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7 most common scams to watch out for, the locations where they are most prevalent and how to avoid being part of one

Whether travelling for business or leisure, your visit should be an enjoyable one. However, it’s highly likely that you or someone you know has either heard about or been involved in a travel scam. From Paris to Bangkok, these scammers often target unsuspecting business travellers so it’s important to know about the scams and take precautions to avoid being part of one. Here are the seven most common scams to watch out for and the locations where they are most prevalent.

1. Fake charity or petition

A group of people, usually children or young women, will approach you to sign a petition. If you sign, they may then demand some cash from you or try to pickpocket while you are busy with the papers. Unless you offer some, they will likely continue to pester you or worse, some of their accomplices might even rummage through your pockets/bags looking for a wallet or purse.

Most common in: Paris

How to avoid

The recommended course of action is to maintain your personal space and don’t let them get too close. Assertiveness may be required as they are unlikely to take no for an answer.

2. Overcharging taxi driver

A global issue, most of these drivers can be found at the top tourist spots or transport hubs. They often use a meter adjusted to charge a higher fare than normal. In some instances, they might even refuse to use the meter at all, instead demanding a higher than usual fare for a short distance.

Most common in: Worldwide

How to avoid

Use a reputable taxi company and pre-book with an agreed fare before travel. Ask for a receipt as well.

3. Street games

An individual will entertain crowds with an engaging performance to distract an audience of interested onlookers, some of whom are often accomplices to the crime. As everyone’s attention is on the performer, an accomplice will come and pickpocket the unsuspecting crowd.

Most common in: Paris and London

How to avoid

The advice here is simple: don’t engage. Locals very often avoid these performers so follow their lead and don’t stop to watch.

4. Begging children or families

A large group of children will surround you and ask for money. This approach often relies on causing as much commotion as possible. This acts as a distraction, giving other members of the group an opportunity to pickpocket.

Most common in: Rome, Florence and Milan

How to avoid

As with other similar scams, it is important to remain aware, maintain your personal space and be wary of your valuables. Similarly, you may have to be assertive and loud in order for potential scammers to give up their attempt.

5. Ticket touts

This usually happens at bus or train stations. Upon entering the station, you may be approached by someone offering a lower priced ticket allowing you to beat the queues at the official ticket desks by doing so. What may seem like a good deal very often results in actually paying more for a ticket, or worse, buying an invalid ticket for travel.

Most common in: Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and Shanghai

How to avoid

It is always recommended to buy tickets from first-hand sources such as the ticketing office to avoid the risk of buying an invalid ticket.

6. The friendship bracelet

One of the more unusual scams. You may be approached by someone who offers a friendship bracelet. Although you might refuse, they will take your wrist and force you to wear it before insisting on a payment. Others might use this as a distraction for their accomplice to pickpocket you. In some locations other types of items may be used.

Most common in: Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Cairo

How to avoid

Beware of people trying to provide any form of free gifts, particularly in tourist areas. It is recommended to ignore them and keep walking.

7. Baggage help

This happens when someone approaches you to offer a helping hand in carrying your baggage. While it might appear a helpful gesture, the person will then demand money and refuse to leave you alone until you pay.

Most common in: Worldwide

How to avoid

Always carry your own luggage unless you can confirm that the person in question is legitimate. For example, if they are not the hotel bellboy, you should be wary. As a general rule, be doubtful of overly helpful locals during travel.

And remember…

Overall if it looks suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is, so use your common sense and be as prepared as you can be. Our Chubb Travel Smart app is a great place to start. There you will find information about the specific safety and security risks associated with the country you are visiting.

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Have a question or need more information?

Contact us to find out how we can help you get covered against potential risk.

Global Client Executive

Peter Kuczer
O: +61 3 96237204