Safety and Scams Collection

After years of collecting articles on the net, I prepared this list of safety tips for travellers, and scams commonly used on travellers. With the growth of the Internet, there are a few other sites now that may have it better organized, as well as better information. However, I still add to this as I get new info.

General Safety Tips

Always assume you're being watched.

Find out what the favorite scams are locally.

Safety in numbers.

No jewelry, wallets, or purses.

Don't put anything in your pockets, it invites thieves. One trick is to carry a decoy wallet with old credit cards, picturess, address, and money.

Wrap rubber bands around objects in pockets to slow down pickpockets.

Pack all film with you. If stolen, you lose pics you have taken.

Inform others of your plans (consulate/embassy).

Change routes.

Remember that credit card number is on airline ticket.

Transfer money from belt to pockets in bathroom.

Avoid public bathrooms in big cities.

Always keep passport, tickets, money and camera with you, except when pensions and hotels need passport for 1-2 hours to register you with police.

Toss out business cards and ask people to call consulate if detained.

Always say "Excuse me" when you bump into people, but check all your belongings.

Keep camera hidden. Use tote bags instead of camera bags.

Take room keys in the water with you.

Best defense: avoid a setup. Chief defense: don't get distracted, isolated or stopped. They will ask for directions, a match, or a handout. Don't stop, move away quickly, especially from fake arguments or 'street fights'. Be wary of corners and doorways, parked cars, and shadows, stay near curb.

Carry extra money ($20) or wallet for muggers.

Watch for men separating ahead of you.

Never let elevators go to basement. Keep foot in door while pressing floor number. Don't get in if it is going down. Late at night, push top button, but don't get in. It is safe if it doesn't stop on the way up or down.

If mugged, cooperate "You can have anything you want, do you mind if I just keep my driver's license, etc.? Do you want me to get it or do you want to get it?" Avoid eye contact. Keep $25-$100 in pocket as insurance. If hostile, offer money or possessions he overlooked.

Riot -- go to hotel, call consulate and airline. Do not go to the airport without confirmed ticket or assurance that it is safe there.

White flag on aerial, triangle on rear bumper. Crack window and ask stranger to stop at next exit and phone for help.

International law requires your home country's embassy (US Interests Section, if no American consulate) be notified if you are arrested or detained, you're entitled to a timely visit by a consular officer. They will notify family and get money transferred and insure fair treatment. Family can wire money to Overseas Citizens Service, and they will disburse to you in local currency.

Lost passport -- call local police and consulate. Get 3-month temp.


Yuppie in distress lost wallet; pregnant woman (pillow) needs bus money; unordered food on bill; kids polishing your shoes; broken down car; kids surrounding you using cardboard or magazines to block your view; gypsies with babies; purse-snatchers on scooters; they found a pile of money; they bump into you and drop bottle of wine and say it was expensive; drop change or spill food on you so you will put your bags down at airport or train station; cutting open backpacks; sleeping gas in trains or buses; drugged cups and drinks (Asia and Italy); fake porters taking your bags; snare bags under seats with umbrella.

Beware of people who tell you about problem with car, or cause the problem, and then offer to help you, cause car accident to stop you, break window at light or in traffic jams.

Small town cops will pull you over for a driving infraction. Beware of friendly locals who actually negotiate fine up. Pay on-the-spot fine or "I can pay the fine to you, can't I?" Offer a contribution to the policeman's welfare fund.

Ask for receipt if local authority asks for fines or tourist taxes, bargain hard (call consulate).

Photography permits may just be bribes.

Border guards. Smile and be persistent. You have NO RIGHTS, so don't demand them. Give friendly handshake. Give them the impression you have all the time in the world. Give them all documents that look official. Do not get short-tempered or mad when you want something. Offer cigarettes or ballpoint pens.

Hotel Safety

2nd-7th floor away from stairs and elevator.

Make sure you can't be locked in by locks or bar across the door.

