There’s a lot to occupy your mind when you’re on vacation. You’re navigating an unfamiliar location, trying to stick to a schedule and, in the case of international travel, possibly dealing with an unfamiliar language. Unfortunately, this preoccupation makes you a prime target for people looking to pull a scam. Here are some common scams to avoid:
1. The friendly artist
The scam: You’re walking down the street when suddenly, you’re approached by an artist. You’re told that he or she is working on speed sketching, and asked if you mind being drawn. Before you can answer, the artist starts to draw. When the sketch is finished, you’re told the price of the drawing. You’re not interested in buying it, but the artist demands payment, saying that you can’t back out now that the piece is already finished.
What to do: This scam is effective because it takes advantage of your politeness and catches you off guard. There are other versions where the artist will will ask you for inspiration for an abstract painting, or even make a bracelet right on your wrist, giving you no easy way to remove it. The important part of avoiding is not engaging: If the person asks permission, say no and walk away. A quick reaction is especially important if the object is going to end up attached to you: If anyone approaches you holding strings or other craft materials, put your hands in your pockets and leave.
2. The charming local
The scam: A man traveling alone is approached by a pretty, friendly local. She chats flirtatiously for a while, and then invites the traveler to a bar for a couple of drinks. A few drinks later, he gets the bill, which is several hundred dollars higher than it should be. The pretty local is gone, and the traveler is forced to pay the ridiculous bill himself.
What to do: The answer to this scam is fairly simple: If a friendly stranger wants to grab a drink, pick the bar yourself. Although this trick is most commonly pulled with a beautiful woman, there are other versions where it’s an outgoing local or a confused traveler. Ultimately, you should be wary of strangers who get too friendly, too quickly, and don’t let them lead you anywhere. Vacation can be a great time to make new friends, but if they won’t let you pick the place, they likely weren’t going to be your friend after all.
3. The amazing disappearing wallet
The scam: A street magician is wowing the crowd with all manner of illusions, and you stop to watch for a few minutes. You’re having a great time, and decide that you’ll drop some money into the magician’s bucket. When you reach for your wallet, it’s gone.
What to do: Pickpocketing is a very real concern for all tourists, and generally, you’re most vulnerable to pickpockets when you’re distracted. That’s why these thieves will often work in teams with a street performer to manufacture a distraction. While you’re watching the magician make a ball disappear, your stuff is vanishing right out of your bags and pockets. Another pickpocketing tactic to be mindful of: A person comes up to you and let’s you know that there’s been a pickpocketer arrested in the area, so you check your pockets and breathe a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, you’ll probably get robbed shortly, since you just let pickpocketers know where everything you’re carrying is located. The easiest way to avoid pickpocketing is to use travel wallets that are tucked safely underneath your clothes instead of keeping your valuables in an easily reached place, and only carry the items and cash you absolutely need for that day. Some forms of travel insurance will also cover theft in the event you are pickpocketed.