Which country has the most tourist frauds?
Tourist fraud and rip-offs
Europe is a surprisingly creative place when it comes to travel fraud. Many of the most successful games require a naive and trustworthy tourist. But do not think that it cannot happen to more discerning travelers. There are many subtle ways to be cheated: a taxi driver will bag your fare, a salesperson suddenly increases the price, a public Internet terminal registers your password or a waiter offers a special offer with a “special price”. Be smart: know what you are paying for before you hand in any money and always count your change.
Scammers come in all shapes and sizes. But if you are careful and not overly trusting, you shouldn't have a problem. Here are some clever ways European crooks can prop up their cash flow.
Such a deal!
If a business seems too good to be true, it's too good to be true.
The "found" ring: An innocent looking person takes a ring on the floor in front of him and asks if you will drop it. If you say no, the person will examine the ring more closely and show you a mark that “proves” it is pure gold. He offers to sell it to you for a good price - that's a multiple of what he paid before tossing it on the sidewalk.
The friendship bracelet: A salesperson comes up to you and aggressively asks if you would like to help him with a “demonstration”. He will make a friendship bracelet right on your arm. When you're done, he'll ask you to pay a premium for the bracelet he made just for you. And since you can't just take it off on the spot, you feel obliged to pay. (This type of "seller" distraction can also act as a smoke screen for theft - an accomplice steals your bag while you try to turn away from the intrusive seller.)
Seller in distress: A well-spoken, well-dressed gentleman will come up to you and explain that he is a leather jacket salesman and needs directions to drive to a nearby landmark. He's chatting to you ("Oh, really? My wife is from Chicago!") And you soon made a new friend. Then he reaches into his car and takes out a “designer leather jacket” that he would like to thank you for your helpfulness. Oh, and by the way, his credit card isn't working. Could you give him some cash to buy gas, please? He withdraws with the money and you later discover that you paid way too much for your new vinyl jacket.
Money is important
Whenever money changes hands, be vigilant even when using ATMs. (See my tips on protecting your cards.) When dealing with the public, keep an eye on your cards, or it's much easier and safer to pay with cash. But paying with cash can also have its challenges.
Slow count: Cashiers who deal with many tourists live from the slow count. Even in banks they count back your change with strange pauses in the hope that the harried tourist collects the money early and says it "Grace."
Switcheroo - You Lose: Use caution when paying for a small payment with a bill that is too large. Clearly state the value of the invoice when you hand it over. Some taxis or waiters pretend to drop a large bill and pick up a hidden small one to exchange a tourist. Familiarize yourself with the currency and check which coins you get: the valuable 2 euro coin is similar to several worthless or much less valuable coins: the 500 lira coin (from Italy's former currency), the Turkish 1 lira Coin and Thailand's 10 baht coin.
Talkative cashiers: The store's cashier appears to be talking on her cell phone when you give her your credit card. But listen carefully and you may hear the phone's camera shutter sound when she takes a picture of your card. It can make you want to pay cash for most purchases, like me.
Encounter with the locals
I want my readers to meet and get to know Europeans - but watch out for chance encounters on the street.
The attractive flirt: A lone male traveler is approached by a beautiful woman on the street. After chatting for a while, she seductively invites him to have a drink in a nearby nightclub. But when the bill arrives, it's several hundred dollars more than he expected. Only then does he notice the burly bouncers guarding the exits. There are several variants of this scam. Sometimes the scammer is disguised as a lost tourist. in other cases it is just a sociable person on site who (apparently) just wants to show you his city. In any case, be suspicious if someone you just met invites you for a drink. If you want to go out together, suggest a bar (or coffee shop) of your choice instead.
Oops! You will be bumped into a crowd while someone spills ketchup or fake dovecote on your shirt. The thief apologizes extensively as he dabs him - and rummages in his pockets. There are variations: someone drops something, you kindly pick it up, and you lose your wallet. Or, worse, someone throws a baby in your arms while you reach into your pockets. Suppose beggars are pickpockets. Treat any fuss (a brawl erupting, a beggar in the face) as a fake to distract ignorant victims. If an elderly woman falls on an escalator, step back and watch over your valuables. Then go in ... carefully ... to help.
The "helpful" restaurant: Thieves posing as concerned locals warn you to keep your wallet safe - and then steal it after seeing where you keep it. If someone wants to help you use an ATM, politely decline (right after your PIN code). Some thieves sell thumbtacks and attack drivers with their "help" when changing tires. Others stop at subway machines to "help" you, the confused tourist, buy tickets with a pile of your rapidly disappearing foreign cash. If you are using a station locker look out for the "Hood Samaritan" which may have its own key to a locker to use. And skip the helping hand of official-looking train attendants at Rome train station. They help you find your seat ... and then ask for a "tip".
Young thieves: These are common throughout southern Europe, especially in the tourist areas of Milan, Florence and Rome. Groups of boys or girls with big eyes, distraught expressions, and colorful, ragged clothes politely bully the unsuspecting tourist in a beggar-style manner. As their pleading eyes seize yours and scribble their pathetic message on cardboard, you will be fooled into thinking that they are beggars. In the meantime, your handbag or backpack will be expertly searched. If you are wearing a money belt and understand what is going on here, there is nothing to worry about. In fact, slowly putting the hand of a street thief in your pocket becomes another interesting cultural experience.
Appearances are deceptive
The sneakiest pickpockets look like well-dressed business people, mostly with something official in hand. Some pretend to be tourists, with daypacks, cameras, and even travel guides. Don't be fooled by looks, impressive uniforms, femme fatales or bad luck stories.
Fake charity petition: You are in a popular place with someone petitioning you. It is likely that a woman or teenager who often pretends to be deaf is trying to get you to sign an official looking petition, supposedly in support of a charity (the petition is often in English, which is a clue should be). The petitioner then asks for a monetary donation. At best, anyone who falls for this scam is worth a few euros; in the worst case scenario, they will be robbed while being distracted from the petitioner.
Wrong Police: Two uniformed thieves posing as "tourist police" stop you in the street, flash their fake badges and ask you to look for fake bills or "drug money" in your wallet. Only then will you notice that some bills are missing you go. Never give your wallet to anyone.
"Inspectors" room: There is a knock on your door and two men claim to be the hotel's room inspectors. One waits outside while the other comes in to look around. While you're distracted, the first thief slips in and puts valuables on a dresser. Don't let people into your room if you weren't expecting them. Call the hotel counter if "inspectors" suddenly appear.
The broken camera: Everyone is taking pictures of a famous sight, and someone comes with a camera or cell phone and asks you to take their picture. But the camera or cell phone doesn't seem to be working. When you return it, the "tourist" fiddles with it and drops it on the floor, where it breaks into pieces. He will either ask you to pay for repairs (don't do it) or lift your wallet while you bend down to pick up the broken item.
The stripper: You see a handsome woman arguing with a street vendor. The seller accuses her of shoplifting, which she vehemently rejects. To prove her innocence, she slowly undresses. As soon as she has taken care of her underwear, the seller apologizes and she leaves. Suddenly, all the men in the crowd realize that their wallets have also "disappeared" thanks to a team of pickpockets who work during the show.
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