Know Your Travel Scams
During your beautiful Italian vacation, while calmly strolling a touristy area, you suddenly notice excitable locals in a major brouhaha. A woman is being accused of shoplifting and she angrily starts stripping off her clothes down to her underwear to prove her innocence.
Naturally a curious crowd gathers and, once the argument ends, many will have been relieved of their wallets by the pickpockets who staged the entire scene.
Welcome to the world of travel scams, a world where the hapless tourist must keep abreast of the creativity of thieves.
My Favorite Travel Scams
Once, I noticed a tragic gypsy woman begging on the wintry streets of Rome bundling her baby against the cold. Except that the baby was a doll. It was an Oscar winning performance.
Another time, on the street in downtown Mumbai, India, a polite man came up to ask me about on which street the American Embassy is located. I ignored him (by the way, it’s in New Delhi, idiot).
After years of traveling the world, besides collecting mementos and photographs, I collect travel scams. And here are my all time winners.
For women on the road, stay street-smart and watch out for:
- Beggars, with or without babies (see above)
- Helpful locals offering assistance at train ticket kiosks, ATM machines or anywhere else cash is present – that cash will mysteriously disappear.
- Any type of shell game, no matter how much the other player is winning.
- A midnight call from the ‘hotel front desk’ asking to verify your credit card – don’t.
- Random men coming up and asking questions to engage you (see above).
- A motorcycle rider who buzzes by a little too closely and ends up slicing your purse strap from your shoulder.
- Being handed a free gift, a flower, a sprig of rosemary, and then getting hit for money.
- Getting bum rushed by a bunch of kids who distract you from the tiny hands emptying your pockets.
- A stranger spills something on the front of your shirt. Another stranger immediately approaches and apologetically offers to help you out – while helping themselves to your wallet.
I’m amazed at the creativity of thieves. But our greatest weapon is the Internet, where information travels at light speed. And knowledge protects us all.
Got a prized travel scam? Share it now in the comments below.