Website picks 5 worst travel scams and offers defensive tactics

Members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist have compiled a list of the top five worst travel scams and how to avoid them.

1. Pickpockets: VirtualTourist members mentioned that in many instances, pickpockets work in teams: While one shows you a gold ring or points out mustard on your shirt, a cohort is stealing your wallet. Another popular iteration of this scam is the distraction. A woman will approach you waving a newspaper or asking for help reading something, but under the newspaper she is palming your iPhone off the cafe table. It's important to note that if someone offers you unsolicited help, politely decline and quickly walk away.

2. Gypsy cabs: There are a few rules to follow to make traveling by taxi easier. First, Rome has taxi queues where licensed taxis wait for fares. Second, many cities have a set fare from the primary airport to inside the city: Make sure to know this number and clarify with the taxi driver this flat rate before letting him place your luggage in his car. Lastly, if you are leaving your hotel and going to a site, ask the doorman or concierge how much the taxi fare should cost to get there.

3. Volunteers with poor intentions: When in a country with different currency or a language barrier, a common trick is for "volunteers" to offer to assist you when making a transaction or using any automated machine. Kind strangers may offer to assist you in buying a weeklong ticket, but, in fact, they'll get you a one-time use ticket and pocket the change. Be wary of any stranger who "offers" help too easily, particularly in high tourism areas.

4. Tuk tuk scammers: Multiple VirtualTourist members stated that in parts of Southeast Asia, they were approached by locals claiming that a popular site was closed due to an assortment of excuses, such as a religious ceremony, royal function, Buddhist holiday or simply for cleaning. These locals — some even in uniform — steer tourists into a nearby tuk tuk (or rickshaw), offering to take them to a gem factory or another tourist attraction that is open and then return them to the site once it reopens.

5. Cash payment scams: Sadly, the "Math Genius" can be found in a variety of places, and the most common culprits are waiters or taxi drivers. In a taxi, it goes this way: You owe the driver 15 euros, and you pay with a 20-euro bill. He switches out the bill you gave him for a 5-euro bill, which looks similar. He holds it up and argues that you owe him 10 more euros. You apologize and give him another 10 euros. Many travelers have fallen for this trick.

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