How to Avoid Common Scams, Pick-Pockets, and Tourist Traps

Generally, when you’re traveling abroad, most people aren’t trying to be malicious and rob you of your belongings. However, this doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. Here are some common scams and schemes to keep an eye out for.


  1. The Rental Damage: Any time you rent anything (vehicles and equipment in particular), be sure to document with photo or video evidence the condition of the rental before leaving the rental property. This scam revolves around the negligence of tourists where rental owners may try to falsely accuse you of rental equipment damage. This is why prior to renting anything, it is important to provide yourself proof of all previous damage. Take pictures and videos of any imperfections and show them to the rental company so that they acknowledge that there are some pre-existing defects. This will prove useful if they ever try to hold you liable for damages.
  2. Counterfeit Currency Exchanges: If an exchange rate is too good to be true, it probably is. Although there is no surefire way to tell counterfeits apart, if it seems suspicious, avoid the funny money. Additionally, some restaurants, particularly in Europe, will give back your change in counterfeits. To counter this, try to provide them with an exact amount or pay with a collection of smaller bills. Paying with bigger bills will result in greater change back which opens the opportunity to substitute more profitable counterfeits bills.
  3. Corrupt Law Enforcement: Many nations, especially in third-world or developing countries, have corrupt law enforcement. These officers are often easily bribed or work for ulterior financial motives. Law enforcement has been known to target tourists specifically and make them pay obscure and expensive fines under the logic that tourists have the funds to pay for these ridiculous amounts and that tourists are more likely to blindly cooperate with law enforcement when in a foreign land. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to avoid this. Bad apples will be bad apples, so go with your gut and just be aware that this scheme is out there. Try your best to stick with the law nonetheless and be a well-behaved globalized citizen!
  4. Beggars and the Peddler Industry: Very prominent in third-world and developing countries, the beggars you see on the roads may be much more than meets the eye. Particularly in Asia, a corrupt network of “pimps” will set up malnourished and dependant beggars at high traffic locations. These pimps will collect their earnings at the end of the day and will continue to keep their beggars alive, but malnourished. Keeping their workers lame and underfed keeps them from running away and helps attribute pity from pedestrians. These peddlers will even include hungry and sleeping children. Some of these children may be drugged. As bad as these images may seem, do not feed into the industry. Giving these people your money does not help their situation. It only feeds the management that they work under. This may not include all homeless individuals, but the peddling industry is expansive and profitable for these businessmen.


Here are some more additional general tips:

  1. Don’t dress provocatively or dress in too many name brands as it brings attention to you and your status.
  2. Females, wear purses that zip all the way and go across your body to prevent thieves from snatching them.
  3. Do not put all of your eggs in the same basket. Separate some of your money in different compartments, and leave important documents somewhere safe (like in the metal safe in your hotel room).


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