That’s right folks. I have been scammed whilst traveling, and not just once, but twice. Traveler Got Scammed
If you travel – or even if you don’t – you’ve probably heard about travelers being scammed all across the world. From taxi divers who claim the meter is broken to the ‘free gifts from the locals’ that turn out not to be so free, there are so many scammers out there it is sometimes hard to keep up with their tricks. I’ve always liked to think that my endless research before a trip gives me a heads up on all the scams going, and for the most part, I’ve done OK. (I think 30+ countries to only 2 scams is good going!!) But even this seasoned traveler has been caught out. Read on the find out which super scammers got me – and you might be surprised at their simplicity!
Travel Scam Number 1 traveler got scammed
Location: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
The Scam: We got robbed whilst distracted by a man with a kite. (I’m not kidding, this really happened, oh the shame!)
The Story: The first time we got scammed, we had just arrived in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. It was our first Round the World Trip and it didn’t get off to a good start. Our original flight was cancelled due to heavy snow and in order for us to get to Rio quickly we were forced to change our route, accept a 14 hour delay and fly through France. When we finally arrived we were tried and grumpy – and then we discovered that our bags hadn’t gotten on the plane with us and would take another 24-36 hours to arrive. Unimpressed and with only the clothes we were wearing, we decided to take a walk to the beach, hoping the sight of Copacabana Beach would be enough to cheer us up. Borrowing a beach towel from the hostel we set off with just our room key and sunglasses for company.
Rio was ridiculously hot and so we decided to take a quick dip in the sea to cool off. We took it in turn so one of us could stay with the few possessions we had and it started to feel like we were on holiday. The beach was pretty quiet, with not many people around and so we thought it would be easy to spot someone near our stuff. How wrong we were. The next thing we know, there is a Brazilian man frolicking with a kite higher up the beach. He starts making his way towards us and all I can think is ‘I’m not in the mood for whatever he is selling’ and that I hope he goes away quickly. He approached us and started chatting, he actually seemed really genuine, wasn’t trying to see us anything and just wanted to have a chat. He left after about 5 minutes and I thought ‘that wasn’t so bad’ and ‘maybe all these scams I have read about are the worst case scenario’. The we turned round to collect our towel and sunglasses and they were gone! Luckily they left us our room key but we were gutted. And I was angry – at myself more than anything. How could I have been so stupid not realise we were being distracted by a kite for god’s sake?! As I calmed down I figured it could have been worse. As our bags hadn’t arrived we didn’t have all the usual beach stuff we carry – we hadn’t even taken a wallet. We’d got off lightly in the grand scheme of things, robberies in Rio can be so much worse!
Travel Scam Number 2 traveler got scammed
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
The Scam: The Gem Scam & The Attraction is Closed Scam
Now this one is a doozy. Two of the most famous scams out there, we fell for them hook line and sinker. But the worst thing about this was that it wasn’t our first visit to Bangkok – you normally find these scams out on your first visit and so are wary of them for future trips. But this was our second visit to Bangkok – and I still to this day cannot believe we fell for it.
The Story: After walking to Mount Phousi (The Golden Mount) we had decided we would spend the afternoon at MBK and do a little shopping. We had mapped our walking route and we knew to not be obvious if we needed to look at the map. I had read all about the friendly locals that would offer to ‘help’ if you looked lost and I was determined it wouldn’t happen to me. Not more than 10 minutes into our walk we passed by a Thai man sat on the side of the road. He called out to us and asked where we were going. I thought, aha! I know your game – you’re going to offer to help but we’ve got it covered. The Thai man told us he was a teacher and that all teachers had a national holiday today and proceeding to talk about his students and the subjects he taught. He then said that because of the holiday, MBK was closed that afternoon and would reopen again at 6pm for evening shopping. He also said that it would be a long way for us to walk for nothing and that we should take a tuk-tuk – who would then drop us off at the other attractions we wanted to visit. It sounded logical but we mustn’t have looked convinced. He wasn’t deterred. He told us that because of the holiday, some tuk-tuks – the ones with the blue sticker – had an agreement to take tourists anywhere for the flat fee of 10 Baht per hour. Now this interested me. Tuk-tuks are notorious for overcharging and we had our fair share of ‘discussions’ and haggling with drivers to get a reasonable price already. Feeling slightly scammed, but reasoning that a 10 Baht tuk-tuk wasn’t going to break the bank, we agreed to take a tuk-tuk and planned to at least get across to the Grand Palace. At 10 Baht, it was a bargain!
