Confession Time: Which Travel Scam have YOU Fallen For?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by DestinationDavid, Jun 29, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Having just finished a loop through Sri Lanka (which is an amazing destination, btw), I started thinking about common travel scams. As MPers and travel fans, it's probably rare that any of us fall for these tricks, but I'm sure it happens. I consider myself to be a very cautious traveler and take a lot of steps to educate myself on my destination and things to watch out for, but even I have had a few close calls.

    The one I actually ended up falling for?

    The "tea ceremony/tasting" in China. I had even read about this scam and made a mental note before landing that I should watch out for this. On my trip out to see the Great Wall, my driver made a sudden stop to "use the bathroom". He invited me to come in and sit down since it might be a few minutes. Not thinking much of it, I sat down and a nice woman came by after a minute and offered me a cup of tea. I said thanks and figured even if there was a charge it wouldn't be too costly. Before I knew it two other people had appeared and an elaborate ceremony/testing was going on. I smoldered the entire time and ended up laughing to myself. Fully aware of the scam and on the look out for it, there I was sitting in the middle of it.

    China 1, Me 0. :)

    So, what's your story? What did you fall for and kick yourself later for?
     
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  2. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Well, thanks for taking one for the team. I had never heard of that scam (haven't been to China proper, just Hong Kong and Taiwan), so I googled for details and came across this report and video.

    http://www.roadjunky.com/article/1537/the-chinese-tea-ceremony-scam

    Hopefully I am prepared now :)
     
  3. BurBunny
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    My one and only also occurred in China, and it was also one I knew about in advance. I had toured the Forbidden City on my own, and as I was recovering from pneumonia, by the time I exited, I was absolutely exhausted. While my hotel wasn't far away, I was relieved when a "taxi driver" came up and offered a pedi taxi. Yup, you guessed it. He took me through some traditional neighborhoods and in the middle asked for payment, not in Yuan as quoted but the same amount in Dollars.

    However, I refused to to be cowed, told him NO, that I would pay in Yuan, and he will take me to my hotel NOW. Surprisingly, he did - I think he was honestly astonished that this blonde American woman would stand up to him. Had he not agreed, I'd have gotten out, paid what I owed in Yuan and walked - it wasn't that far and having sat for a little bit was refreshed enough to go on, fortunately.

    Silly mistake, made because I let myself get too tired. I do laugh about it now.
     
  4. TRAVELSIG
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    22 years ago in Athens- the taxi driver "let me take you to a restaurant where my friend is the owner in Piraeus)" scam- dinner was good but the price was ~$200 USD- and it wasn't an upscale restaurant. Ripped Off bigtime. Called the police who of course were good friends with the restaurant owner. Finally settled on $100 cash as I told them I wasn't going to give up too easily. Looking back on it, I am lucky they didn't just take my wallet as they were pretty close to straight-up thieves. Naive and young= unwarranted hubris.
     
  5. goodandclassy
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    goodandclassy Silver Member

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    Great stories!

    I was in Beijing on a work trip, and one of the days I had to charter a trip to the Great Wall. No problem, and per my reserch, I insisted form the tour agency the driver just take the groups (two trips over two days) directly to the hotel form the wall.

    Not so much. First group apparently sotpped by a jade shop and bought some stuff there.

    We (second group) visited the olympic stadium and gave in to our guide's offers to get us tea. We did not pay for the ceremony (it was a big group, hehe) but they sure sold us some overpriced tea! Guide was happy as a kid on Christmas after that :D But, we got some souvenirs out of it. I would have preferred the tea to the jade anyway :)

    Another 'scam' was in PVR.. The packaged tour came with a free activity - a day tour of PVR. We bussed around and ooh-ed and ahh-ed the vairous sights of the neat village. As lunchtime approached, though, we went south past the city to explore the jungle, before the tequila factory tour. Lunch, oddly enough, was in neither the city nor the tequila-maker. It was in the middle of nowhere, off a dirt road. Prices were reasonable so not a scam per se, just more of a feed thy friend kind of setup...

    I did successfully avert a kid in madrid trying to pickpocket me while showing soccer tricks :D

    Good times.
     
