I have been thinking about planning a trip to South America next fall, so I talked to a travel agent to get some ideas. He began telling me about some common ways crooks have been ripping off unsuspecting tourists. These scams have been seen in many places all around the world. You can’t just go away and have fun worry-free. Even on vacation, you must be one step ahead of the scammers. If you’re like I am, I’m always alert and overly cautious at home. In fact, I can be a bit anal about safety and security. But when I’m traveling, I am usually not equally as cautious, until now. This travel agent told me about several tricks the bad guys are using on tourists. These probably are just as effective at home too, so please always keep your radar working so you’ll spot the crooks. Here are three of the most common ones:
First, watch out for strangers who appear to want to help you, especially when you’re on a bus, plane, or train. Thieves apparently watch and look for people carrying large bags and packages and offer to help, but people are so grateful that they seldom realize that the helper (or usually an accomplice) is stealing something from one of your bags. Be especially aware if someone happens to say something like, “Oh, your bag isn’t zipped all the way.” Well, of course it’s not zipped all the way. That person just unzipped it and stole your camera or your iPod while you weren’t watching.
Second, beware of the counterfeit money scam. With this one, you go to a vendor or even in a taxi, hand the proprietor their home currency, and they politely hand it back telling you it’s counterfeit. But what you don’t realize is, the bill you gave him or her was actually real, and they switched it with the counterfeit bill they returned to you. One method to cut down on this scam is to familiarize yourself with the currency of the country you’re visiting. These days, the fake bills are quite authentic and the swicheroo happens so quickly, even the sharpest nail in the bunch might miss it. Another thing you can do is mark your bills with your initials. That way if they return a counterfeit bill to you, you’ll know right away whether it’s the same bill.
Last but not least, make sure your taxi or limo driver is a licensed car service. Unless you’re in a small, unincorporated town, the car should have a license or registration document in the vehicle. Some of these fake taxi drivers will either put your bags in their car and drive off quickly without you, or they’ll drive you to the middle of nowhere and demand you pay a random amount of money or they’ll leave you stranded.
Bummer. Some people are out to get over on you. But then, the people you encounter on vacation are no different than the ones back home. You have to pay attention and be street smart; however, I believe the average person you meet isn’t looking to get you. But the crooks are out there. So, don’t let your guard down. You don’t want a mishap to ruin your vacation. With a little planning and preparation, you can cut down your chances of being scammed.