Travel Scams and Cons

2 06 2009

Apart from the odd unscrupulous taxi driver and a curio seller who tried to persuade me that the Lost Ark of the Covenant was indeed made in China of finest ancient plastic and just happened to be on a dust-covered shelf at the back of his shop, I have escaped my travels relatively unscathed. However, every year many travellers are not quite so lucky.

London’s Daily Telegraph recently provided a list of some of the most common travel cons and scams. Here are a few:

Airport metal detector

A co-worker of mine several people ahead of me in the security queue once tested positive for explosive residue on a company projector she was carrying. As the agents re-swabbed the machine and quizzed her about fertilizers and heart medication, I slipped past without so much as acknowledging her existence…although if feeling generous I may have sent her a cake with a file hidden in it. Apparently though, short-term memory loss isn’t the only con committed at such security points.

As instructed, you place your laptop on the belt for the x-ray scanner. You watch your items disappear behind the flaps while patiently waiting for the people ahead of you to clear the metal detector. The first person passes through but the second triggers the alarm and spends the next few minutes laboriously emptying their pockets of forgotten keys and loose change. By the time they are finally waved on and you pass through, you find your own laptop gone.

Rule of thumb: Never travel on business…or don’t place your items on the belt until the way is clear for you to head straight through.

Currency cons

Arriving at my hotel in the middle of the night and not having had a chance to brush-up on the local currency, I gave the porter a tip for leading me to my room. He accepted the folded note and headed for the door but stopped dead in his tracks when he glanced into his hand. He turned with a beaming smile and thanked me again most profusely for the tip, before leaving, walking backwards reverently and bowing repeatedly. I grinned meekly, but my stomach sank fearing that I’d just given him half a month’s wages. After learning the local currency I was relieved to discover that although I had been rather generous, I hadn’t actually given away half my worldly wealth – but I did get tremendous service for the rest of my stay.

Unscrupulous foreign exchange cashiers are know to take advantage of tourists. Their tricks can be as simple as miscounting in the hope that the visitor is not concentrating or is unfamiliar with the local language, missing out on the odd zero or two in currencies that have very high denominations…or as devious as substituting the local currency with less valuable neighbouring currency – like Czech koruna instead of Polish zloty.

Rule of thumb: Never spend money…or do your homework with the local currency and exchange rate before you arrive.

Honesty never pays

Once seated in a departure lounge, a curmudgeony old lady seated opposite stood up and started to shuffle away. Although her handbag was clutched by her side, a second, smaller bag was left on the seat. I leaned across and put my hand on it to give to her just as she turned around. She saw my hand on her bag and glared malevolently, spitting violently in her language and her gnarled hands darting for her possessions. I attempted to explain that I merely thought she’d forgotten it but my stammered efforts and look of innocence were in vane. I hastily moved to the other side of the room before she could call security and have me arrested.

A popular scam targets travellers sat with their bags. A passerby “accidentally” drops his wallet or keys from his pocket. The honest traveller grabs them and calls after the unfortunate soul but to no avail. They quickly chase them the few steps and hand over the lost items only to return to find their own unattended bags long gone.

Rule of thumb: Never be nice…or always keep your eyes and your hands on your bags!

Post by:  Simon Vaughan © 2009



One response

17 06 2009

Despite the chuckles and guffaws that have visited me through the reading of your blog I am glad that you wrote about these type of subjects as well

Even on overland trips people tend to forget that there are lurkers out there waiting to take advantage of tourists. People still seems surprised when we warn them to an eye on their stuff, even while in hotels.

Good post….and good chuckles 🙂

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