Avoiding tourist scams is not easy to achieve. This is one of those cases where reading other travelers experiences helps, so make sure you do your research before getting to your destination. It is tough to know when someone is legit or trying to trick you.
Examples of Tourist Scams
In some countries, strangers will approach you to talk. Sometimes they just want to have a genuine conversation. For them, a tourist or traveler is fascinating. They just like to talk to tourists. Other times it will be someone trying to sell you something or trying to get you into a scam. There are a few famous scams that are real. Look them up, understand how they work and try to avoid them. Even if you know it’s a scam, always politely refuse. Keep in mind that some of the people that do these things are also victims. Here I show you just a few examples with the goal of alerting you as a traveler to not trust everyone.
The Tuk Tuk Scams
In Bangkok, be aware of the Tuk Tuk scams. They will offer to take you wherever you want to go for free if you first stop at a shop. You will lose a day of sightseeing because these shops are far away and you might end up going to more than one shop. They get a commission from the shop owner that is higher than the ride you would pay. But all you had planned for that day is gone because getting there and back takes forever.
Another common scam that I would have fallen for if not prepared. A Tuk Tuk driver asks you where you’re going. Whatever your answer is, they will say it’s closed that day for a religious ceremony and will offer to take you somewhere else. He had a map of Bangkok and proposed a tour, which of course included a visit to a shop. I read about this scam and politely refused the offer.
The Woman with a Baby
In Kolkata, India, after a visit to the Mother House, there was a woman begging outside as I walked out the door. After the emotions of the visit, I was face to face with a woman and a baby that looked legit. She did not ask for money, she asked for milk for her baby. How can you say no to that? We went together to a nearby shop and I bought her a big can of powder milk. It felt like the right thing to do and I confess it made me feel good. I even included a chocolate for some luxury that made her eyes glow.
Later that day, I found out that it was a scam. The woman takes the milk can back to the shop in exchange for money. The shop owner gives her less than what I paid, making a profit without selling the product. The woman makes some money in the process.
You think you’re helping, but you’re being robbed. Sucks right?