  6. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    I signed up for a timeshare in the Bahamas, does that count? :)

    Actually it was Harborside, which netted me SPG status, so that's not too bad. Still, every time I see the vacation property people trolling around hotel lobbies in Vegas and the like I make a note to stay away.
     
  7. sparxe
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    I almost fell for this scam, so I will share it.

    The medina in Fes, Morocco is incredibly confusing and it's difficult to find your way around with thousands of narrow pedestrian "streets" winding everywhere. Because of that, it's common for tourists to hire personal guides for a day's tour to see the major sights. Fes has official guides licensed by the city.

    The scam: On the train to Fes, someone who speaks wonderful English will explain that they have a relative in the government, usually in tourism. They will often have lived in NYC or somewhere else where you are from, to build the rapport. They will tell you that most "official guides" hired by your riad (Moroccan B&B) just take you to expensive stores that give a kickback to the riad. They offer to show you around Fes instead, and of course take you places that are overly expensive. However, because of the winding narrow streets, it is also possible for your new "guide" to walk you to a deserted area, pull out a weapon and rob you of everything. Our riad owner told us of this happening.

    Anyway, I was vaguely familiar with this scam, as I had read about it months before while planning the trip. However, in our train compartment was a nice man and his son. The son was visiting his family from Europe and had previously lived in NYC and spoke great English. His girlfriend was also in town and wanted to go to the shops to buy some leather goods. He asked if we would we like to join them for a drink later or meet up the next day to head to the stores and we decided on a meeting point for the next day. Our riad manager is the one who told us it was definitely a scam, and looking back I'm convinced it was. It's the different story that threw me off. We skipped the meeting and hired an official guide and were extremely happy.
     
  8. Clocktower
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    Clocktower Silver Member

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    Changing currency at the airport! :p

    A good friend of mine was offered a shoeshine by a little boy while walking through an alley in Mexico. He was wearing a ratty old pair of East German officer's boots (which aren't even real leather) that wouldn't even take a shine. After he refused the second time a group of the little boy's 'older brothers' stormed into the alley.

    He got his boots shined, and bought some Chicklets. :D
     
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  9. gobluetwo
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    Back in college, the very expensive free cruise.

    In Prague, the cab driver who claimed to take credit card and AmEx, in particular, but then suddenly forgot how to speak English once we go to the airport and insisted on cash. Of course, I ended up overpaying him, as he was holding my bag hostage in the trunk.
     
  10. viguera
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    Ah... almost forgot that. I just got a postcard in the mail actually saying that I got a complimentary cruise from Carnival. I have no idea whether it's a scam or not, but considering how I didn't sign up for anything and it looks too good to be true, chances are it is. :)
     
  11. there are tons of travel scams going around. For future reference, Apple released an iPhone app a few days ago called Scam Detector. The app exposes in detail over 350 of the most notorious scams in the world. Lots of them are travel scams - It might be worth checking it out, if you have an iPhone. The app it's kinda cool, actually
     
  12. cliburn
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    I made the mistake of taking a taxi from FCO into the city that was not metered.....
     
  13. goodandclassy
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    goodandclassy Silver Member

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    how much did THAT run you?
     
  14. TRAVELSIG
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    Wow. That is terrible.
     
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  15. tommy777
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    My first trip to Venice (in the winter). Did little or no research back then (in my early 20s). After parking, I got approached by a water taxi dude and did not agree on a price for a ride to Piazza San Marco. Boy, did I get ripped off...
     
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  16. Jaimito Cartero
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    Jaimito Cartero Silver Member

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    Most of my scams involve taxi drivers. Most are what I would call low level scams.

    The most recent, wanting to get out of the Grand Hyatt Bali, we asked a Blue Bird taxi for a local Balinese place, close by, that wasn't expensive. Instead we get taken a bit further, the taxi driver pockets a finders fee when entering the Jimbaran beachfront restaurant row.

    The restaurant wants to hustle us in, give us a welcome drink, everything. No prices out front like most restaurants have in Indonesia. I don't take anything. Ask for a menu, and they finally bring one. Prices are 3-4x more than a normal local restaurant, and 50-100% higher even than the Hyatt.

    We say no, and start walking out. They try for a save, and offer "Discount, discount, sir"! I hate these type of scams, so just keep walking.

