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VIDEO: How to Deal with Travel Scams


VIDEO: How to Deal with Travel Scams

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Are you prone to travel scams? How do you  avoid scam artists? How can you deal with travel scams if you ever get into them?

These are thoughts, which continually makes us question our safety as travelers and solo travelers. In some cases, questions like these can paralyze us with fear and impair our confidence; sabotaging us from freely traveling to the countries we want .

Today’s video travel Q&A comes from Renee in California, who asked:

Have you ever gotten into a situation where someone with bad intentions tried to befriend you. If so, what did you do to get out of it?

Thanks for asking the question, Renee.  It’s a good question.

When I took my first solo trip (“the accidental one“), it started as a result of a travel scam that my friends and I got involved in India. My friends and I parted ways and I was left to deal with the unsavory scam artists on my own. I had to juggle not only my safety (as a solo female traveler in an all-male tourist office, where the agent was reacting explosively), but the fact, I was asking for a justifiable cash refund and wasn’t about to leave without it.  I bluffed confidence, was calm and firm, but persistent.  Though I emerged victorious, I realize there was a point, where things could have gone badly.  (Luckily instead, GRRRLTRAVELER was born)

I’d like to say my experience in dealing with travel scams ends there. But life deals you lessons so you can learn and I don’t regret any of them. They’ve helped me become a more confident traveler and it makes me more of an interesting person today.

But back to safety…

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Research the anatomy of a travel scam and scam artist

Many countries have their particular set of scam artists and touts , which focus on tourists (Traveling Canucks list types of travel scams here). Scam artists and touts come in all shapes and sizes. Never underestimate the elderly or children. Also, there are many different levels of scams. The majority of them are swindlers, looking to part you from your money.  In extreme or desperate cases, the crime can turn towards violence, like in the case of Sarai Sierra, who was found dead in Turkey.

Do research in advance. Read your guidebook for tips on common tourist scams for the country you’re traveling to.  Research alone will help greatly. The rest is up to you and how much of a street smart traveler you’re going to be.

My first “official” solo trip to Thailand:

I was looking for the entrance to Bangkok’s Golden Palace. I was lost and asked a tuk-tuk driver for directions. He told me the palace was closed and offered to give me a tour of Bangkok, instead. If it weren’t for the fact, I had just read about “the palace is closed” scam in my guidebook, I might have believed him. Instead, I smiled mischievously,  wagged my finger at him playfully, with a “tsk, tsk, tsk…” and kept walking. He in turn, laughed, knew he’d been caught and then pointed me around the corner to the real entrance.

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Experience has nothing to do with getting scammed

Many travelers, including those of us who travel more than most, have gotten burned once or more times by a scam and we still occasionally come up against ones that can be difficult to decipher until we’re actually stuck in them.  While I recognize many enough to avoid them, there are special instances where I’m caught off guard. These are travel battle scars that make you tougher and a bit more savvy for the next time. This is not a reason to avoid travel. Instead, it’s a reason to be more cognizant of what’s going on around you and to learn from mistakes.

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Touts vs Scam artists

The distinction between the two, occasionally feels blurred. Touts are generally looking to make a sale or for you to hire their (sometimes, illegal) service. They’re often bold,  aggressive and relentless. They’ll pester you until you give in or can give them a hard rejection.

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How polite is too polite?

I’ve seen many travelers attempt to be polite when dealing with touts. Women tend to be the worst, because they will defer to a “maybe” to sound less hash or rude.  “No”  is the word you need to use and you should be firm, even at the risk of appearing rude or impolite. Another reason to be honest about your intentions is that, locals in developing countries tend to take your word as sincere and wait for you to return. If you don’t return, they may seek you out at your hotel.

In any case, it’s best to be straight-forward and honest.

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How to Deal with Travel Scams

If you haven’t checked out my solo travel safety tips, please do so and keep in mind… while our naivete of a foreign culture may not help us avoid getting into a scam,  we can avoid going deeper.  In my video ,”How to Deal with Travel Scams“, I only gave one example of a scam I commonly found in my travels as well as, a few personal examples and how I deal with them.  The ones I’ve just shared above with you are off-video.

1. Extract yourself ASAP.  (Start thinking of how you’re going to get away)

2. Be Firm

3. Never go into dark or secluded areas where people can’t see you or hear you scream.

4. If you do go into those places, excuse yourself. Think of an excuse to leave immediately~

5. Scan your environment to see who might be able to help.

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Related Posts about Travel Scams I’ve encountered:

My narrow escape from Bangkok’s Ping-pong sex show scams

Varanasi’s Holy & Humorous Underbelly Tour

Dealing with scams in India and How to Get Out of ‘em

 

Have you ever been in a travel scam? How did you deal with your travel scam? How did you get out of it? Any tips for others?…

how to deal with travel scams, how to avoid travel scams, travel scams for tourists

Solo travel tips: How to Deal with Travel Scams

 

 

21 Comments

  1. Tamika Hill says:

    Tuk Tuk drivers and tour companies on my recent trip in Thailand.

