The Stripper: A complete theatric show to drop the jaws of bystanders. This little ruse involves a street argument between a woman and a vendor. During the argument the woman begins to remove her clothing, down to her fleshy skibbies, to prove her innocence. Moments later, once the argument is settled and jaws are lifted, bystanders quickly realize so are their wallets. Rich Tip: If there’s a giant, possibly nude, theatric show taking place in broad daylight, much less in public, it’s more than likely for a reason. Swindling hands move fast, especially when individuals are taken off guard.
So There’s This Girl: She gorgeous, foreign, legs sky high; a siren calling you to the deep, deep depths of being a moneyless fool. After a few generous rounds at the bar you’re left with a hefty tab and a solo ride home. Rich Tip: Dear shallow fellow, if a bombshell and her posse invite you for a round of drinks – Run. Ladies don’t pay for a fella’s drinks. Not unless you’ve surpassed the 5th date, you’re a family member or a gay friend. #RealityHit
Teahouse Scam: So many travelers have fallen for this friendly tactic. A young woman, usually of Asian decent, approaches foreigners while they are at a restaurant or shopping amongst the street vendors. During the initial conversation she finds ways to connect with them and ask them to join her for tea. Many minutes later, and one awkward weaving pathway, you find yourself in a small dim room with a pot of tea. Only this tea isn’t priced fairly. The rate has increased significantly and you’re coerced into sampling. Hours later you’ve raked a bill that equates to several dinners out on the town. Rich Tip: Unless you have a standing relationship with the woman, decline all requests for tea.
Kar, of Traveling Blogger, was stooped by the tea scam and wrote about it!
Papers, Papers, Everywhere: If you’re swarmed by a group of young children waving newspapers in the air and in your face, watch your bags and guard your pockets. Distraction is Houdini’s key tactic. These papers are merely a diversion for Houdini’s fingers to find their way into your pockets and belongings. Rich Tip: When you find yourself with papers being thrashed in your face, grab your belongings tightly and move quickly through the crowd. If that doesn’t work you can always try the “Hey, is that a (fill in the blank with one pricey item)?”
The Broken Camera: “Would you mind taking our picture?” We’ve all asked a stranger to pose as a temporary photographer at some point, but this trick will have you dispensing cash from your wallet out of pure guilt. After requesting your grand photographer skills to take a photo, the gypsy clumsily drops the camera and places the blame directly on you. Houdini will ask for cash to repair the camera or pick your wallet during the camera downfall. Rich Tip: Be leery when asked by strangers to take photos, especially on worn or dated cameras/phones. If this trick is played on you, walk away kindly.
The Art Scam: Some of us are susceptible to any guise involving local street art (ahem, me), but if you’re asked to return with a young child to their school gallery, refuse politely. This is simply a snare to pressure you into buying over-priced, unoriginal pieces of artwork. Rich Tip: If you aren’t purchasing artwork directly from a legitimate gallery, you always take the chance of being stooped.
The Gypsy Woman: Fairly common and seen throughout Europe, a gypsy woman carrying a swaddled baby approaches you and nearly tosses the child into your arms. Before you have time to react, your belongings are ripped from your body and the woman is gone, leaving you with a weightless doll. Rich Tip: If you see a woman carrying a child, staring you straight in the eye, detour immediately.
Where Are You From?: In America there’s a long list of questions we are forbidden to ask strangers. “How old are you?” is just the tip of the iceberg. In foreign countries, however, being nosey curious is customary and quite common. In many parts of Asia and South America you will find yourself answering questions involving your age, occupation, marital status, birthplace and travel plans. At times this information is used against you. Merchants have been known to raise the prices of merchandise for Americans, Europeans, and Australians, as their homeland is associated with wealth. Rich Tip: Provide brief, non-descriptive answers. If you are probed for your natural residence, give the city name or county name. Haggling is an art and you’ve may need to bring out the big guns!
Your Own Private Guide: Surrounding the streets of infamous landmarks, specifically those in China, India, and Thailand, a guide approaches individuals offering them “private tours.” Rich Tip: Spurn from any offers. Private tours are highly unlikely. Check with your hotel or hostel front desk to see if group or personal tours are offered before departing.
Adrian, of A Beautiful Occupation, had one heck of a guide experience.
The Struggling Musician: They’re on every street corner, especially in bustling cities like New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Just trying to get the word heard. The trick? You stand a few moments to take in the joyful melody (because it does sound nice) and before you know it, a CD has been thrust in your hand. You try to hand it back, but the musician refuses and expects a cash reward for his lyrical masterpiece. Rich Tip: If you find an unwanted CD in your hand and the musician refuses to take it back, set it gently on the ground and walk away.