Find out if there is on-site security.

Verify window and door locks are secure.

Ask for all room keys. Is hotel name and room number on key? Return at checkout.

Put valuables in safe and get receipt. Check their insurance liability limit.

Be careful of exits and elevators on way to room. Get escort to room late at night if alone.

Be suspicious of anyone loitering around the lobby.

Close door tightly when entering or leaving.

Look for small holes in walls, especially behind mirror/pictures.

Don't leave windows open.

Count number of doors to fire exit. Know where extinguishers and alarms are.

Police need warrant to enter. Have them show ID.

Call desk if unexpected person knocks.

Telescoping rod for sliding glass door.

Cancel maid service.

Do not put dive gear on balcony.

List calls made and received and times, even unanswered.

Leave radio or TV, and lights on, with Do Not Disturb sign out.

Wedge door while showering.

Dinnertime is most likely for burglars.

FIRE -- Extinguish fire or pull fire alarm, if you can. Phone fire department before front desk. Stay low, turn off A/C, get room key, check door for heat. If you can't exit, stay in room or go to roof. Put wet towels under door and in vents. Fill tub, sink, and baskets to rewet towels and cool hot walls. Remove curtains. Crack open window. Put wet towel in/over mouth and nose.

At first, we were filling our day bags with 5kg (11 lbs) each, and exhausted from hauling everything we thought was valuable. By the end, one of us carried the small camera only if we might need it, and the other carried a bottle of water in a carrying strap. We are very confident about picking cheap but safe guesthouses, so we were never worried, plus we knew how to recover if all was lost.

Some people later find it a relief when it is all stolen since they don't have to haul everything around, nor worry about it any longer. We were most lax by the time we got to India, and never lost a thing. Amsterdam and Italy worry me the most. The time to be most concerned is when you are at bus and train stations with your luggage. There are pickpockets and probably won't realize it until they are right next to you, or much later. Markets where tourists congregate are another place to be more careful.

We didn't bring any computer equipment, but next time it will be a notebook, and probably a digital camera. As for dorms, like most, we locked our bags to our bed, and sometimes locked the zippers on the bag that had the important stuff. Usually we jammed them behind or between the big bags so they were harder to get to without causing a commotion. Theft is fairly rare, and a good rule of thumb is don't stay in dorms in cheap countries like India and Indonesia, since they attract to many druggies. Dorms are good in expensive countries and cities like Australia, New Zealand, Singapore (only if everyone is Western), Beijing, and half the places in China. Try to limit it to four people so you know who is in there. The expensive places draw a better crowd.

When you arrive late at night to an airport, you might want to stay until morning if possible. Also, when you arrive late in a city, don't worry about looking for a bargain. Take the first reasonable hotel you can find, then drop your stuff, eat, sleep, then hunt down a better hotel in the morning. Being out at night with your bags is a risk, plus many of the hotels will be full.

A common topic of discussion on the road is 'women's safety'. After wandering around in Asia for 1.5 years with my wife, I am glad to say that it is very safe if you are reasonably cautious, especially compared to Miami and the US. We went through Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, China, Pakistan, India, and Nepal with no trouble, not even having to yell at anyone! We never had problems since I was around; and Karin doesn't have blond hair, which attracts more attention in many places, besides the fact that she tends to look like some of the Asians. However, many times, inappropriate in their own culture, the men would talk to her when I walked away.

Women travelling alone or together seemed to get way too much attention from the men. Italy, Morocco, India, Pakistan, and have the worst reputations, but also be careful in some parts of Indonesia. I saw a few women carrying short sticks in cities like Varanasi, and I did see other locals and tourists being bumped into alot, especially in Peshawar. The biggest problem we saw when the cultures mixed was that Westerners went in wearing inappropriate clothes, compounding the situation since foreign cultures already have a bad image of women due to Western movies.

