Travel Picks: Top 10 tourist scams

16:52, June 01, 2010      

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As weather gets warmer and travel season begins to ramp up, so do the efforts and imaginations of street criminals looking to part tourists from their money.

Travel website ( has come up with a list of the top 10 tactics thieves use to scam tourists.

"Most of these scams aren't terribly elaborate which is part of what makes them so dangerous, especially considering how distracted tourists are to begin with," website general manager Giampiero Ambrosi explained.

"While we've pinpointed the countries where these crimes seem to pop up most frequently, any one of them could happen just about anywhere."

1. Fool's Gold; France

If you're walking the streets of Paris and someone appears to have found a gold ring at your feet, congratulate them and keep on walking. The ring is a plant and the person who pretends to have found it will use just about any sob story to get you to buy it off them.

2. Monkey Business; Bali, Indonesia

Proving that thieves don't always come in human form, the monkeys at Bali's Uluwatu Temple are notorious for swiping from tourists everything from sunglasses to cameras and then running off into nearby bushes. Seconds later, their conniving trainer, dressed as a temple official, appears to report that if given a few rupiah to buy bananas, he can coerce the monkeys into giving back the booty.

3. Automatic Theft Machine; Trinidad and Tobago

Using X-Ray film, thieves in Trinidad construct a pocket that slips into the card slot of an ATM, holding it hostage. A helpful, and observant, bystander then miraculously appears to suggest that typing in a PIN backwards will release the card. Unfortunately, when the bystander later retrieves the pocket, the victim's money will be released as well.

4. Postcards From the Edge; Italy

Kids outside the Stazione Termini have been known to thrust pen and postcard into the hands of tourists and ask for help writing a letter "home." They then dictate a story of poverty and hunger so disturbing that said tourist is often guilted into handing over some cash.

5. At Your Service; United States

The bottom line with this scam is that room service charges should always go on the credit card the hotel already has on file. If the waiter or waitress who delivers your food demands cash or a card, the egg on your plate is soon going to end up on your face.

6. A Crappy Thing to Do; Argentina

Should someone on the streets of Buenos Aries try to help wipe non-existent bird droppings from the back of your shirt, chances are that's not all they're wiping off you. Teams working in pairs use this technique to rob distracted, and disgusted, victims. An even messier French version of this trick involves real mustard.

7. Customer Surprise; Bali

Another in the seemingly endless array of ATM scams, this one involves a false "Customer Service" phone number posted on a card-swallowing machine. When the victim calls it, he or she is asked for the card's PIN number, hotel and contact information, and assured the card will be returned soon after.

8. The Exchange Game; Zimbabwe

Street scammers here offer tourists incredible exchange rates provided the transaction takes place in a secluded cafe. At the cafe, the money is counted out on top of the table, but rolled up into a rubber band under it; the explanation being that police may be watching. Needless to say, the tourists later discover a large discrepancy between the amount counted and the amount given.

9. Front Desk Phonies; United States

In this simple but highly destructive scam, sleepy, unsuspecting hotel guests are awakened by very early morning or very late night calls from the front desk asking for credit card information. It's not until much later when they realize that "front desk" was actually a front for something else.

10. Funny Money; China

Although efforts are being made to solve this problem, the Chinese money supply has a significant amount of fake currency in circulation with much of it ending up in the hands of clueless tourists. Short of carrying around a counterfeit detector, the best way to avoid this is to either refuse 50s or 100s altogether, or accept them only from banks.

Source: China Daily/Agencies


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