  2. Darn Taxis & Tuk Tuk drivers

  3. Great tips Christine…I commented on your website about the couple of times I was involved in some very minor scams. This was a great video, thanks for the post!

  4. I have been scammed a couple of times…but they were minor. One was in the Philippines at the airport. The person working the x-ray machine checking my carry-on said I had a souvenir that had some coral on it. I kept telling him I didn’t, he either didn’t know English, or pretended he didn’t know and let me pass through. Then he was standing near a bathroom just down from where he checked my bag (I guess he figured it was okay to just walk away from his post), and waved me into the bathroom. He held out his hand for money, and I gave him all the pisos I had. It was only 50 and he wanted more…not thinking very clearly I gave him 35 HK dollars, forgetting the value, which was like 5 USD! He thanked me, took me to the gate where I was to board the plane, the took a quick look in my bag, then let me board my plane. I guess that was more of a bribe than a scam, but pretty much the same thing!

    Second time was also minor. I had a tour guide in Vietnam that offered to take me for 3 days around the Mekong Delta, but he wanted 100 USD for the trip. That didn’t include food or lodging. I gave him 200,000 (10 USD) down payment, and he would pick me up the next morning. I started talking to some of the students in the park near Ben Thanh Market in Saigon, and they said that was too much. I figured I would just let him keep the 200,000 and I would do something else. An all day trip with one of the local tour companies cost me about 8 USD for the day to go out to the river. So really, that wasn’t too bad, and he might not even have been scamming me…but it was one of those things that just didn’t feel quite right.

    He was a really nice guy, and had some good recommendations in his little handy dandy reference book he carries around (I’m sure you are familiar with this, Christine) and they might have been authentic, but it did seem like a bit too much money. Looking back on it, I almost regret not going with him. He didn’t get my email cancelling my trip with him, and I ran into him a couple of days later. He told me he waited outside near my guesthouse for two or three hours for me. He wasn’t too upset, he had the 200,000 dong, and he just said next time I come back to look him up. Those are really the only times I have gotten scammed, I’ve been pretty lucky, actually…so far!

    Thanks for this video, it was a great video, and gives me some great advice for when I do come across some other situations I have had happen to me yet!

  5. David Walker says:

    India set the bar for me… I was fully seasoned and strong from world travel; then I went to India (thinking I could handle anything and had seen everything). I was even prepared knowing it would be different and ‘harder’ there. ALL your advice in the video is sound! I always like these honest travel articles from you.

  6. You’re so right. I have travelled loads but still get scammed! It’s generally taxi drivers now as I’m wise to the sellers who try to put their bracelets on you then charge you for them 🙂

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      Yes @Lisa, taxi drivers can be a consistent problem despite country. THey’re just hard to trust at times.

  7. Great tips! As newbies we’ve been very lucky so far but are waiting for the first time we’ll experience the inevitable scam. Where do you recommend looking for reputable guides. As you know, travellers are always looking to avoid the high priced, tourist companies only interested in getting your money and showing you the “obvious” places typical for that particular country. Is there one place that you recommend? We’ve been asking the manager of the hostel or hotel we’re in.

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      @SeriouslyTravel: Awesome question. I don’t think there’s a full-proof answer. I think you’re right, on asking your hostel/hotel first. I’ve had good experiences with one-day budget tours or drivers I’ve booked through my hostel. If you want a custom tour, they can negotiate with the guide. Hostels/guesthouses know their clients are looking for “budget” and although some get commissions for using/recommending a service, these days, with online reviews, there’s more to lose should they not be reputable. Fellow travelers are another source of recommendation and travel forums, where people are eager to give the name of a guide they liked.

      I’ve actually had good experiences with travel agencies- BUT- I’ve always price shopped. Ask a handful of agencies for quotes to get a good ballpark. Most guides will take you to the “obvious” places unless you can instruct them specifically. It makes sense. No one can read a tourist’s tolerance level for “local”, which could be raw and rugged. 😉

  8. The first time I went to Bangkok and to the Grand Palace (2010), I was also told by a tuktuk driver that the Palace was closed. I was sooooo tempted to tell him that their scam was already very well known, and they wouldn’t fool anyone with it anymore! LOL

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      ha ha @Aleah. Well,it’s a well-known scam but if they keep doing it, they must get some fish that bite. For instance, I didn’t know about the ping-pong scam.

  9. Good tip about replacing “maybe” with “no.” In many cultures that’s the first step of a good bargaining session, and vendors take it as such.

    Now I know the origin of the GRRR 🙂

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      I never thought of it like that @Jenna, but you’re right. I guess a No signals a funny haggling courtship. =)

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