Many women I met on the road travelled in pairs or would find a male travel companion in places they were being hassled by men. You have to know how to create interactions with the locals when things are safe, and avoid the rest, especially if they want to take you somewhere, unless you have good references, and possibly a friend to go with you. India isn't pleasant for even for pairs of women. Indonesia and Italy are tolerable in pairs.

Miscellaneous Posts

Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 14:34:41 -0700
From: Sandra Woerner

I read some of the safety and scam letters before I, and two other ladies, traveled to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, and glad that I did. The info about the taxis was most beneficial. When we arrived in Cracow, we were a bit too cautious and we could have missed a very helpful English-speaking taxi driver named Bogaslav (not sure of the spelling).

In Budapest, a shopkeeper told us to use the cabs that had AAA on them, which was very good advice. We went into a nice hotel and they called us a taxi, so don't just grab one off the street. You can't be too careful.

Also, regarding the trains, we had a second class sleeper because there were no first class sleepers. Most uncomfortable -- perhaps okay for two but you can't sit in the sleeper car because the bunks are fastened down. There was no club car either.

In Prague a couple staying at the same hotel had been robbed their last day there. The woman got up from her seat on the tram and someone quickly unzipped her backpack and stole her money and passport. Do not carry your passport and money in your backpack. Use a money belt or the wallet around your neck but under your clothes. Two elderly ladies had also gotten robbed.

You must be wary and aware of your surroundings and not be caught off-guard. When we arrived at the Prague train station, cabbies out front wanted to charge us 700 crowns to take us to our hotel, although we had been told to pay no more than 200 crowns. We did not go with them. They weren't even real taxi drivers. We went back inside the station and had a worker call us a taxi.

Our trip was wonderful and we loved Cracow, Budapest and Prague. Budapest is so wonderful. If you want to put these tips on your safety sheet, feel free to do so. Sandra Woerner

There are general guidelines, such as letting people know where you are when going out alone, keeping in touch with folks back home. As far as safety goes -- I would not really describe travel as "dangerous", in the sense that you are highly unlikely to suffer physical injury. That said, the "danger" of being robbed is extremely high. So it's just a matter of taking all sensible precautions, not getting paranoid, and remembering to keep a perspective on things when something does get stolen.

Obvious and recommended precautions are not keeping all money/travellers cheques in one place (suggest keeping most in body belt UNDER your clothes, and some emergency supply in main pack, with fellow traveller or wherever), wear no jewelry (yes -- none), take nothing you could not replace, never leave baggage unattended (it will walk for sure), and carry day-pack on your chest not your back, hugged.

Most thieves (and they are experts -- it is a profession, they are mainly not opportunists -- it's a job) work in teams of three or more -- one to distract you (conversation that makes you turn your head, or spitting on your shoulder are common), one to do the deed, and one to keep an eye out. Most common places for getting robbed are markets and train/bus stations, or any other crowded place (actually on trains is very common) so extra caution should be taken here. It is common to use razor blades to cut straps or to cut holes in bags so things will drop out.

As for security of belongings. We carried all valuables -- i.e. tickets, money, passports, etc in under-the-clothes body belts for MOST of the time. We left the backpacks in our rooms with no problem usually. Often rooms had keys, or we carried padlocks to use on unlockable doors. There were often times when we left our valuables in some kind of hotel safe. Other times we took our chances, leaving them in our tent, or wherever we were staying -- you just have to judge depending on circumstance. On Gili Air in Indonesia for example, we felt safe going off snorkelling leaving them locked in our hut all day -- that was just because the island was tiny, and we knew the locals would hunt down any thief. While we were there, a tourist had some things stolen -- immediately, they stopped running the boat to Lombok, and all the men on the island started chasing around clapping their hands hunting down the thief (they seemed to know already who they were looking for…). They found the thief, and the tourist got his belongings back.

I always got slightly nervous leaving valuables, even in a "safe", but you just have to get used to it. Sometimes we took things with us to the beach and took turns to keep an eye on them. Most places you stay where you may need to leave valuables, have some kind of scheme for dealing with this.

