20 QUICK MIND-NUMBING FACTS ABOUT TRAVELLING AND CONMEN TODAY
Most times, when people travel from either an underdeveloped or developing country to a developed country, they tend to forget that crime is perpetrated in all countries and that is why they have the prisons. No country or continent has a monopoly on crime. Muggers are real and Con Artists are real.
‘At the moment, criminals that prey on tourists might have to shift their focus to the locals if they want to continue making money.’
We do not necessarily have to purchase an item or expect a service to be rendered before we give out money. At times, we do it as an act of kindness, while on other occasions, it is taking from us without our consent.
One has to be vigilant and know that struggling with a criminal that is either holding a weapon you can see or not is dangerous. We are worth more alive than dead.
‘Also, the elderly person might sometimes claim to be fortune tellers and threaten to place a curse on you for belittling them. The aim is to swindle you based on fear.’
At the moment, criminals that prey on tourists might have to shift their focus to the locals if they want to continue making money. This is due to the travel ban which is a result of covid-19. The coronavirus pandemic has been a major disaster for the tourism industry in general, with the possibility to wipe off the expected earnings of companies such as; Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Marriott International Inc., Hyatt Hotels Corp., Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., Airbnb, Vrbo and Booking Holdings Inc., Uber, etc. Since the earnings and share price of most companies in the tourism industry are down, a company like Airbnb will need to be patient for the market to recover to an extent in order not to lose so much value during its IPO.
At Dartemuv, we are of the opinion that the shutdown could lead to a surge in domestic travel until an effective and safe vaccine is produced.
In the case of Con Artists, they are often very smart individuals that prey on either the innocence or greed of others. There are various tricks used to steal from travellers without the use of weapons.
‘We have a few dishonest Jewellers and BDC operators. If you intend to sell pieces of jewellery out of distress, then look up authorised Jewellers or Pawn Shops within the city.’
Below are some of the commonly used scams:
1. Laptop and Rock: This is common amongst the cab drivers. It usually begins when you put your laptop bag in the trunk of a cab while travelling. The driver stops the cab during the journey pretending to fix a fault and, in the process, replaces the laptop with a stone or car hydraulic jack. At the drop-off location, the driver hurriedly takes down your baggage and drives away. It is advisable to always put your laptop bag beside you.
2. The Foreigner: This often happens when travellers do not take public transport at registered car parks in some countries. It starts when someone approaches you speaking a different language or English with a strong accent, to get your attention. The story usually involves needing help to clear imported goods at the ports to be sold later, or that they have chemicals used for making money (mostly dollars). The conman also promises a monetary reward in exchange for help. Once your attention is gotten, someone else passes by and joins in the conversation. This new person will surely speak a language (English, Spanish, French, etc.) that you understand and encourages you to help and promise to be of assistance as well. In the long run, you will be asked to pay money to have a higher percentage of the entire money made from the supposed business. On some other occasion, the new person tells you to participate so that you can both swindle the foreigner of his or her money, if you fall for it, you become an easy target. The truth is, the conman and this new person are on the same team.
3. Free Wi-Fi: When you travel, always assume that there is nothing free about free Wi-Fi to be safe from cyber-attacks. If not, you are most likely to lose money due to compromised banking information or identity theft. Funny enough, conmen do not need a computer science degree to be a professional hacker, there are tons of resources out there that improves IT skills, and YouTube is one of the famous ones.
4. Games (Cards, Snooker, Tennis, etc.): This works almost all the time due to the general desire of people to watch the display of talent. One of the conmen pretends to be a novice while playing and losing money without giving up, while the other displays pure talent and keeps winning. At a point, someone among the crowd watching is likely going to approach you to influence your decision to play. If you fall for it, you are tagged as a game. The initial rounds of the game will be won by you, this is followed by you being instigated to bet with more cash. In the process, you are going to lose everything you already won including your own money, because, by now, your ego and the desire to win back your initial winnings will not let you realize that it is a scam.
5. Bureau de Change (BDC) and Jewellers: We have a few dishonest Jewellers and BDC operators. If you intend to sell pieces of jewellery out of distress, then look up authorised Jewellers or Pawn Shops within the city. If you cannot find any, then document the transaction the best way possible. This applies to the BDC as well because the currency might be replaced with counterfeit notes. It is usually followed by fraud accusations, and you will lose your money. It is best to always take the picture of the currency you intend trading — this helps you to remember the serial numbers including all other features. Some people go to the extent of putting a recognisable or conspicuous marking on the notes before taking pictures, and even do a video recording of the transaction taking place.
6. Renting or Buying Apartments: With the advent of online booking and purchase, conmen have exploited the web in several ways to make money for themselves. It is extremely important and advisable to verify the features of property both online and offline. If possible, you might even involve a known law firm in the case of a home purchase. Do not let anyone hasten you into paying. Make sure you are satisfied with the terms and conditions. There are properties everywhere and you will always find yours.
7. Cab Drivers: This makes travellers feel stupid because your travel budget could be depleted faster than you can say, Jack Robinson. The scam could involve any of the following;
a) Tampering with cab meter and you pay more for total mileage travelled and time spent
b) Intentionally roaming the entire city or taking longer routes before getting to the travel destination
c) Lie about the closure of the Hotel, and takes you to a different one where you will surely pay more due to their fraudulent partnership with the Hotel staff or management.
