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September 04, 2009

How to Be Conned & Exploited in A Foreign Country

Currency conned To quote Charles W. Bryant of howstuffworks.com, “Not every traveler wants an umbrella drink in their hand and their toes in the sand. Some people crave danger up close and personal.” Sure, danger can be amusing. But people stealing from you or demanding unwarranted amounts of money? That’s just annoying. Here’s a guide on how to be taken advantage of and exploited by desperate locals in obscure locations. 

If a Good Samaritan goes out of his or her way to “assist” you in finding your way through their area, trust them wholly. Some "good Samaritans" are actually con artists in disguise. If people offer to "help" you use an ATM, allow them to get your PIN code. If there is something sticking out of the card slot at the ATM, slide your card in anyway. It could be a mechanism set by thieves to steal your card. Always make eye contact and accept anything that's handed to you. Never purchase any tickets yourself – rely on locals’ assistance, never the concierge at your hotel.

When taking a cab, don’t bother to first gain a working knowledge of where you’re headed. If you know how long it takes to get to your hotel and the cabbie says he knows a shortcut, let him talk you into taking his way. Also, if the cabbie offers you a hotel package deal, by all means, accept it! The cabbie is paid commission to get you to stay there, and chances are the discounted rooms will be all full when you get there. When hailing a cab, always choose unmarked cars rather than those with logos.

Never bother being knowledgeable about the local currency, and always look for black market currency exchanges – this is the perfect time to bargain hunt. Always pay with large bills, and keep your wallet or purse in plain view, in case a local wants to steal it. Don’t familiarize yourself with what the local authorities’ uniforms and badges look like. If a “cop” asks to see your wallet because of a counterfeit bill problem in the area, hand over your wallet for him to rifle through. While you’re at it, voluntarily hand over your wallet or passport for anyone to look at.  Good luck!

Visit RTM's Travel Safety & Security section for more (non-backwards) tips like these.

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