Falling victim to a tourist scam can your whole trip a disaster. Going on vacation is supposed to be fun; you’re supposed to be enjoying the sights and culture, not filing a report at a police station. If you’ve ever seen National Geographic’s Scam City, you’d get an idea of some of the tricks that these scammers pull on unsuspecting tourists. Let’s check out some of the scams that you need to watch out for on your next vacation.

scam city

Photo: National Geographic Channel

Watch Out for Spiked Drinks
Scam City host Conor Woodman recounted how he was approached by an attractive young woman at a bar in Buenos Aires. She later invited him to continue their social interaction in his hotel room, where, it turns out, she slipped white powder in his drink while he went into the bathroom. He was warned by the film crew about the spiked drink, but the same could not be said about other victims of this scam. The white powder turned out to be benzoate, which would have knocked him out for hours, while the would-be thief made off with his belongings.

To avoid being a victim of this type of scam, don’t leave your drinks out of your sight especially if you’re with someone you just met.

Watch Out for Distractions
Distraction is a magician’s best friend, too bad it’s also chummy with scammers. There’s this scam in Rome as reported by Travel and Leisure, where gypsy children wave newspapers in the faces of tourists. Next thing the foreigners know, their bag or wallet is stolen while they were distracted.

There’s also a scam where there’s an old lady, who’s an accomplice, slips to the ground in a busy tourist area. The incident is a mere distraction while pickpockets do their work. Extend a helping hand if needed but always treat commotions as a smoke screen used by scammers. If you don’t have local knowledge to be helpful, even if it was a real emergency, let the locals deal with the situation.

Don’t Be Forced to Buy Something You Don’t Want or Need
There’s also a scam where someone would put something on you, say a necklace or a bracelet, and demand that you pay for it. The scammers would often pressure you by screaming or following you around. A similar scam revolves around tourists being invited to a “student art exhibition,” once there, the tourists are pressured into paying top dollar for a badly done artwork.

Avoid this scam by not allowing anyone to put something on you. Also, don’t fall into the trap of being pressured into buying something you don’t want or need by firmly rejecting the offer.

Beware the Switcheroo
There’s a scam where tourists are told that they owe more money, after they pay for a purchase. Tourists who are unfamiliar with the local currency can fall victim to this scam. Vendors or taxi operators would tell the victim that they gave the wrong bill and show them a bill that is much lower in value, say a $5 bill instead of a $50 bill. Call them a crook loudly and walk away from this scam. Look for a policeman if they continue to harass you.

These scams can turn what should’ve been a good vacation into a nightmare, so always be on your guard when in a foreign location. Get travel insurance that provides coverage for stolen goods and you could worry less on your next trip. While there are bad people who pull scams like these, there are still more honest and good people in the world so don’t let that scare you from travelling. Travel with a friend or with a group of people, as it’s often safer.

About the Author

Jep Barroga is a blogger for a personal finance portal which helps readers choose the best travel insurance for their budget. If he’s not busy writing, you can find him listening to 80’s and 90’s music and building rockets in Kerbal Space Program.