"" Writer's Wanderings: Tourist Scams Are Alive And Well

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Tourist Scams Are Alive And Well

While looking for ideas to post here I happened upon several sites that were devoted to warning the traveler about tourist scams. As my bunny trail started out with a search for more information on a scam that purported to involve the selling of those watercolor pieces of artwork sold by street vendors and feature the tourist attractions you are visiting. I have a few of those and was surprised to hear that some of them could be just preprinted sketches that have been colored in. I will be checking mine out for that possibility.

As bunny trails go, I ended up on a couple of sites where there were comments from travelers who had recently been in some of the popular European cities for tourism. Lo and behold there were some age old scams still going on like the gold ring scam. We were prepared for this one years ago when we went to Paris. A warning in one of our Rick Steves' books told us about the scam. We figured it would never happen to us. After all, if everyone knew about it why would it still be going on? Well, apparently it still is!

It happened to us not just once but twice as we were walking around some of the museum areas and parks in Paris. The first was a fellow who stopped us and pointed to the ground as he asked if we had dropped the gold ring that lay on the path there. Bob and I looked at each other and smiled. No, we told him. Well, would we like to split the value of the ring with him? (The value would be much more than the fake gold ring.) We could pay him half and have the ring to sell to a jeweler. Again we smiled (we may have been holding back a chuckle or two) and said no thank you. He finally gave up.

Not twenty minutes later the same scenario played out only this time with a woman who stopped us. And it's my understanding the scam is still going on. The scary part is that it must be working for them or they would have quit long ago. Tourists are still reporting the same scam being played out again and again.

But it doesn't stop there. Lots of creative ways are used to distract you or confuse you so that either your wallet or valuables can be stolen. Just a quick list: fake cops looking for counterfeit money in your wallet (don't give up your wallet), fake taxi drivers who quickly lock your luggage in the trunk and then charge outrageous fares, "room inspectors" who then take your valuables when you let them in (always check with the desk before letting anyone into your room), clerks who appear to be on their cell phone when you hand them your credit card but actually take a picture of your card.

The list goes on. Check out the Rick Steves site and search the net for others if you want to be more prepared before your trip. Or just resolve to be aware of your surroundings and keep in mind that distractions, especially entertaining ones, or strangers approaching you on the street can be after more than just a friendly hello. And keep that wallet hidden in a money belt.

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