Also whilst we carried most of our money in the body-belts, we kept back a few $100 hidden in our large packs, so that should we lose our main supply we still had some emergency funds. Also kept copies of all the documents in the body belt, details of travellers cheques, credit card info etc, in the main pack. <Christina Finlayson> (

I strongly suggest packing a few twenties and fifties into the seams of your pack just in case … US denominations are accepted EVERYWHERE. And there are quite a few times when I didn't want to cash a $50 or $100 travelers check just for the last 8 hours in a country. Also, some airports require HARD CASH for some supplemental fees -- either in local currency or US dollars. Even the non-US travelers I met used US money in emergencies.

One scam I ran into (though thankfully not personally), I thought I'd mention, even if its going to a separate faq, was in Czech. Black market money changers there were changing money into Polish money. 1000 Polish Zlotys is worth something like less than a cent, but tourists not familiar with the local currency would not discover their error until they tried to spend it or if they read the money carefully. Met three people who'd been hit by this scam. Probably common world over with the black market.

I had all my Travel Cheques stolen in Bangui but got them back later on when I already had them reported stolen to Thomas Cook. I used them at border points to show power-hungry (not to mention bribe-hungry) border officials how wealthy I was.
Mats Henricson (

From: (John Hong)
Subject: Re: Need Advice: traveling alone
Date: Mon, 20 Jun 1994

A couple of security tips -- take a zip lock bag big enough for your vital papers -- when you take a bath or shower -- take them with you. Take a small bell ( round chrome one or a cow bell ) pin this to the underside of your backpack if you sleep on the train. If anyone moves it -- tinkle. Also, fasten a strap to the luggage rack.

<Larry Lustig> (

Anything too good to be true usually (but not always) is. Personally, I never take anything of value that cannot be carried on my person, so if I have to leave my pack somewhere, the only thing I'm worried about losing is the pack itself. Watertight swimming bags (one brand name is 'Seal Bag') are available. They work, but don't forget to account for condensation in the bag when the hot air meets the colder water.

People get a bit carried away with stashing their money on their person. Neck wallets under several layers of clothing aren't fooling anybody, and only mean you have to undress when you run out of the money you stash in your pocket. I tie my neck wallet around my belt and tuck it into my trouser pocket. When someplace with a very high level of pickpocketing (such as Georgetown, Guyana) I tuck the wallet in my waistband or dangle it down the inside of my trousers.

Cut open the bottom of your trouser pockets and sew in extra long 'extendo-pockets' which allow you to carry all sorts of things (including a small camera) on your person, make it harder to pick you pocket, and assure that things will not fall out. When in pickpocket ridden areas, safety pin your pockets, and the pockets and zippers on your backpack shut.

From: (Eric Williams)
Subject: Con Men in East Africa
Date: 2 Jul 1994

Any one been taken by a con artist?

I've been to Africa twice, once to West (Ghana) and once to East (Kenya + Tanzania) and it was a recurring theme, especially in East Africa, that you had to continually be on guard. What were your experiences? I'd be interested in hearing.

This is especially a problem during the first few days of your trip while you learn the ropes and still look fresh. Typically its only a problem in big cities or where all the tourists go. As soon as you get off the beaten track the difference can be night and day.

My experiences fall into a couple of categories, mostly misinformation:

-- Taxi drivers tell you to take a cab, because there are no more buses today. If you don't back down sometimes they'll tell you where you can catch the bus. Other times they stick to their story even after you've caught them in the lie.

-- Raising fares or charging extra for your luggage. (Expect to pay for it if your bag is taking up a seat however.) Tough to avoid this one unless you pay close attention to what everyone else is doing. If they are overcharging don't pay. They will eventually back down.

Once you've been taken a few times the con men are pretty easy to pick out. They invariably are young men (15-30) hanging out with nothing to do. As you walk by they say "Where are you going?" If you tell them they'll tag along offer to show you just where to go and take you right to your bus.

