10The fake police officer scam is a popular one in many large cities. Most often, a person will approach a tourist and offer illicit items, like drugs. While conversing one or two other people will approach, appearing to be police officers and flashing “badges.” They will then insist the unknowing traveler hand over their passport and wallet. However, they are not police officers.

My Experience:

This has never happened to me.

How To Avoid It:

Never hand over your wallet or passport. Request they show you their identification and then inform them you will call the police to confirm they are who they say they are. Or tell them your passport is locked up in the hotel safe, and they’ll need to accompany you to your hotel. If they don’t allow this, simply walk away.

Attraction Is Closed
A common travel scam in major tourist areas, some friendly local (who just happens to speak excellent English) will approach and inform you that the attraction you want to visit is closed for any number of reasons (religious ceremony, holiday, etc.). Then they’ll guide you to a different attraction or shop where you’re pressured to purchase something or pay a lot for entry.

My Experience:

At a busy public square in Mexico, a local man began asking about my travels in perfect English. He then proceeded to tell me the town’s famous hammock shop was closed, but he knew of another nearby. I thanked him but ignored the advice and found the original shop open.

How To Avoid It:

Instead of taking the local’s word, head to the ticket counter or shop and see for yourself. Or ask someone else nearby for confirmation.

Friendly ATM Helper
Someone approaches at an ATM cash machine to help you avoid local bank fees. What they really want to do is scan your ATM card with the card skimmer in their pocket and watch you enter your pin number so they can drain your account later.

My Experience:

I’m embarrassed to say I almost fell for this scam in South Africa. One man was the helpful local, the second pretended to be a fellow customer waiting in line who agreed with what the first was saying. When the first guy canceled my transaction and told me to try it again, I realized what was happening, grabbed my card and walked away.

How To Avoid It:

Never let anyone near you while you’re making an ATM transaction, and ALWAYS cover the number pad with your other hand while entering your pin code. If someone approaches, take your card and find another ATM.

Injured Or Child Beggars
Usually deaf, blind, or pregnant, sometimes accompanied by a “helper”, beggars will ask you for money. Women with babies are common (they might not even be theirs). Children are also frequently used by begging gangs to collect money. Why? Because it’s difficult for most people to say no to the old, injured, or young. Sometimes an accomplice nearby is just watching to see where you keep your wallet so they can pickpocket you later.

My Experience:

You’ll see this stuff almost everywhere.

How To Avoid It:

It’s practically impossible to distinguish who is legit and who is not, so my policy is to never give cash to street beggars. However I do buy food or giveaway old clothes to them. Then your money isn’t going to a gang.

Group Photo Offer
While hanging out in a busy tourist location or landmark, a local offers to take a group photo of you and your friends. As you’re getting ready to pose for your awesome new Facebook jumping shot, you look up and realize your new friend has completely disappeared. With your expensive camera.

My Experience:

I’ve never fallen for this scam, but I’ve had a few people try. In fact one guy tried last week in the middle of Dublin. He was pretty shady (and possibly high), so I told him thanks but I’m good.

How To Avoid It:

This one is tough, you really need to read the situation. I’ve happily handed my $3000 camera over to other people for a group photo. But it’s almost always me asking them for the favor, not them offering out of the blue. Busy city attractions are the most risky places for this. If you have to, ask fellow tourists instead and return the favor for them.

Fake WiFi Hubs
While you can find WiFi almost anywhere these days, some of those free unlocked connections might be dangerous. Hackers will set up tempting unsecured wifi hotspots in public locations that unsuspecting victims eagerly connect to — giving the thief access to your computer, passwords, online accounts, and more.

My Experience:

I’ve never fallen for this scam, as far as I know.

How To Avoid It:

Always ask the hotel/coffee shop/airport staff which wifi connection is the official one. Especially when you see a tempting unlocked connection. To encrypt all your online activity, use a VPN, or virtual private network. I use one called ZenMate.