Shake It Baby...
Latest Travel Scams
These 12 travel scams are apparently the latest doing the rounds.
- Roman Holiday - Phew, you made it to your Rome hotel safely, you checked in and are just freshening up when a man with a clipboard knocks on the door - he needs to do an inventory of your room and to determine that every appliance is working properly. He will probably ask you for a hand in checking the taps in the bathroom for leaks -but he has deftly left your door off the latch and, while you’re busy in the bathroom, his accomplices will have swarmed in and fled with your belongings
- Single Men Only - You are a footloose and fancy-free chap – why not enjoy the company of a single girl in a bar? She has approached you in the street, a bit lost in the city herself, and after a while suggests a drink to calm down. More likely than not, the bar she’s selected will turn out to be without windows and be guarded at the exit by hefty doormen. It goes without saying that you will be practically bankrupted by the bill for both of your drinks. Istanbul, Moscow and Soho in London are among such honey entrapment blackspots.
- Crying Thief - A commotion is the last thing most pickpockets want to cause. Unless, that is, they are staging a piece of theatre with a faux tourist loudly accusing someone of robbing him. Reports of a more elaborate scam based on the same principle at the Leaning Tower of Pisa sound like something out of a Carry On film - a buxom lady accused of fencing stolen goods in her underwear does a striptease and gawping spectators are too transfixed to notice they’re being felt.
- Ticket Collector - Particularly prevalent around Paris Metro ticket machines, where a friendly local in the queue offers to help you obtain your seven-day pass. He gets the right option up on the screen, but your card mysteriously won’t work. No matter, he will use his and you can pay him back in cash. So much for unfriendly Parisians - this guy’s a Samaritan! Only after performing the transaction and watching him speed off down an escalator do you realise you have paid him 77 euro for a single-use ticket.
- Contact Sport - The old bump, while still employed, pales in comparison with some of the more ingenious speed-thieving tricks. Ketchup in Ecuador or apparent bird faeces in Barcelona lands on your back. A couple of people rush up and, tut-tutting, clean it off with tissues. They also clean your pockets out while your eyes are directed to the sky or in search of your condiment-squirting assailant. In Bologna, hoodlum kids throw cardbox in your direction to distract you, while in Barcelona or Rome you might find a passing street football scrum leaves you lighter
- Air of Authority - In Thai airports and in the street, backpackers will often be approached by uniformed TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) officers, with official-looking badges and access to a fancy agency office where you can book tours and guesthouses. It’s an elaborate con. These “official” guides will take you to select “government” gem shops for plastic jewels. They might even try to force you to book accommodation upfront at inflated prices for seven nights minimum, claiming it is the law. TAT exists, but not as an agency or booker – it merely promotes tourism.
- Sob Story -
"Do you speak English?" If it’s not a bewildered traveller asking you this question, it’s likely to be a beggar – but one possibly doubling as a thieves’ accomplice. Often turning on the waterworks or adopting a sorrowful demeanour, they will hand you a card – suspiciously laminated, so it’ll withstand crumpling – with a pidgin-English account of why their need is so great. As they touchingly implore you, you may not notice the loss of your wallet or camera. Notorious at the Eiffel Tower but can happen anywhere. When approached, just pretend to be German. Brits can say “nein” convincingly.
- The Hire-Car Jack -
You didn’t spot the sly criminals eyeing you and your possessions as you filled in the form at the hire-car stand. A few miles down the road, just after you’ve stopped at a red light, your tyre bursts. Generously, the motorcyclists that were alongside your vehicle at the lights offer their aid in changing the slashed tyre – and snatch all your belongings while you’re struggling with the jack. Most common in the touristy parts of Spain, but it also occurs in Thailand.
- Gifthorses (or donkeys) -
A trick employed in souks and markets everywhere is to thrust apparent samples, or surpluses, of sweets, fabric or tobacco at you and then claim you misunderstood the transaction and you have to pay, over the odds, for the “gift”. A variant of the same that seems to have wandered beyond the bazaar is that of the “grateful shoeshiner”. You pick up a shoeshiner’s brush that he dropped in the road, and he is so grateful you have saved his livelihood he insists on shining your shoes – for free, of course, you think. Wrongly. When your shoes are gleaming - as you are, at the freebie - he will demand grossly inflated payment. Fellow shoeshiners soon appear to help to reinforce his claim. This routine has reached virtual plague proportions in Istanbul.
- Take Note - US dollar and euro notes are the same size whatever the denomination. In the uncertain light of a cab an unscrupulous driver can easily switch your 20 in either currency for a fiver. Ensure you learn your numbers in the appropriate language and, if in doubt, loudly and slowly count the amount as you pay the potential scammer. Sometimes, as a tourist, you just have to be annoying.
- Dough Bills - The arrival of a couple of rolls unbidden at your French restaurant table causes you no stomach tremors: you would expect such free sundries when dining out in Britain. But what’s this on the bill? A single stale bap, which you didn’t touch, for the equivalent of £3 - and £2 for the butter? Heaven help you if you assumed those other plates of nibbles were included in the price. Such creeping additions to the bill are common in Portugal, for example, but if you don’t touch the dishes, or wave them away when they arrive, you won’t be charged.
- You've Won a Free Holiday - You can’t recall entering the grand prize draw but a phone message tells you this luxury 14-day holiday in the Costa Brava is yours for the taking, and it’s “free”. Excitedly you dial the number and discover you have to attend a meeting to obtain your prize. The Bucks Fizz is flowing freely as a glamorous host gives a presentation. By the time you realise you have to pay for flights, transfers and insurance and only get the accommodation (if it exists) for free, you – or, at least, many people – are sucked in.