The Shoe-Shiner: I’ve seen it happen. It goes a little something like this, “Hey Sir, I’ve got this really great product that will leave your shoes lookin like mirrors, man” “No, but thank you.” Shoe-shiner immediately ducks and begins wiping and scrubbing the shoe. “Just let me show you real fast.” Two shoes later, and sparkling clean, the shiner stands and smiles, “Now those are some shiny shoes, sir. That will be $15.00 please.” And you pay, because after all, your shoes were shined. Rich Tip: Be direct when approached by individuals with gimmicks. Walk away if they refuse to listen and begin to take action.
It’s real, just ask Jotman!
The Photo-Op: The Green Man, the mime, the local dressed as a robot. All make exceptional photo-ops and we find ourselves jumping in for the perfect shot. But be prepared, this shot may cost you. Rich Tip: If you plan to take a photo with an opulent dressed individual, ask beforehand if there is a fee. Another tip: To ensure your camera is not held for ransom or stolen, have a friend, or partner, snap the photo.
The Wrist Debacle: This scam is becoming increasingly popular! A local approaches a traveler and suddenly ties a homemade bracelet on their wrist. If he/she refuses to provide compensation for the bracelet, the jewelry maker begins to throw a fit, claiming you have stolen their merchandise and are refusing pay (Of course the traveler is unable to remove the item in fear of breaking it). Rich Tip: Remain calm. If possible, have someone remove the bracelet and hand back to the merchant. If they refuse to take the bracelet back, place it on the ground and detour. When the situation escalates, threaten to contact authorities.
The Moped with Two Keys: You’ve rented (and signed for) a lovely little moped, or masculine motorbike for the gents, and hit the road with the wind in your hair, helmet tightly fastened. During the day you carefully park the vehicle and continue about your business. Upon return you find the vehicle missing and only a few oil spots left where it once resided. The scam? Some companies have begun making duplicate copies of keys and send out employees to follow and “steal” to the vehicle. As the customer, and signer of a stiff contract, you are forced to pay for the company’s loss (which probably happens to be parked around back). Rich Tip: If you plan to rent bikes or other motor vehicles it would behoove you to carry locks and/or bike cords to keep equipment safe.
The Spill: We all have those days; the ones where you inadvertently trip or spill your entire cup of coffee down your blouse and think, “Why me?” (or in my case, “FML”) Con-artists have begun to pick up on the spill and use it to their advantage. A little ketchup here, a little mustard there. While your shocked and baffled by the spill, the devious cleaner initiates a complimentary stain removal service. During this time, hands are everywhere, including your pockets and belongings. Rich Tip: Step back from the individual and remove yourself from the situation. Like many scams, the con-artist is using the spill as a distraction to rake through your valuables.
The Gold Ring: You’re standing near some great monument or reading the morning news, when an innocent-looking individual approaches you, crouches to the floor, and asks, “Is this yours?” The shiny gold ring in their hand is nudged closer to your face to prove it’s authenticity. You’re then offered the “real” ring at a phenomenal price. Rich Tip: Don’t be stupid.
Geraldine’s, from The Everywherist, experienced the gold ring scam not once, but twice while in Paris!
Monkey Business: Look at that face! Sure they’re cute, but there’s a reason scientist have been studying their behavior for years: They’re smart! Once you enter their forest parts, their claimed territory, consider yourself fair game for these hairy creatures. The monkeys of Indonesia, particularly those in the Ubud forest, are known for stealing anything they can get their hands on: cameras, glasses, cash, change, hats, small bags and purses, etc. You may think they’re endearing at the time, but just try and take it back without a banana token. Rich Tip: When entering a monkey forest keep all personal items locked away. It’s also a good idea not to carry food as it will attract them and induce erratic responses.
Interested to know how Sara from Cosmotourist kept monkey’s away with a stick?
The Leather Salesman: I tend to imagine an Italian guy (no offense) with a hair gel overload, pair of jeans, and a shiny black leather coat (most likely his hands in his pockets). He’s suave and smooth, and knows all the perfect lines, including how to put a fabricated jacket in your hands and still wind up with cash. Rich Tip: Leather jackets, the real ones, aren’t sold off the street or out of car, so be cautious. Already have one resting in the palm of your hand and a greasy mobster asking for a few measly bucks? Give it back or place on the ground to remove yourself from the situation.
The Grocery Inflation: This is one of those sly ploys played on foreign shoppers. Executed primarily in India, shopkeepers and cashiers will up the price of goods without saying a peep. Rich Tip: Examine the barcode. In many countries, specifically India, pricing on products is listed next to the barcode. The unscrupulous thief may try to blame the inflation on having to freeze the goods or storage, but don’t be fooled, the price on the package is the price you should pay.