The catch is they'll tell you a price that's 2 to 10 times the correct price. If you try to ask around to find the correct price, he'll stick with you. People you ask, even innocent bystanders, will often go along with the scam. (One guy told me after the fact that he was afraid of being beat up by the con men if he didn't.)

If you go along with all this and pay the inflated price then the scam continues. Sometimes word will reach your destination that you're a sucker. There will be other con men waiting to pick up where the last left off. You'll pay double for the next leg as well.

Watch out. Use caution. Try to read ahead in your guide book so you know what to expect. Don't rush into hasty decisions.

My general rule of thumb is don't accept unsolicited help. When soliciting help don't ask men, especially younger men. As soon as you accept a con man's help you are marked. And word of this will follow you for a while.

To avoid all this just don't accept help from the con men. Find your own way. Ignore them. When you get to the bus station, ask the drivers or people selling tickets how to get where you're going, which bus, how much.

Become a bit of a skeptic. When someone offers help, figure out what he's offering and what he's getting out of it. The most common scams are simply misinformation--either making you pay more than the correct price or offering an expensive option like a taxi while possibly telling you that the cheaper options are not available.

If you can get through all this you'll find most of the people are very nice, very helpful, and very honest. Small towns are nicer than big cities in this regard.

It's actually quite easy to get through all this once you get the hang of it. But it's also quite easy to fall for it when you first arrive, need help, and are trusting of the wrong people.

Don't be paranoid, have fun, take lots of pictures. :-)

From: Lawrence Lustig (
Subject: Re: Con Men in East Africa
Date: Sat, 2 Jul 94

While I don't deny that plenty of price-padding and outright fraud occurs when travelling in unfamiliar countries, it's important to remember that you may not have a complete understanding of everything that's going on. I have had a few experiences where I absolutely refused to pay an inflated price, only to find out later from a reliable source that the quoted price was actually correct. I feel awful when this happens. So it's true that you need to be on your guard, but don't always assume you are being ripped off.

From: 4-Jul-1994

I once used the baggage check service at the local train station when I was staying in a hostel and was concerned about security of the various gifts and souvenirs I had accummulated up to that point. I had no problems. I was cautious because people who left valuables (e.g., camera, money) in their packs in hostels or who hung up to dry a favorite sweatshirt were disappointed.

From: (Barbara Vaughan)
Subject: Be alert in Rome (and elsewhere)

The following incident happened to a friend of my daughter in Rome last month. It is similar to incidents I have heard of elsewhere; be warned that if anyone throws anything at you or spills anything on you, you should refuse all offers of assistance and exit the area quickly and loudly.

My daughter's friend was on her way to the airport early in the morning from her hotel near the Termini (I think) train station, when someone threw shit at her. That's literal, not figurative, feces. A very symathetic bystander came to her assistance. She put her small carryon bag down, but kept her foot on the strap. The kind bystander managed to grab the bag and run anyway.

Two police officers observed the incident but did not give chase. The woman lost her plane ticket, passport, credit cards, a small amount of cash and two weeks worth of undeveloped film. She had to delay her return to the U.S. for several days and had my daughter not had an apartment in the neighborhood where she could stay, she would have been in a serious bind as she was left penniless, without even enough money for a phone call or bus fare. The police were very unhelpful. The policewoman who was taking the report wandered off and never returned.

When my daughter's friend went to the US embassy to replace her passport, she met at least a dozen other people who had lost their passports under very similar circumstances. This young woman had been studying in Rome for a semester and was familiar with the city and the neighborhood where this happened.

There are several lessons here:

1) Unfortunately, if someone offers to help you after an unexpected accident or assault, you shouldn't trust the Good Samaritan.

2) Don't carry your documents in a bag that can be snatched. Those pouches worn around your neck or waist are much safer.

