on you, if you let them clean it, they steal your money. Simple trick, but it works, apparently. You never know when they rummage your pockets or bag for they are experts on their jobs. Conclusion? Clean yourself by yourself.
9. The Man/Woman Whose Sister/Child Needs an Expensive Operation
Operations, diseases and so on, all sensitive matters, which is why they are easily abused. How it works is quite simple, somebody approaches you telling you that s/he needs money for the mentioned operation, which is happens to be a lie more often than it is true.
An upgraded version of this is the “my sister needs an operation” cards. I have personally seen them in at least three different languages. A youngster, trying to look sad, approaches and leaves you a card, so gently. What is written on the card is, as you may have already guessed, that his/her sister needs an operation and s/he needs money for that. Then s/he returns to retrieve the card, preferably along with some money.
10. Too Friendly Salesman / Too Big Discount
You’re in a shop in search of some souvenirs, but are you crazy? The guy’s asking you to pay through the nose for a little something! Then you reach, and he suddenly drops 2/3 of the price. If you still trust this guy, go ahead, buy what he sells. But it is wise to hold off your ego for a while here, because it may try to make you feel like you have beaten the salesman. He’s definitely more experienced than you and he wouldn’t offer that if he didn’t have a secret agenda. Would you even know if he gave you counterfeits in change? Could you really distinguish between forged and real money in a currency you have never seen before?
These are the most commonly used tactical scams, of course there are more. As you see, they are quite simple, but a little distraction does the trick in most cases. For that reason, please write about other scams that you know in the comments section. You may spare some travellers the burden…
One last thing, in order to learn how to deal with budgeting after you arrive in your destination, take a look at our Budget Holiday: Upon Arrival article.
Tourist Scams Unravelled / Turist Kazıklama Yöntemleri
Tourist Scams Unravelled / Turist Kazıklama Yöntemleri