The 10 latest travel scams and how to spot them


Travelling the world exposes you to the great things other cultures have to offer -- and the not-so-great things as well. Sadly, there are many ways in which the unscrupulous try to take advantage of unsuspecting travellers. The scams listed here are only a few of the most common; always be on the lookout.

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The classic note-switch

Any country where two denominations of notes resemble one another presents the opportunity for a note-switch. For instance, when paying with a 20-euro note, the unwary vacationer will be told that he or she paid with a 5-euro note, which is also blue. The 5-euro note (actually a new note) will be "returned," and the customer will cough up an extra 20, then walk away 15 euros poorer and none the wiser. Other currencies where this is common include Turkish lira and U.S. dollars (since all American notes are the same size and colour).

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The student art show

Travellers in China may find themselves asked to attend a "student art show" -- in reality a market where they'll get hit with a hard sell to buy overpriced, poor-quality art. Similar things happen in other countries, such as Ethiopia's infamous "student cultural evenings."

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The bracelet scam

Many travel scams rely on getting close to the target and acting before he or she can respond. For instance, in the bracelet scam a street vendor quickly ties a woven bracelet or similar piece of tourist kitsch on to the victim, then demands an inflated price for it. The bracelets are hard to get off, and the vendor is right in the target's face. Many people simply pay up to end the harassment.

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The unbelievable bar bill

Travellers who don't ask for the prices of things in foreign countries are likely to be surprised. One of the most common scams is for a taxi driver to recommend a bar or restaurant -- or for a pretty girl to fall in with a male traveller and recommend it -- only for the tourist to be charged outrageous prices.

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The terrible taxi

Taxis in general can be a challenge. In addition to participating in other scams such as bar scams or note-switching, taxi drivers are prone to taking outsiders on roundabout routes even to nearby destinations. "Malfunctioning" taxi meters are also common. Travellers worried about taxi scams should always get a recommendation for a reputable firm before arriving.

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The unfriendly teahouse

A variant on the bar scam is the teahouse scam, common in China. Travellers may be met by a group of young people who invite the visitor for tea, often claiming they want to practise their English. But the teahouse they choose will be suspiciously expensive ...

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The wrong arm of the law

Many British travellers will assume that the police are the people to go to when a scam strikes. In some countries, unfortunately, the police may be in on the scam. Spurious tickets for minor offenses will result in on-the-spot fines that get pocketed at once. In some cases, travellers who don't pay up may even be threatened with arrest.

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The pricey pizza

An inventive scam has been reported by identity thieves in major tourist resorts -- pizza delivery leaflets thrust slid under the doors of hotel rooms. Hungry holidaymakers who called the number, ordered a pizza and gave the operator their credit card details didn't get their meals, but they did get their credit card information stolen.

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The dodgy destination switch

Tuk-tuk and taxi drivers alike have another trick up their sleeve; the destination switch. Tourists who ask to be taken to a particular destination may be told that it's no longer available -- that it's closed or even burnt down. But fortunately the driver knows of another hotel or cafe ... one from which he receives a kickback.

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The early bird scam

Some travel scams hit travellers before they even leave home. Clubs that offer discounted hotel room rates or flights often fail to mention that they have only a small number available at the advertised rate. Alleged "travel agent cards" used to secure discounts are expensive frauds, easily spotted by airlines.

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