It’s not that anyone wants to assume the worst in anyone, but the truth is that there are a lot of scams out there that prey on the naive and optimistic nature of tourists having fun. Here are some to avoid.
The broken taxi meter is a common tactic in many cities. The cab driver will claim that the meter is broken and then try to charge you tons of money once you arrive. Instead of taking the cab without the meter running, ask to negotiate a set rate ahead of time and if you can’t agree on a rate get out of the cab and catch a new one. This is common around airports where many tourists have a ways to go.
Another thing that cab drivers will try to do to extend their trips is to tell you that a hotel or attraction is closed and offer to take you to a different one. It sounds helpful but it is usually lie, so call ahead and tell the taxi driver that you have a reservation even if you don’t. You can also try to arrange for a shuttle straight to the hotel instead of trying to take a cab at all.
Don’t let anyone give you anything for free. One version of this is the sprig of rosemary in some countries, where someone will tie it onto your wrist and then demand money for it. Firmly say no before they can give you anything at all.
If anyone spills on your clothing do not let them wipe it off. This is often used as a diversion tactic to pickpocket you and is don very intentionally. If someone spills anything on you quickly excuse yourself to cleanup without accepting any help.
Another pretty elaborate scam is that sometimes people will dress up as fake police officers. If anyone asks you for your passport on the street, either tell them that your passport is liked in the safe at your hotel and they will need to escort you there, or ask to see their ID and call the police station to confirm that they are who they say they are. Sounds paranoid, but it’s better than getting your passport stolen on foreign soil.
Look out for people who are trying to be helpful helpers, especially when money is involved. It’s hard to spot liars but many people in poor countries scam for a living and have no shame about doing it. If anyone approaches you at an ATM machine do not talk to them or let them see what you’re doing, they are trying to find out your pin number. People even do this helpful routine at subway ticket machines, not to steal money but to request it following their “helpful” services.
Many beggars use women and children as fronts to try and make money since it’s harder to say no to a hungry child than a hunger adult. Don’t fall for it, ever. If you feel the genuine need to help someone out, buy them food or clothing instead so that you know what the money is actually being used for and that it’s going to the people you think it is.