3) If anything unpleasant happens to you on the street, run. Shouting would probably not be a bad idea, either.

4) Divide your money and keep a little in several pockets.

From: Matt Donath (
Date: Fri, 2 Sep 1994

You ask for common scams, so I'll relate one I've seen frequently in China and also in other countries. Basically, these are several varients of folding off a portion of a large wad of bills while changing money. One trick is to count out the money in front of you, "discover" it is a few bills short, and then add the remaining bills while folding off and palming part of the wad. The hope is that you won't recount the large wad of bills. Often, the moneychanger will try to distract you by pretending to see police (if it is a black market), or be laboriously slow in counting out the money themselves to make a recount seem a waste of time.

Fortunately, this trick is less common than it used to be due to the decreasing number of black market moneychangers. The best advice is to avoid "unofficial" moneychangers and to always do your own counting with the money in your hands.

From: Lawrence Lustig (
Subject: Re: Theft in hostels?
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 94

I always keep everything of value on my person: Passport, money, and ticket in a 'neck wallet' which I actually tie to my belt and keep in my pocket. If I'm really worried, I take it out of my pocket and drop it down the inside of my trouser leg. Keep enough small money in your pocket so you aren't always digging out your stash to make purchases. Also, I like to cut the bottom off my trouser pockets and sew on 'extendo-pockets'. If you give them a slight hour-glass shape they are almost unpickable and, assuming your trousers are a little baggy you can carry a small camera there (this technique works well with skirts also). As far as bag slashing: it's rare but it happens everywhere. I generally keep my bag in front of me when not actually walking. If I do have to stand still in a crowd, I keep my backpack moving slowly at all times (sort of like I have to flatten my bladder). You don't need locks to discourage people from picking the zippers when your walking: just connect the two zipper pulls with safety pins.

Alan L Nelson
Subject: Answer to: Question, if go for a swim…
Organization: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Leave most valuables in your accomodations, if you trust the place. Anything else that needs to be on your person, use a Zip-Loc bag to burying under the sand, under your towel (do so non-chalantly).

Strike up a relationship with another person who remains on the beach. A simple "Can you watch my stuff for a few minutes" is sufficient. Select families if possible. Truly paranoid people will leave an easy to steal daypack/bag on top of the towel to distract the attention of thieves.

From: (Joseph Goodman)
Subject: Travel Scams: What to look out for
Date: 23 Nov 1994

Don't get taken for a ride

When it comes to travel, almost everybody's out there looking for the best deal today. And don't the con-artist know it. It is unfortunate the gullible and not so gullible bargain hunters have been falling prey like never before to a growing number of outlandish and fraudulent sales schemes for travel packages. The pitches are generally made through the mail, by phone or with a newspaper ad -- or a combination of these -- and they have one thing in common: Those who get pulled in are bound to lose money, or at the best, get less, not more, than they bargained for.

Many of the operators use 900 numbers so that you get hit twice. The first time is when you pay up to $8 per minute for the 900 call. And they make sure that it takes many minutes by putting you on hold, giving you long explanation that say nothing, and/or transferring you around. The second hit is if you are deceived into actually buying the package.

Some immediate, important advice: if you see a travel come-on with a 900 number, don't call and waste your money. If you can't resist calling the 900 number, or a toll-free 800 number -- NEVER, NEVER give out your credit card or bank account number. Once they have your number they will directly charge your account. They will be gone and located somewhere else under a new name before you even get the bill

Lets look at how some of these scams work. To prevent confusion with legitimate companies I will use the name Scam-1 and Scam-2 as company names.

Scam 1 sold by direct mail and through a toll-free 800 number. They solicit potential victims via a postcard telling them that they had won a free vacation, or a vacation "certificate of award guarantee" to a warm-weather destination such as the Bahamas (Freeport), Orlando or Hawaii. There are three tip-offs already: 1) Reputable travel agents almost solicit in this manner; 2) there is no such thing as a free vacation, and 3) the destinations are mass marketed where low- price hotel-air packages are readily available. Guess what happen when you call? Yes you won the "free luxury vacation," which of course has a registration fee of $250 or more per couple plus another $99 in taxes. Now comes the big hook, "this promotion is for Visa and MasterCard holders only." Then the request for your credit card number for verification.

