t r a v e l s n a p z

T r a v e l   t h e   w o r l d   f o r   j u s t   a   f e w   c l i c k s


Travel Scams and Swindles on TravelSnapz - Part 2
The second part of our "who is after your money" article


Airport Xray Scam

You have arrived at the airport and booked in your luggage and its almost time to go to the departure lounge for your plane. All you are carrying is your camera bag - it's small enough to be accepted as cabin baggage and it's safer to keep it with you.

Here's the security check. You dump your camera bag and mobile phone on the conveyor belt that goes through the xray machine and you walk towards the personal gate. Suddenly someone pushes past you and goes through the detector gate first. You don't want to make a scene so you ignore his rudeness. The gate beeps and a security man asks the guy if he has any keys in his pocket. Of course he has. He pulls them out, embarrassed and tries again. The gate beeps again and he fishes around in his pocket and sheepishly pulls out his mobile phone. He has another go - no beeps this time and he is through.

Your turn - no problems. You walk to the end of the conveyor belt.

Surprise, surprise - no camera bag and no mobile phone - and your plane leaves in 20 minutes.

There wasn't just one rude guy - he had a friend on the other side of the security gate who calmly picked up your camera bag and mobile phone and then left the airport and caught the bus into town. The guy that held you up at the security gate is on the next bus into town so he can share the loot with his friend.

Never take your eyes off your valuables. Even in the above situation - ignore what is going on in front of you and just watch your bag. If you can't see your bag insist that you be allowed to go through to collect your valuables. If you are travelling with someone, go through one at a time with the second person keeping the items that need xraying until the first person is through.


Hotel Tout Scam

Would you like a hotel sir?

Well yes you would. But you already had one in mind that was within your budget and you have the address so you think you are right, thankyou.

But sir, that hotel is not a good hotel. I can show a better hotel, just nearby, and it is much better value.

How much? Yes that is good value! It also includes breakfast - that's good. And with a private shower and toilet. And very clean, sir.

OK, let's go and have a look.

And the hotel is good. Until you check out and discover that the price quoted by the tout was nothing like what the hotel wants to charge you.

Always confirm the price of everything including whether or not breakfast is included when you check into a hotel. If they don't have any printed material, ask them to write the price down for you.

Check out my story about travelling with a digital camera for details of how I keep my camera and laptop secure.

Other stories in our World Traveller series:
Backpackers - a story about the first travellers
Markets - our tribute to street markets around the world.
The Best Western Index - a light hearted look at travel money value around the world.

The Distraction Scam

There are many variances on the distraction scam. It is used by sneak thieves who do something to distract your attention away from your valuables so they can steal them while you are not looking. It it can be used by opportunistic thieves when you are disorientated by the crowd.

A couple of examples:

Street Kids - a crowd of kids hassle you asking for money or lollies. They carry a piece of cardboard which they press against your body. The purpose of the cardboard - simply to disorientate you and cover their sneaking fingers that are going through your pockets.

Order this audio tape

Crowds - a good place for someone to cut the belt of your carry-all and slip it from around your waist. Or to slash your shoulder bag with a raiser blade so that your valuables drop out.

The Coin Drop - someone drops a handful of coins and you help to retrieve them. When you look around, your camera bag is gone!

The Accident - someone spills a drink as they walk past your table in that lovely little cafe. After the fuss has died down and everything is cleaned up you find the bag you had under your seat is no longer there.

The Escalator (contributed by Mike) - You reach the top of a crowded escalator. The person in front of you takes two steps, then drops something and bends down to pick it up, blocking your way. The person who presses into you from behind as the escalator dumps him picks your pockets.

We asked Mike what can you do to thwart this distraction scam. It's difficult to say what's the best thing to do in this situation - the main thing is NOT to come to a sudden halt, which is what the pickpocket will be anticipating. Do something unexpecetd, even crazy. SHOUT to distract the pickpocket and to attract everyone else's attention. If it turns out to have been a false alarm, just look sheepish and grin - you're a stranger.

The toughest thing to do is bring your knee up smartly and knock the person that has stopped in front of you flat, then jump over the top (if it turns out to be a genuine old lady who dropped her purse, you'll have a bit of explaining to do). Alternatively, turn smartly round and face the person behind you, but you'll need to do this instinctively - by the time you've thought about it, your pockets will have been dipped.

Mike, what about crowd attacks? My favorite in any non-violent team attack in a crowd is to roll to the ground. Your wallet may still leave your pocket, but the unexpected move may make him lose hold of it, and in the ensuing chaos you have a slight chance of beating him to it.

Note that if you choose to wear a wallet on a chain, the chain should be solidly fixed to your belt, not clipped on with a pop stud. And the wallet should not come undone and scatter its contents on the floor if someone grabs it and gets pulled up by the chain (read what went wrong in Johannesburg).

Be aware, be aware, be aware.


Help your fellow travellers by contributing your confession. Send your story to scams and swindles


Back to Scams and Swindles 1

Travelsnapz Home