8. Newspaper, Magazine, or Maps: As a tourist, you might feel obligated to listen or provide a response to every request you do not have to if your gut instinct tells you not to, and it is not compulsory. It is the perfect way to distract you, while a pickpocket steals from you. This could happen on buses as well.
9. The Baggage Helper: We repeat, PLEASE!!!, do not leave your baggage with a stranger. No matter how heavy they are, remember, you packed it that way for a reason. In the worst-case scenario, you probably need to put a tracker on your bag, and technology that captures fingerprints. However, travellers are advised to make the best decision that they can accept without feeling guilty or responsible for any eventual loss of item or baggage.
10. Rings, Flowers, Flirty Ladies, and Bracelets: The following are some of the easiest ways often used to trick travellers into paying for items they had no intention of purchasing. It is cheap blackmail tactics, and travellers try to avoid trouble at all costs.
a) For the flowers, a stranger might trick you into accepting a bouquet while with your lover. As a tourist, you might be intrigued by the kind gesture, and view it as an opportunity to gift the flower to your partner. Immediately you accept it, you are told to pay for it or risk mob lynching. This is enough embarrassment to prompt you to pay.
b) In the case of Bracelets, you have to be careful when accepting it from elderly people, especially women. Once you do, you are automatically in the trap, because you are requested to pay. With the elderly, they get the sympathy of the crowd and you might be accused of trying to play on her intelligence due to her being frail. Also, the elderly person might sometimes claim to be fortune tellers and threaten to place a curse on you for belittling them. The aim is to swindle you based on fear.
c) A lost but found gold stunning ring is a stunner. It is usually placed on the path of tourists, and someone else picks it before you. He then proceeds, to sell it at a giveaway price. If you fall for it, you have just paid for a ring of lesser value than you imagined.
d) In the case of the flirty ladies that want to learn a language (e.g. French) you understand, you might end up paying more than you bargained. The ‘Teacher-Student’ relationship quickly turns into you paying for meals and drinks at ridiculous prices.
11. Drugs and Fake Policemen: If you love nightlife and cannot do without drugs, then you have to be incredibly careful about buying drugs. This is because it could be a plot to get you arrested and part with more money as a bribe.
12. Wallet on Walkway: Consciously or subconsciously, people that move around with a wallet often tend to react by touching their pocket whenever they spot a wallet similar to theirs on the floor. By doing this, you have just indirectly made the work of the pickpocket easier.
13. Traffic Salesman and Accident Victim: If you love renting cars to drive when on holidays, then you have to be careful of the following:
a) The dodgy salesman that introduces you to an item while in traffic to distract you, to enable his or her accomplices to take your baggage from the other side of the car, through the lowered glass window.
b) What will you do if someone suddenly slumps in front of your car while driving in traffic in a foreign country? DISTRACTION! We do not need to explain what will happen eventually. Although someone can slump genuinely, you still need to take proper precautions.
14. Punctured Tyre: This advice is also for people that prefer to hire or rent cars while on holiday. There are a few places that are known to be the major roads where this crime is often perpetrated. The success of this crime is based on how best the conmen can strategically place the shaft of oranges with hidden nails on the road.
15. Night Bus: Beware is the watchword! If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Please, do not let the cheap price deceive you. If you do, you might have just opened a gateway for conmen to ransack your baggage at night during the journey.
16. Photography: When on holiday, we are most tempted to take Instagram worthy pictures. But, bear in mind that we are all different as humans and our intentions are not always the same. In the process of trying to capture memorable pictures, you might want a stranger to help. Some might request for money, while others just run off with your smartphone or camera.
17. Fake Reception Call: This call usually takes place when you are more vulnerable or less active, which is most likely in the night. The caller might tell you to provide your credit or debit card information to clarify an issue. It is easier to provide them with this information via the phone than walking to the reception.
18. Room Inspectors: How often do we get Inspectors dressed as hotel employees? Anyway, just be careful because it might be a plot to distract and steal.
19. Television or Camera: If you travel on a light budget, do not go too close to people carrying expensive-looking items. It is difficult to determine if the items are in good condition. The conmen’s tactics are to drop the item on the floor once they bump into you, and they expect you to pay.
20. Cloth Stain: The scheme is conducted by spotting a vulnerable tourist. Once they find a game, they come in close contact with the person and accidentally hit them while holding probably a cup of coffee. In the process of apologising and cleaning the tourist cloth, the pickpocket act will be perfectly completed in a stealth-like mode.
It seems before travelling to some places, it might be advisable to read more books that depict the evasive techniques of spies to survive. In all, just be yourself, we win some and lose some. But, be careful not to lose ALL.
As many countries plan to reopen their airspace to both airlines and travellers in July, try to stay vigilant when next you travel. Also, with the continued search for covid-19 vaccines, do not be surprised if you are subjected to testing at both airports and hotels, or 7 to 14 days quarantine. Thank You.
HAVE A WONDERFUL VACATION.
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