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Published: Saturday, December 15, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Traveler beware: The 5 most common scams

  • Artists along Las Ramblas, in Barcelona.

    Steve Tune

    Artists along Las Ramblas, in Barcelona.

The pros of traveling definitely outweigh the cons, but that doesn't mean you should throw caution to the wind when exploring new places. The cultural sites are exciting, but they also open up travelers to scam artists and petty thieves.
Members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist have compiled a list of the top five worst travel scams and a few spots where they are most commonly found.
Pickpockets -- Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain: Pickpockets are no longer limited to the simple "bump and grab," their scams and scenarios have diversified. In many instances they work in teams: While one shows you a gold ring or points out mustard on your shirt, another cohort is stealing your wallet, camera or smartphone.
Another popular iteration of this scam is the distraction. A woman will approach you waving a newspaper or asking for help reading something, but under the newspaper, she is palming your iPhone off the cafe table.
It's important to note that if someone offers you unsolicited help, politely decline and quickly walk away. Always keep the majority of your valuables (passport, important papers, and extra credit cards) in your hotel safe, and make sure to record the serial numbers of any vital electronics that could be stolen, as some cities require a serial number in order to file a police report.
Gypsy Cabs -- Termini Station, Rome, Italy: Taxi scams can be as simple as drivers being unlicensed to overcharging and "long hauling," when drivers take a longer route to a destination to increase the fare, which is particularly common in Las Vegas.
Always use the taxi cues where licensed taxis wait for fares. Many cities (Rome, New York, and Los Angeles, to name a few) have a set fare from the primary airport to inside the city. Make sure to know this number and clarify with the taxi driver this flat rate before letting him place your luggage in his car.
Ask the doorman or concierge how much the taxi fare should cost to get to your destination.
Volunteers with poor intentions -- Gare du Nord Station, Paris, France: A common trick is for "volunteers" to offer to assist you when making a transaction or using any automated machine.
Kind strangers may offer to assist you in buying a weeklong ticket, but in fact, they'll get you a one-time use ticket and pocket the change.
Be wary of any stranger that "offers" help too easily, particularly in high tourism areas or transportation hubs, such as Paris' subway and train stations.
If possible, buy transportation tickets in advance or through a window vendor at the station.
Tuk tuk scammers -- Grand Palace area, Bangkok, Thailand: Multiple VirtualTourist members said they were approached by locals claiming that a popular site was closed. Then they try to steer tourists into a nearby tuk tuk (or rickshaw), offering to take them to a another tourist attraction that is open.
Before you turn around, check for yourself.
Cash payment scams -- Istanbul, Turkey and New York City: The most common culprits are waiters or taxi drivers, since they've already provided you with a service and you need to pay them to exit the situation.
A taxi driver, for instance, may switch out your larger bill for a smaller one and claim you owe more money. Almost every traveler has fallen for this trick, just because of exhaustion or being unfamiliar with the local currency.
© 2012 VirtualTourist.com, Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.
Story tags » Travel

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