Summer’s coming – time to travel! It’s great fun to be a tourist – just make sure you’re not a target as well. Being concerned about crime is a healthy attitude to have when you’re traveling. There are money-changing scams, taxi scams, passport scams, you name it, and unfortunately, these days cell phones are helping con artists communicate better to more easily target vulnerable travelers.
What can you do to protect yourself? For one thing, beware of strangers who approach you on the street, even at the expense of seeming rude. Keep your wits – and your valuables – about you. Use your radar; if a situation feels wrong, it probably is. Some of the tricks people will try to use on you are as old as dirt; others are as new as the latest iPhone app.
Here are a couple examples of what to look out for:
This one is common in many airports and train stations. An example of this kind of scam is the “hot dog trick” where a stranger will “accidentally” squirt mustard on you as he’s eating a hot dog. While the stranger apologizes profusely and tries to help you clean up, an accomplice will grab your bag and slip away. Other diversions include elderly people falling down and creating a commotion, or children surrounding you, trying to sell you something.
So just to be safe, make sure you always stay in contact with your bags in public places. Keep a hand on your carry-on or place it between your legs, and make sure your purse is securely fastened and attached to your body in some way.
The Security Line Switch-Up
Here’s what happens:
You’re about to walk through a metal detector when the person behind you cuts ahead of you. Annoyed, you let him go, but your frustration builds as he repeatedly sets off the alarm. He’s forgotten to remove his watch and loose change, so he’s holding up the line. What you don’t know is that on the other side, his accomplice has snagged your belongings and is already in another terminal.
To avoid this terrible scam, make sure you wait until the very last minute before you put your stuff on the conveyor belt. Don’t give anyone the chance to slip in front of you before your stuff goes through to the other side. Keep an eye on your stuff in general, and if you see someone handling your belongings, speak up to a TSA agent ASAP.
There are plenty of helpful people out there, for sure, but it never hurts to use your common sense, and practice defensive tourism!