Freelance writer with a BA double majoring in Literature and Australian History who loves finding random places of social or historical treasure whilst travelling around visiting festivals, markets and quaint cafes with my husband and baby
Published August 2nd 2014
Don't be scammed- There are better ways to help poor nations
Tourists are magnets for children of poverty-stricken countries
It's almost always school holidays somewhere, and with them, couples, friends and families going overseas on trips of a lifetime.
There is nothing worse than being scammed on the street by locals who appear to be friendly. Not only does it affect your hard earned holiday cash and make you feel silly, but it leaves tourists feeling disheartened at being ripped off. Stereotyping is terrible, but unfortunately a lot of the more common scams happen in the poorer Asian and South Pacific countries where money is harder to come by and tourists have more interaction with the locals.
Although it's human nature to want to trust people, especially when you're relaxed on holidays, if a person comes up to you in the street and says they're from your resort or they gave you a lift yesterday and you don't remember them - that's probably because it isn't true. This is a common way scammers gain the trust of tourists to lure them into their scams.
1. Credit card fraud - This is where the shopkeeper takes your credit card into the back room "as that is where the credit card machine is". Unknown to you he then takes an unauthorised imprint of your card for use later. Transactions you didn't make then show up on your card when you get home.
2. Meter is broken - This common taxi scam is where the driver tells you the meter is broken and quotes you a fare higher than what the actual trip should have cost. This occurs with rickshaws and tuktuks which have no meter.
Tuk-tuk, Rickshaw & Taxi drivers commonly try to overcharge
3. Pacific Island wooden sword scam - In this scam a local asks you your name and then a second person carves your name into a wooden sword. They offer you the sword at a price way over the market rate, and when you say no they tell you they cannot sell to anyone else. Therefore they've lost their money on the item and it's all your fault their family will starve. They make a scene and force you to buy it because you feel terrible about the situation.
4. Fijian all inclusive hotel scam - These hotels give you a wristband to wear so they know who is part of the all inclusive deal in the resort. When you go into town shifty locals notice where you are staying from the wristband and befriend you telling you they work in the resort to get your trust.
5. Cambodian baby formula scam - This is a very sad scam where mothers use little babies to get your sympathy and ask you to buy baby formula. They then promptly take the formula back to the shop for a refund and buy alcohol or cigarettes. The best way to help the baby and counteract this scam is to buy formula and open it in front of them, so they must use it for the baby and cannot return it.
6. Vanuatu newspaper/soccer ball scam - Not so much a scam as a marketing tool. Young boys selling newspapers tell you they need you to buy the money to pay for soccer balls for school. It doesn't matter how much you give them, the soccer balls are never bought. You do get to read today's local paper out of this one though. Best bet is to buy a deflated soccer ball and take it over to give to them.
Ni-Vanuatu kids sell newspapers to raise money for school - but the schools never receive the money
7. Indian bus booking scam - This is where you reserve a bus seat for a time, but then find out you'll be sitting on the bus for hours as it won't leave until it's full - sometimes half a day later.
8. Mexican baby photo/old woman scam - Cute children and little old ladies looking perfectly stereotype pose for photos, and then harass you to pay them for the photo after they take it.
9. Pacific Islands timber scam - This scam sees vendors tell you that the wood of an article they want you to buy is treated. Really it is not stamped or treated and you won't get it through customs. To counteract this always buy from a reputable store.
10. The biggest scam to be wary of overseas is the currency exchange scam. This is where a local offers to change your cash for you, but gives you an exchange rate far worse than any you could get at a registered exchange bureau. A variation of this is where you pay for an item in Australian or US dollars and get the wrong change back in the local currency because you can't calculate the exchange rate.
All of these scams are instigated by people who in many situations can't feed their family. They aren't bad people, just desperate. It's always good to take pencils and colouring books, spare children's clothes or other items when you travel to poorer countries, to help the locals as in many cases these people are never going to know even half of the luxuries we take for granted daily. Or do what we do, we tip them when we pay, to help them on your terms.
I was ripped off in Paris by a big African man that forced a wrist band onto my wrist despite me saying I didn't want it and requested twenty euros for good mojo and a "taxi" from the hotel that was extortionate.