    Over the years I've been hit three times by pickpocket(s). A team of three in the subway of EZE. What they got: A map. Caught the second member with her hand going into my shirt pocket. Interlaced my finger, applied pressure. A 7-8 year old in Bucharest: Nothing. In Quito: Nothing, turned around just as the guys hand was going into my pocket.

    Had lots of other scams attempted. "Special" poker games. Gems at give away prices. Anything when offered something, with no price being quoted.
     
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  17. worldtraveller2
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    the group I was with in China insisted on sitting in on the tea scam! I didn't buy a thing, but they did!
     
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  18. worldtraveller2
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    worldtraveller2 Silver Member

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    We did have some type of gypsies surrounding me, my husband and two kids in Seville, they came at us with these wheatgrass looking leaves dancing and we all backed up into a circle into each other, then took of running, we think they were just trying to pick pocke us.
     
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  19. TRAVELSIG
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    Given that the official prices for water taxis are somewhat close to the GNP of many nations, you don't even need to get "ripped off" to end up requiring a second and third mortgage on you rhouse with the water taxi. It is borderline scandulous.
     
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  20. Jaimito Cartero
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    The kid I saw (and had seen on my previous trip), just comes and begs for coins. He kept asking for "1 Euro, 1 Euro, 1 Euro" about a thousand times, and kept following me, and had invaded my personal space. I look down and see his hand is in my pants pocket. He was afraid for a little bit, as I grabbed him, but then laughed and joked as soon as I let him go.

    My daughter had a bunch of 12-14 year olds surround her. She though they were trying to be friendly with her, but I told her to get away. Luckily, I usually do research before going somewhere, and knew about a lot of the pick pocketing that goes on, and didn't have anything easily stolen from my pockets.

    I could write a book about scams and ripoffs while traveling. :)

    Some of my other "favorites":

    Gunk thrown on your shoes in Sao Paulo.
    "Sorry, sir, that temple/restaurant is closed. I have better place". Bangkok taxi driver
    Super rip off taxi driver in Buenos Aires. Meter runs 2x fast. Then tries to claim cash was wrong denomination.
    Moneychangers with calculators that shortchange you, or ones that charge big commissions, and don't tell you in advance.
     
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  21. kwai
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    kwai Gold Member

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    I've had the 2x taxi meter in Bangkok recently. Paid him what the fare should be, it's a typical route for me, and he never said a word, just drove away.

    Last year in Xian the sun was going down and I stashed my camera into my camera backpack. We were in the Muslim quarter and wanted to get some more food before heading back to the hotel. When my backpack started to feel light I was confused and turned around slightly. There was this skinny kid next to me, right next to me, a guy on a bicycle contraption next to him and the remainder of the street deserted.

    I knew immediately something was up, but also knew I hadn't lost anything yet because the weight was still proper. I pushed the kid who tripped over the bicycle and landed face first into the lower metal edge of a van door. The bicycle took off. The kid got up, covering his bloody face and ran away.

    The backpack had been unzipped about 2/3 and the only thing keeping the camera in was the combination of a medium length lens, the attached sun shade and weight above pushing down onto it. We bought some bread from the vendor right there and the vendor, himself a kid, who had seen everything, just smiled and happily sold us some incredible bread. We then high tailed it out of the quarter before bloody face came back with friends.

    Later that night, as we were laughing about it, I blamed my newly minted fiance for the whole fiasco. On a previous loop through the quarter I had stopped at the same vendor and wanted to buy two pieces of bread. She said 'no, I don't want any' and so i only purchased one. After she tasted it, and it was incredible, she ate most of it, so we had to go back and get more and that's when the event happened.

    And I'm not joking, that bread was worth it!!!
     
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  22. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Welcome to MP
     
  23. ShopAround
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    Someone tried the ring scam on me in Paris last year. I just laughed and walked away. :rolleyes:
     
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  24. mynameismud
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    someone also tried this one on me, but she probably did not notice i am a local...i did not even pay attention to her and just walked by
     
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  25. mynameismud
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    mynameismud Gold Member

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    i did not sign for a timeshare but when i went to SXM i lost 2 or 3 hours...waiting for my lottery prize :confused:
     

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