Don’t you wish every country you visited was just as safe as Singapore? I mean, travelers coming to Singapore don’t need to worry about getting robbed at gunpoint. In fact, the only way for tourist to get robbed is to eat at places like Forum Seafood, home of the $700 Alaskan snow crab!
Seriously, you can walk around practically anywhere in Singapore at 2am without the fear of getting robbed, assaulted, or worse (however, getting stalked by the Pontianak is a different matter… if you believe in that sort of thing).
If you visit most of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, it’s a different story. Abroad, you’re at a much greater risk for getting scammed, especially in countries that have a reputation for ah, crime and corruption.
Here are some very common scams you should always be on the lookout for when traveling abroad:
#1 The “Stain on Your Shirt” Scam
There are many variations to this old scam, but the execution is always the same. It involves someone “accidentally” spilling a drink or condiment on you. The person comes over, feeling very apologetic over his/her mistake, and offers to clean the spill.
How nice and thoughtful right?
Well, while you’re engaged with the person who’s trying to clean spill, an accomplice will pickpocket you and snag your wallet or any other valuable objects/documents you have.
Also, if you left your backpack/briefcase/courier bag on a table or at your feet, don’t be surprised if the thief snatches that too!
#2 The Cab with the Broken/Hidden/Nonexistent Meter
In Singapore, we take it for granted that Taxi companies are very well regulated. You never have to worry about paying any more than what is on the meter.
However, in other nations, the taxi meter is something of an afterthought, especially when it comes to “rich” tourists coming out of the airport entrance with branded luggage.
If you make the unholy mistake of getting into a cab without asking for a rate or if the meter is working (or asking where the hell the meter is to begin with!), you’re at the mercy of the cabbie – and that my friend, is one expensive mistake you don’t want to make.
Even if the taxi looks legit, never assume that the cab driver won’t try every possible trick and excuse to overcharge you.
#3 The Fake (or REAL) Cop Scam
Singapore is a strange place. It’s so safe, you hardly ever see police! But in other countries, you’re not safe even if you see police!
Even worse, you might actually become a victim of a crime from someone posing as a “police officer,” who will ask to view your documents, wallet, and valuables and well… you can guess the rest right?
However, it’s not just the “fake” cops you need to watch out for. Real policemen also might target you for quick cash by asking to view your passport, finding a “mistake” and asking you to pay a “fine” in cash then and there.
Unfortunately, some countries just don’t pay their police too well, so they have to make extra income through… other ways.
#4 The Classic Pickpocket Team Scam
This one is similar to the “stain on your shirt” scam in terms of execution. In this pickpocket scam, someone will make a loud disturbance, or you might even see two people arguing and making a scene. I mean, who doesn’t look at such things right?
You might even be asked to fill out a survey or petition by some good looking local for a “good cause.”
Well, that’s what the pickpocket team wants you to do – to get distracted by the scene.
When you’re busy watching or filling something out, that’s when the pickpockets will snag your wallet or your bag if you were careless enough to leave it on the floor.
#5 The High-Pressure Sales Scam with the Huge Price Tag (Cause You Forget to Ask the Price)
In some countries, pushy salesmen who use high-pressure sales tactics are a huge problem. Whether you’re being accosted by some sales guy/girl outside a restaurant, bar, or some other sort of retail establishment – the point is to get you to spend!
Of course, while the sales representative (if you can call him that) is getting you to ready to buy, he’s leaving out one very important part of the purchase – the price.
Now, there are two ways you can get shafted by this scam. You can either get screwed Forum Seafood-style by receiving a huge ass bill right there and then that you need to pay in cash, or you might pay by credit card and have to deal with a huge ass bill, plus any currency conversion fees that come along with it.
#6 The ATM Skimming Scam
The scariest scams are those that don’t happen without you even knowing it. When you get pick pocketed or cheated by a bad cabbie, you immediately that you’ve been scammed.
With ATM skimming scams, you probably won’t know until after you’ve either checked your bank account balance or worse… receive your bank account statement (that’s why withdrawal alerts from your bank are so important!).
The scary thing about ATM skimming is that it can happen anytime you make a purchase abroad. Once the employee or merchant swipes your credit/debit card, they only need to have a hidden camera recording you dialing your pin – that’s it.
However, it’s not just restaurants and shops you need to be wary of, because people can place ATM skimming devices in ATM machines as well!
The skimming devices are placed on the ATM machine’s card slot, which captures the account information stored on your card’s magnetic strip. Then, a tiny camera is installed above the pin keypad records your pin. From there, the scammers can either use your data to withdraw from your account or sell your data online to other scammers.
#7 The Tourist Extortion Scam
Every time you watch a movie about a cop busting somebody for drug possession, it always ends up in a hilarious scene where the criminal insists, “It wasn’t mine!”
It’s funny, until you find something similar happening to you.
The tourist extortion scam is probably the scariest thing that can ever happen to you abroad. And it all starts out with another tourist or local innocently asking you to watch his/her bag. Of course, being well-mannered, you might say “alright, I’ll watch your bag,” as the individual walks off.
Then when the person comes back, you see that he/she has brought a friend – a policeman. Then the cop opens the bag, and it’s filled with drugs. After shitting yourself, you give into the cop’s demands to hand over everything of value – passport and all.
As to whether or not the cop was legitimate or not, it honestly doesn’t matter. You’re broke and on your way to having the worst holiday of your life.
Final Note: What can you to do ensure that you don’t end up just another scammed tourist? As my old Drill Sergeant used to say, “Stay alert, stay alive.” In other words, be aware of your surroundings and never, no matter how nice a local may be, be too trusting.
Travel insurance is a must-buy for every traveler – because you never know whether you’ll run into flight cancellations, delays, get sick, injured, or scammed during your holiday.
What are some other dangerous scams to watch out for when traveling abroad? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook! For even more useful information on everything personal finance, visit MoneySmart today!