Tippin Too Good: Be careful when filling out restaurant bills, specifically tip lines. It’s not uncommon for a dishonest merchant to add an extra zero here or there before filing the ticket away. By the time you notice a difference in your credit card statement the receipt has most likely been thrown away and the city trailing behind. Rich Tip: Leave a dash, or horizontal line (—) on both sides of your tip. This will make it impossible for extra digits to be added on.
Slow Count: Standing in line at a bank sucks…no matter where you are. Places and people are waiting on you. It’s easy for many to find themselves impatient and eager to get going, but be mindful, there is a new running trend among our friendly cashier folk: Slow Counting. Cashiers count out cash so slowly, and most likely in a foreign language, that tourist believe they are finished, grab the cash and rush out the door. Rich Tip: Be patient and conscientious. When it comes to money, it’s worth the wait. Learn the appearance of currency and it’s exchange rate. Use handy iPhone apps to properly calculate the change.
Chatty Kathy: Stealing credit cards and personal information is seemingly effortless nowadays, especially with the advancements in technology. While you may think your cashier is just another Chatty Kathy, it’s possible screen shots of your personal information are being snapped away. Rich Tip: When approaching a cashier, whether it be at a store, market, bank, or restaurant, pay attention to their behavior. Another option? Pay by cash.
Funny Money: That’s right, fake cash. It’s hard to believe someone would scam a tourist for no good reason, but it happens. The circulation of fake currency has become a conundrum in many areas of China, much of which tends to find itself in the hands of foreigners. Rich Tip: Be leery of accepting large bills, especially if you don’t have a firm knowledge of its appearance. Study currencies and take photographs on your phone so you know what to expect and have something to compare it with later.
Service Surprise: You slide your precious debit card into the machine, select your cash amount, finalize and…nothing. Your card, a warm gooey chocolate chip cookie, is sitting in the stomach of the ATM Cookie Monster. But wait, a customer service number providing aid to any individuals with machine issues. You call, a friendly agent answers, takes your personal information, and works to solve your cooking eating problem. Issue? That number just went straight to Houdini and he now has access to your account, PIN number, contact and personal information. Congratulations, you just contributed to Houdini’s mounting rabbit fund. Rich Tip: Make sure you are calling a legitimate ATM company. (Google the number. Seriously, you can Google anything!) Another great tip for ATM users: Keep your receipts. Crumbling them up and tossing them into the nearest trash bin is a like walking around with a spotlight on your wallet, announcing your self worth to any scoundrels, also known as Oscar the Grouch, who are cunningly good at trash digging.
The Taxi Trick: Sure they get a bad rep, but sometimes, it’s much deserved. Taxi drivers are notorious for increasing fares to travelers, but also providing misleading information: “That chambre is now longer in business, but I know a great one just down the road, mademoiselle.” They have also been known to take travelers to shady shops where they are offered deals on items, such as gems, that turn out to be an artificial bogus hoax. Rich Tip: Agree on a cab fare before taking off and always insist on being taken to the original destination requested. Another tip: Place and take your own luggage from the trunk. Better safe than sorry.
The Suitcase Swap: As travelers are waiting for the arrival of their bus, train, or taxi cab, Houdini’s quick hands swap luggage for luggage. The traveler then unknowingly grabs their luggage handle and boards with a piece of empty luggage. Rich Tip: Always keep at least one hand on belongings and place snuggly in front of you.
Tricky Train Tactic: While cruising down train tracks you’ve most likely lost all personal space; instead, you find yourself packed like a sardine, unavoidably bumping and shoving everyone stuck to you like glue. These close quarters are the perfect spot for sticky fingers to find themselves in your bags, purse, and luggage. Rich Tip: Keep belongings close to your body, with an arm or hand over openings and zippers. Sewing additional concealing pockets into articles of clothing may be helpful. Also remember to pay attention when entering and exiting, as this is the perfect time for Houdini to snatch your belongings.
Read how Tony from Landing Standing stopped a Houdini not once, but twice while on a train ride.
The Inspector: Let’s get this straight, hotels and hostels do not have “Room Inspectors,” so when one, quite often two, knock on your door for a routine inspection be cautious. It’s possible this disturbance is a ploy to steal items on nearby tables and dressers. Rich Tip: If you’re ambushed by a random room inquisition, phone down to the front desk. Another tip: Keep unused belongings in your suitcase and luggage at all times. Giving thieves a snapshot in to your belongings is just a bad as leaving it out for grabs.