Catriona’s Top 10 Travel Scams to avoid

by Sunday, April 28, 2019

A friend shared this story with me yesterday. It’s about being scammed in Paris.

She was sitting in a cafe, when a young person came up to her. They asked her if she’d sign a petition to help a children’s charity.  While she was distracted, another youngster swiped her phone from the table. Bugger!

I have so much compassion for anyone who’s had this happen to them. I’d never judge, as it’s happened to me, and more times than I’m none-too-proud to admit. And if it can happen to ‘The Queen of Travel’, well…

I figure the more we share these embarrassing stories, there’s every chance it may NOT happen to one of us. These travel scams can happen anywhere in the world. From Miami to Roma, no nation is immune. So, if we believe in the principle that to be forewarned is to be forearmed, here’s…

Catriona Rowntree’s Top 10 Travel Scams to Avoid:

  1. ATM Distraction. Never let anyone see you entering your PIN at an Automated Teller Machine/Cashpoint. Don’t accept help from a ‘friendly stranger’. Be totally aware of who else is there and what’s happening around you as you withdraw money, anywhere, anytime.
  2. The Picnic Nickers! You’re all relaxed in gay Paris, having lunch in a park, when a young person distracts you with, “Do you speak English?”. Don’t answer and don’t get distracted. The thing is, as you’re engaging in conversation with one of them, the other one is nicking your handbag/phone/baguette.
  3. The Dropped Gold Ring. I fell for this one. Waiting outside a shop, a gorgeous old lady tapped me on my shoulder and, with a worried look, she asked, “Did you drop this?”. Equally concerned, before I knew it, I was engaged in a long, tortured story about this lady’s bad luck. The only way I could get away was to give her 30 Euro. I googled this experience and read: “We are yet to see anyone dumb enough to hand over money”. They clearly hadn’t seen me.
  4. Cardboard Box Alert. I saw this one happen outside my hotel in Rome… to a local! A debonair man was walking along the street when a group of people approached him. They were holding a big piece of cardboard, and they virtually wrapped him up in it. As he raised his arms to declare “Nooo!”, a cheeky devil slipped their hand into the man’s pocket and grabbed his wallet. Tips: hide your wallet; don’t have an open bag; don’t raise your arms if this happens to you; and always be on alert.
  5. The Baby Throw. Ok, I’ve never seen a baby thrown at someone, but I did once have my heart churned in Buenos Aires when I saw a clearly drug-affected woman, who was holding a beautiful baby, asking for money. I was in a taxi and begged the driver to stop, but he told me, “Don’t fall for for it. They’re everywhere”. To this day, I still wonder about that baby…
  6. Homeless Shift Workers. It’s quite normal to see homeless people around the world begging for money and it’s your choice whether or not to help them. But keep in mind, in some cities like Paris and Rome the beggars work in shifts, often going home for a meal or a snack then returning to take up their shift, normally with an adorable puppy and/or kitten on display. Just saying…
  7. Don’t Offer Your Hand. Sometimes, you’ll have someone approach you offering bracelets to buy. When you offer your hand, they’ll tie it on you and, yep, you gotta buy it. Keep that ruse in mind.
  8. Railway Robbers. I love catching the train around France and – touch wood – I’ve have never had a problem however, here’s a few things to look out for… If you’re on a train, standing near the doors just as the doors shut, someone may reach into the carriage and grab your bag or pickpocket you. Sometimes, you may see a man walking through carriages telling you about losing his job and having to provide for his family. He’ll offer you a lovely business card then move on but he’ll return to collect the card and ask for money. Once again, I’ve never had a problem on a train, but do keep your wits about you.
  9. Bag By Your Boots. Once, in a busy shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, I had my small handbag by my feet as I was chatting away over lunch. I had a weird feeling in my stomach (it wasn’t the lunch), looked down and, sure enough, my bag had disappeared into thin air. How did that happen? I dunno, but it did. It was annoying and I’ll never do that again.
  10. Petrol Station Pilfers. I once met these Aussies who spent their whole Italian drive holiday in the same tracksuits as they had their luggage stolen from their car when they went to pay for the petrol. Hey, you’re tired, you’re distracted, it can happen, but you may want to remember to lock that car, no matter where you are.
Travel is a joy and dickheads are universal. So, I hope I’ve not turned you off leaving your house. Do be aware that, when you’re away, you’re quite often tired and/or in awe of your surroundings so, always keep your wits about you… and enjoy the journey.