A variation on Scam-1 is to promise free air to a far away places like Hawaii. The free air is dependent on you buying a hotel package from them that might cost $1500 per person. The hotel of course is one where the real cost is $50 per night for two. The results is that you paid $3000 for a vacation that could have been booked at you local travel agency for less than $2000.

SCAM-2 is a cruise scam that has recently come across my desk. There are advertisements in several local newspapers offering a 7 day cruise for $495 per couple including round-trip air fare. When you call the phone number in the ad, they tell you to send them $450 and they will receive a voucher good for a 7 day cruise on one of several major cruise lines. My cruise expert called the various Cruise Lines to asked them if they knew anything about it. Most knew nothing about the company, and stated that they did not do business with them. One cruise line knew the company very well and was in process of legal litigation with them.

The problems start when you attempt to cash in the voucher. The company is no longer in business at the same location or under the same name. The voucher not being accepted by the cruise lines leaves the victim out $450. Don't get taken for a ride. When something looks like its too good be true, it usually is.

Joseph Goodman

From: (LCBrown)
Subject: Re: Another Scam -- Travel Agent ID Cards
Date: 29 Nov 1994

Mr. Goodman,

Every business has a disagreement with a potential customer or associate. Maybe you don't like what our program offers, but for me it works. All of the people I've met at NCT are honestly interested in earning additional part-time income and saing some money on their own travel. What's wrong with that? I read a recent statistic that said travel agencies account for approxmately 60% of all the travel and tour business. That is a considerable amount of business, but that also leaves another 40% that interested part-timers like me can cater to.

If there was a misunderstanding between NCT/Jetaway and RCCL that doesn't mean the company's a ripoff. Why don't you let people judge for themselves. I'm sure there are plenty of folks like myself who can't drop what they're doing today to become full time travel agents, but they can do some part time work while they learn about the industry.

Why should you have all of the fun?

BTW-for those who insist that NCT is claiming they sell the IATA card that is only earned after an agent books a certain amount of business THAT IS NOT TRUE. They are very careful to explain that their card identifies you as an Independent Travel Consultant that is an associate of the company and nothing more.


From: (KevinC2430)
Subject: Travel Safety
Date: 29 Dec 1994

Looking for anyone who has stories about incidents of crime being commmitted against business travelers at airports, hotels, and car rental locations. I am a police detective who investigates crimes committed against travelers and have started my own business outside the police department. I specialize in conducting "Travel Safety Seminars" for business travelers across the country.

I am always looking for new scams that criminalsare using to rip off travelers luggage and hotel rooms. If you have any stories or thoughts, please drop a note. If you would like to contact me, (818) 348-3309.

Kevin Coffey

From: Kay Barnes (

I need your help with a project I am doing for a class on travel law and ethics. My project is on "travel scams." If anyone has any personal experience with a travel scam or knows anyone who has I would appreciate your input. How did you hear about the scam, what happened, what was the outcome, what did you learn etc. You can e-mail me directly with any information. Thanks Kay Barnes

From: (Dave Liquorice)
Subject: Re: money belt?
Date: Sun, 5 Mar 1995

I always use a money belt. A proper one, not a bum bag. Bum bags are just asking for the belt to be cut and the bag snatched. They also advertise your wealth, even if they don't contain anything.

