How to Avoid Being Scammed While Traveling
Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Saturday and I hope you are having a beary safe and great start to your weekend. Dab the AIDS Bear and I are still on the mend from a horrible stomach bug but made it to the event today so stay tuned for more new pictures soon.
Traveling comes with some chance of peril. You have to be careful with the people you do business or even just meet during your adventure. Nobody wants to be scammed while traveling but unfortunately, it ends up happening to even the most savvy of travelers.
I've been scammed twice during my two years of travel -- once by a taxi driver in Moscow and once at a fake tea ceremony in Shanghai. Both of these experiences were disheartening, stressful and frustrating, and even affected my overall opinion of the countries I was traveling through.
Fortunately, my scams were relatively mild and I only lost $100 each time -- it is often much worse.
Scammers are smart. They know exactly which tricks tourists fall for and use them over and over again. The Shanghai Tea Ceremony scam I mentioned above has been alive and well in the city for over ten years, and still people fall for it on a daily basis.
With that in mind, here are a few tips for avoiding being scammed while you're traveling:
Don't Look Like a Tourist
Scammers target tourists, especially tourists who stand out from the crowd. Tourists don't know the city they're traveling through very well, aren't aware of what to look out for in a scam and are eager to meet and converse with locals. This, unfortunately, makes them an easy target.
Do your best to try and blend in with the locals while you're traveling. This can be easier in some countries than others -- for example, I can pass as a local in many countries in Western Europe, Australia and the US, but would have a hard time passing myself off as a local in Cambodia.
If you can't effectively blend in as a local, you can still make yourself less noticeable.
Don't wear tourist-style souvenir clothing, like hippie pants and souvenir t-shirts. Wear plain clothing and remove your flashy jewelry -- you don't want would-be scammers to think that you have a lot of money.
Finally, walk as if you know exactly where you're going even if you're lost. Give the impression that you're an expat and know the city extremely well.
If you exude confidence, you'll be less likely to be approached by a scammer.
Research Popular Scams Before Arriving
Before arriving in your destination head to a forum, such as Thorntree, and search for your destination name and "scams". You'll often be met with hundreds of results and reports of people being scammed in that place. Spend an hour or two browsing the threads and recognizing the patterns of the scams so that you can be better prepared.
Doing this helped me to avoid being scammed in Istanbul -- I recognized I was being scammed and immediately walked away. I probably would have been scammed if I hadn't researched before arriving.
Be Cautious of Well-Spoken Locals
Of course, I can't make the generalization that any local with excellent English who wants to make friends with you for seemingly no reason at all is trying to scam you, but unfortunately, in a lot of cases this is the mark of a scam.
You'll often be approached by several locals with extremely good English, who will chat to you and get to know you for as long as it takes for you to drop your guard. Once they can tell that you trust them, they'll then try and scam you -- they'll offer to take you to a bar, or a cafe, or a tea ceremony, and upon finishing up will present you with a bill of many hundreds of dollars.
While we don't recommend ignoring any local that comes up to you and tries to start a conversation, just make sure to have your wits about you.
Hope you have a beary safe and great Saturday!
Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.
big bear hug,