As if like magic, one of these blue-stickered tuk-tuks appeared in front of us and our new Thai friend helped us get in. We asked the driver to take us to the Grand Palace. He said that it would be really busy at that time, but would be quieter in an hour and offered to take us to some of his favorite temples. We were cool with that. We like temples and going to some unknown ones would be interesting. Temple number 1 was cute, but nothing special. When we arrived at Temple number 2 we were told to wait on a bench and we would be taken into the temple to view the Buddha statue in a few minutes – as it was a small temple, they only allowed a few people in at one time. That sounded reasonable. Whilst we sat there, another gentleman was also waiting to go into the temple. We started to chat and he told us he was in Thailand visiting family, but that he lived in Newcastle in the UK. He was well dressed in a western manner and seemed completely believable. And then came the sting (although we didn’t know it!) He started to tell us that he visited Bangkok every couple of months and could afford to travel so much because he always bought gems. They were so cheap in Thailand, but could be sold for a fortune back in England. He said if we purchased between 500 and 1000 dollars worth, we could triple our money back home. We laughed this off – half because we had no interest in gems and half because of the fact we were at the end of our trip and didn’t have that kind of spare cash. We kept chatting waiting to go into the temple when suddenly our driver appeared and called us back to the Tuk-Tuk, he said the temple wasn’t worth the wait and that we should go somewhere else. We set off again and arrived at a shop. I told the driver we didn’t want to buy anything and he asked us to go into the shop and get his fuel voucher validated. He explained that the 10 Baht tuk-tuk deal was only good for him if he got these vouchers validated at shops and so the government would reimburse his expenses. Not wanting his to get ripped out we went into the shop. Would you believe that it was a jewellery shop?! Wandering round the shop we noticed a case of multi-colored gems piled high at the back of the store and spotted an eager looking sales assistant who seemed extremely keen to tell us all about these gems.
We finally realised we were being scammed!
It had all been so intricate, we could hardly believe it – from the teacher on holiday to the special ‘blue-stickered’ tuk tuk and the friendly Thai/Brit who had wanted to help us make some cash. So many players for one scam! Getting back into the tuk-tuk we decided enough was enough and asked to be dropped off at the Grand Palace. The driver protested and said he had another temple he wanted to show us. I said no and asked again to be taken to the Grand Palace. He went very quiet and we were not entirely sure where he was going to take us – but he seemed to realise the game was up and driving back into the center, he pulled over at the side of the road about 5 minutes from the Palace and said he wouldn’t take us any further. We paid him 20 Baht and went on our way.
Walking over to the Palace we were still in shock that we had been scammed and that we hadn’t seen it sooner! And that we hadn’t heard about this scam from our previous visit! We were still discussing all the aspects and detail of the scam (whilst laughing at ourselves!) as we approached the Palace when a friendly tuk tuk driver called out to us. He told us that the Palace was closed and he would take us wherever we wanted… Oh, hell no! I don’t think so buddy. He saw the look on my face and smiled. I think he figured I had already heard that story today!
Now, I hate to admit this, but there had been a third travel scam – and i’ll tell you all about it – but I’m not including it in the count because I knew were were being scammed the whole time, but we went ahead because my partner was being his usual friendly and trusting self.
Travel Scam Number 3 traveler got scammed
Location: Marrakesh, Morocco
The Scam: The Offer to help you find the main square in the maze of the Medina.
The Story: I was wary of this one before it even happened. I had read that people would offer to guide you to the main square saying that it was easy to get lost in the Medina. And they wern’t wrong about the second bit – the Medina really is a maze! Walking from our Riad to the Sqaure we reached a fork in the road and paused for just a second too long. A local pounced on us and offered to take us to the square. I said no, thank you. My partner said yes. The guy could see my trepidation and kept saying that he didn’t want money, he was just trying to help. And so I (reluctantly) set off after him. He led us on a 15 minute detour, telling us his life story as he went and asking if we would like to try some local products. I didn’t really say much as I could see where this was going, but my partner chatted away happily with him. We went to a Moroccan oil shop where – surprisingly – we were given free samples and then a coffee hut, where again we got a free sample from our guide’s friends. It didn’t seem so bad. As we approached the square, he asked if we could give him a tip for his help. I rolled my eyes at my partner in a “I told you so manner” – but what they guy hadn’t counted on was that I carry the money, and I was not going to give it up. As we had only just arrived I was conscious of the fact we only had large notes and he wasn’t getting one of those. My partner convinced me that it was probably best if we gave him something so as not to cause any drama, so pulling out the smallest note I had, I said we would exchange it at a shop. Our guide offered to do this for us and headed off into the crowd. We stood for a moment wondering if he was coming back – but surprisingly he did, and gave us change. Which would have been great if he hadn’t decided to tip himself the cost of two meals!
So yep, I have been scammed traveler got scammed
There you have it. Despite all my travels, I am not immune to the travel scams out there – from being distracted by a man with a kite in Brazil, to the multi-person Gem scam team in Thailand – you can be sure there is someone out there looking to take advantage of you.
my Tips to avoid being scammed traveler got scammed
- Research your destination – the most common scams have been around for years, and are usually covered in guidebooks, forums and blogs.
- Be naturally suspicious. I don’t want to spoil your holidays, or have you thinking that everyone is out to scam you – but just be wary and if something sounds too good to be true – it’s probably because it is!
- If you’re caught in a scam, extract yourself as quickly and as safely as possible. Don’t stay to be polite, and don’t antagonize the situation.
- Keep your belongings secured to you and never carry wallets or documents in open pockets. Petty theft from pickpockets (or otherwise) can quickly turn into a nightmare.
- Be wary of dodgy money changers – who always keep a little extra commission for themselves (I have written more about the Money Changer Scam in my article – Bali – Just A Little Australia?)
and finally… Don’t worry if you have been scammed.. it happens to the best of us!!
Have you ever been scammed? Tell me all about it in the comments!
And if you like this article, please pin and share (even if I am encouraging everyone to laugh at my stupidity!)