A true money belt is worn under your clothes and as such is more or less undetectable. Mine goes around my waist and I keep the flat pouch on my front, under loose trousers. Your very aware of people trying to get into the front of your trousers…B-)

Only keep things in it that you won't need during the day. Have a separate small wallet or purse for your day to day spending and only keep in that what you expect to use that day. Plan ahead if you need cash for tickets. Try not to reveal your money belt in public. If you sunddenly see that expensive souvenier you want, don't just reach for your wad in your money belt. Tell the shopkeeper you need to get the cash from your friend, hotel security box whatever. Then find somewhere private (a toilet?) to open up your money belt.

It's also worth hidding small amounts ($50 or so) of cash/travellers about your baggage just in case you do loose your main supply.

Can't tell you where you can buy one in the US but any decent department store with a baggage section has them over here. Also camping shops etc.

The best option is to be friendly, but trust nobody, don't leave your money belt with someone when you take a shower etc, and if you share a room put your moneybelt in your sleeping sheet. Then if there is the odd bad boy around you dont have to be the one to prove it. Also be VERY aware of the "business man" you meet in the street. Often but NOT always they are slick con men. Dont trust them, especially with "high exchange rates" etc. careful buying anything in HongKong, there are lots of scams there. Like they will sell what looks like new Kodachrome and its used film. Its hard to tell.

Hard to tell, ask for a good place at the hotel. A favorite scam is that when
you buy something, they say its at the warehouse. You give a deposit and come
back later. It never appears. Also they pack it up in the back and its not
the same thing you ordered etc etc. We careful of carpet dealers in Nepal as
well. And especially the Kashmir sales guys anywhere you meet them.

Favourite tip for Africa…

Two Aussie women I met carried a rubber snake and left it coiled up on top of their pack in hotel rooms when they went out. As a general rule Africans LOATHE and FEAR snakes like you wouldn't believe and it would not occur to anyone that "toy" ones existed. They swore by it.

Petty theft (of unguarded gear) is much more common in Africa than in Asia but actual physical threats are very,very rare.

From: David Case

Interesting scam in India

It is normally hard to find American batteries in India. However, some shopekeepers have taken to stocking dead American batters. When people asks to show that they work they claim that it is too cold for the testers on the sides of the batteries, to work, and they offer to test it by using a camera, with its flash. However a camera's flash is already charged by the previous batteries, so even if the batteries are dead, the flash will work.


Before leaving for Spain, I made sure and read all the warnings people had posted to various web pages on possible scams. I thought we had a pretty good idea of how not to get ripped off. However, I shouldn't have been so smug. Here was an expensive scam pulled on us in Seville. We used the Eyewitness travel guide, which, by the way was excellent. In their guide to Seville, there was a photo, but no write up about a restaurant called "El Buzo", ( The Diver). The restaurant is located in the trendy dining area around the Cathedral. I thought because it was in the travel guide it would be a good place. WRONG!!! We don't speak Spanish, but the waiter spoke enough English to get by. We told him we wanted the tapas menu. The waiter returned and poured us two glasses of sherry. I told him we didn't order it and he implied it was on the house. He then brought us bread, olives and some other small tapas. The night before we had dined at another restaurant which also did this and didn't charge us, so we weren't too concerned. In fact, we had not had any trouble with food in Spain for over a week. Generally our food bill for tapas and wine for lunch or dinner had not been over 30 dollars. I told the waiter we only wanted appetizers. What we got was enough food for 6 people! We ordered what we thought was a small fish dish to share with a tapas sized portion of prawns. We got a HUGE, whole fish (charged by the gram), a lobster, 10 prawns, also charged by the gram, and a salad. The waiter also brought over 2 shot glasses of clear liquid, which he said was "free". The bill came and it was over 200 dollars! We got charged for everything which he said was free and suddenly he forgot how to speak English. We kept saying we didn't order certain items and he would shrug and walk away. Needless to say we were miffed and out a considerable amount of money for a dinner we didn't want. Lesson here: when the waiter gives you something you didn't order hand it back. Ask if it is free or do not accept it under any circumstances. When the waiter brings bread, ask if there is a charge for it, as they also will charge for items which are normally free in restaurants here.

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