5 mins

The world's most inventive scams

Forewarned is forearmed: Wanderlust readers share the tricks and scams they experienced on the road ... so you don't have to

Pickpockets love tourists

Tea for two?

"In Tiananmen Square there are lots of 'art students' and couples (or people posing as couples) who are really friendly and offer to take tourists to exhibitions, or to tea ceremonies, or KTV (karaoke) or out to dinner at restaurants they know... you get the idea.

"People go, have a lovely time then they disappear when the bill appears. It often runs into hundreds of pounds and possibly be threatened with the police if you don't pay. Not all invites you get in China are scams (obviously!), they're generally friendly and really hospitable, I'd just say avoid any invites from strangers in really touristy locations."

Claire Wilson

Prawn scam, Mozambique

"On a campground we agreed to buy 1kg of prawns and negotiated the price. The vendor used the hanging type scales to show us how much the bag weighed. Later in the day we were talking to someone else on site and they said our bag looked small. She weighed it on her own scales and found it to be 600g.

"The next day the vendor came back trying to sell us more. We explained that he must have made a mistake the previous day and sold us short and if he put it right we would buy from him for the rest of the week. He was adamant that his scales were correct. Luckily the lady was walking past, went and got her scales and put a sealed 1kg bag of South African shop bought rice on them and it showed up as 995g. At this point he walked off mumbling."



"When I was on a bus from Malaysia to Thailand, it stopped before the border crossing at a currency exchange counter and told the entire coach we needed x amount for a Malaysian visa. I hadn't done my research and had no idea whether or not we needed visas nor what the Thai-Malay exchange rate was.

"A guy on the coach refused to exchange any currency and he wasn't allowed back on the bus! After seeing this I hastened to change my currency and later found out I had be short changed out of £80.

"Needless to say, I learned my lesson!"


Pickpocket tricks

"A well known ruse: If someone stands in front of you, blocking your way and refuses to budge (pretending not to hear you), the chances are there is someone behind, pickpocketing your wallet/purse. This is exactly what happened to me in a pub in Zurich."


Sleight of hand

"Always count your money into a taxi drivers hand. If you hand over a wad of notes (as I did in Vietnam), without paying absolute attention, one of the high denomination notes will, by your driver's sleight of hand, suddenly turn into a low denomination note, and he'll complain he hasn't been paid enough."

Sergeant Pluck

Litas or Lats?

"My favourite was the Litas/Lats scam in Latvia. The Lithuanian currency is the Lita and is 1 Lita is worth about 20% of 1 Lat. The coins look identical.

"In Riga, the conman approaches a tourist with 10 1 Lat coins and asks if they can change them for a 10 Lat note: the car park machine isn't working and will only accept notes...

"The tourist does the swap only to find that instead of 10 Lats he's been given 10 Litas, and has lost 80% of the value.

"This happened to us: the guy was smartly dressed and a nice twist was that he spoke to us in Latvian, to give the impression he thought we were local so wasn't targeting us as tourists. The annoying thing was we'd just been in Lithuania so unlike most tourists, we should have actually recognised the Lithuanian coins!

"We're were conned in the morning and early in the evening, after a change of clothes we were walking through town and spotted our conman. I approached him and said 'excuse me, could you help me?' 'Sure', he replied, thinking I was going to ask directions, and not recognising I was his 'mark' from earlier in the day.

"Well then take back your S*#%@ Lithuanian coins and give me my money back!" He laughed with an attitude of 'its a fair cop' and gave me the money back. He told us he made 50k euros a year on this scam so it was obviously widespread! The fool even posed for a photo with us, though I never got round to sending it to Interpol"


Pickpocket tricks, part 2

"An elderly couple at our hostel in Quito had an unfortunate incident in the historical centre near Gran Plaza. They had human excrement thrown on them from above. Apparently not a small amount either. Immediately someone offered to "help" them saying there were toilets nearby. They were ushered to the nearest public toilets. The gentleman was cleaning his wife's coat when he put her bag down. Within seconds the bag was gone. It held their passports, driving licences and a large sum of money. They were extremely shaken and cut short their holiday only staying in Ecuador long enough to get the required paperwork to leave the country. The police seemed to know about it but are ineffective."

Jo Hook

Pizza paradise...

"Should you find yourself staying at Disney World in Orlando, watch out for the pizza delivery menus conveniently slipped under your door. The phone number isn't connected to a pizza parlor but to identity thieves. Place an order and make the mistake of giving your credit card number and you'll really pay."

Have you fallen foul of a scam in your travels? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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