Scam avoidance (taken from Yahoo)

Riga Travel Blog

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Scams. The bane of the traveller. Nothing can make a travel experience go south faster than getting conned. Falling prey to scams is often worse than theft. Theft is usually done by a faceless pickpocket or by leaving a handbag in a spot you shouldn't have.

Scams, on the other hand, are usually perpetrated on a trusting traveller by a smiling face. It's easy to let your guard down when you think you've made a new friend or are lending a helping hand to someone who needs it.

The first thing to remember about being bamboozled is this. Don't feel like a sucker . It happens to thousands of traveller's everyday. Try not to let it fill you with distrust for the locals and try and learn from it. It would be easy to head straight for the Hilton lobby bar and wait patiently with other foreigners until it is time to head home. On the plus side, if it happens to you once, the experience will probably leave you far too wise for it to happen again.

Being taken advantage of.
One of the most frequent con-jobs a traveller falls for is that of the friendly stranger . In China , this may be in the form of a polite, English speaking couple who offer to take you for tea. In Thailand, a tuk-tuk driver will offer you a cut-rate deal on seeing the sights of Bangkok only to stop off at so many of his friend's and family's restaurants and shops… you never end up getting close to the Reclining Buddha.

That trip for tea may be pleasant for a time but when you get hit with a bill of $100 or more for sampling a handful of ‘local specialties' that pleasantness quickly ends. These scammers take advantage of the traveller's open mind and willingness to try new things. If someone approaches you on the street and offers a local experience, the best thing to do is smile and say ‘ no, thank you '. If there is something you want to try, get more information in the hostel or from someone who knows the area and is wise to the scams. It is easy to put your guard up too much though and you can usually suss out someone's intentions in the first couple of minutes.

Just say 'no'
Don't be afraid to assert yourself if you feel someone is trying to get you to do something you don't want to. Without being nasty, a firm no will usually get your point across and they will move on in search of their next victim. The scammers are very rarely a threat to you and are used to negative responses. Never do something just because you don't want to appear rude or feel like you are not being adventurous enough .

Too good to be true
If you are a chronic shopper and love sniffing out the deals, be aware of things that are too good to be true. We can all go a bit bargain mad but when someone is offering something like really inexpensive precious metals or gems , you can be certain that all you'll end up paying for is a fake. It's best to ignore any situations like this .

Don't waste my time
Another scam that drives the traveller bonkers is a cheap offer by a cabbie or tuk-tuk driver to see the sights. While it is possible to hire a driver for the day at affordable prices, the ones that approach you usually have something up their sleeve. After being told you'll be chauffeured around town to all those attractions you were planning to see by bus, it will come as a surprise when you stop at a shop where the driver and the owner seem like far too good friends for this to be a coincidence. It isn't. This scam is frustrating mainly because of the wasted time.

Drivers get paid a commission for bringing tourists to shops and restaurants and some can be absolutely audacious about this even after being told you aren't interested. The best thing to do if you find yourself in this situation is to just walk away . If the driver demands payment and you feel like things could turn nasty, pay up and write it off . If you are in a safe area, this shouldn't be necessary as there is little they can do. This scam can be avoided by choosing your own transport and agreeing up front that there will be no unnecessary stops. Agree on a price and make sure the driver sticks to it and at the end of the trip, if a good time is had, a small tip will certainly be appreciated.

I know a much better place to stay!
This next scam is one that you can be hit with right when you step out of the airport and involves your accommodation. It goes like this…you hop in a taxi and tell the driver to take you to a place you've either pre-booked, chosen from a guidebook or been recommended to stay at by a friend/traveller. The driver then responds by saying that the place is full and he knows an even better spot. This decision is usually made without your input and off you go to a hotel where the driver will get paid a commission. The best thing to do in this situation is insist on going to your original destination . An innocent lie like telling the driver you are meeting friends there will usually get them to begrudgingly take you to where you want to go.

Being 'ripped off '
Overcharging is another problem the traveller has to deal with. This is usually the case of a restaurant, for example, trying to take advantage of your ignorance of local prices. Before you head somewhere, do some homework on what you should expect to pay for certain services when you arrive. These are all liable to change but at least you'll have some idea and be able to spot a ridiculous charge. In some countries, by law, foreigners are charged more so be aware if that's the case at your next port of call.

Targeting the ‘wealthy' westerner
While most of the previously mentioned scams won't put you in any physical danger (mental scarring aside), there are some that can turn violent. Some spots in Eastern Europe are becoming known for ripping off the increasing number of travellers heading there by charging astronomical prices for dinner and a few drinks . When you protest the price or say you can't pay, the restaurants bouncers suddenly show up and offer to take you to a cash machine. Unless you've got a black belt, there is little that can be done here. Look on the situation as a robbery and once you've paid up (all parts still intact) head straight to your embassy to file a complaint . You won't get your money back but maybe you can stop a frightening experience from happening to the next foreigner who goes into the place.

You're no cop!

A scam popular in South American cities involves plainclothes ‘policemen' approaching you and asking to see your passport and wallet . As ridiculous as that sounds (why on earth would ANYONE give those up?), these fake cops are usually tough looking hombres and they rely on intimidation to frighten the traveller . They'll have authentic looking badges and, even scarier, may even be the real deal. They have, however, no right to go through your wallet looking for ‘counterfeit' money or any nonsense of that sort. If you find yourself in this situation, try and find a real cop while simply refusing to give them anything . Drawing attention to yourself may be a good idea in a tourist area but if you are cornered or in a lonely part of town, try and keep your composure and your belongings. If, at anytime, you feel like you bodily harm may come to you…cough up your stuff. The annoyance of getting a new passport is nothing compared to being the victim of violence .

sweetsummerdaiz says:
Great points.
Posted on: Oct 06, 2009
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