International Travel Trends: Scams and Crime

Some people work in professions devoted to helping people, while some work with the sole purpose of taking advantage of others. It may be hard to believe someone would devote time and resources to con and rob tourists, however due to the influx of global tourism, it is becoming more and more common for criminals to exploit unprepared travelers. These criminals are professionals, working full time in the booming travel scam industry. Although there are countless travel scams, I will focus on the top five.

It is easy to become a victim if you don’t know what scams to avoid.

Distraction Crime: The favorite tool for a criminal is distraction, often used with more than one criminal. If they can distract you and get your wallet, passport, camera or luggage, they can make some easy money. One commonly used scam is “something on your shirt” a bird poop or food, then a nice person appears to help you. They are nice and friendly. Meanwhile their accomplice is robbing you of your valuables. Most often you will not be aware that you have been robbed until you reach for your wallet for your next purchase. How to Avoid This Scam: Understand if something is on your clothing and someone is trying to help, you have been targeted. They will be coming in for their payday. Don’t allow the person to help. Make sure you keep possession of your backpack and luggage. Always keep your money and passport in a money belt under your clothes.

Wrong change back: When paying you will have to be on top of calculating your purchase. Shop keepers, street venders and restaurant employees have been known to give less change back. This is easy money. Their perception, especially of Americans, is that you must be so rich you don’t need to count your money, so you will not be paying attention to the amount returned.

How to Avoid This Scam:

Before traveling learn about the currency and the exchange rates in the country you will be visiting and always count your change. When paying always say in a loud voice the denomination of money as you give it out. Sometimes the vendor will claim you didn’t give them the right amount of money or return the wrong difference.

Can you take my picture?

Criminal organizations usually operate with multiple members and target tourists with luggage that is in demand. They will stop you and ask if you can take their picture and once you set down your luggage their accomplice will be moving in to take your belongings. It will only be after the pictures have been taken that you will realize your luggage has gone missing.

How to Avoid This Scam: If someone asks you to take a picture and you have luggage say no. Don’t feel bad, they can ask someone else to be their victim.

Free bracelet: A friendly person will engage you in conversation and generously offer to give you a free friendship bracelet. They will place the bracelet on your wrist and tie a knot, which can’t be undone Once it is on your wrist they will demand money. If you refuse, they will cause a scene.

How to Avoid This Scam: There is no such thing as a free gift, especially when it involves a tourist. Do not accept any gifts from strangers and don”t let anyone tie anything to your wrist or place anything on your body. You will find this scam in areas most commonly frequented by tourists.

Beggar Gangs: Organized criminals will use children, blind, deaf and pregnant women to collect money. Most often the money collected is taken by the criminals and the beggar is payed a small fee.

How to Avoid This Scam: Don’t give money to strangers. It is impossible to distinguish between those truly in need and criminal gangs operating as beggars.

Understanding local scams and crime trends before traveling can help tourists from being victimized. The more you know, the less likely you will fall victim to a scam. Criminals are always on the hunt for an easy target. Stay safe, stay alert and you will have a much more enjoyable travel experience.

Carrie Pasquarello of Global Secure Resources Inc. is dedicated to risk mitigation, threat assessment planning and for improving the health, safety and security for all travelers. Pasquarello’s decades of overseas experience, combined with her passion for travel, make her a vital resource for students studying abroad and individuals contemplating international travel.

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