Know the Common Scams in Each Country

One thing that can take your trip from epic awesomeness to complete misery is getting scammed. It can happen to anyone, but it is good to know what the common scams are in the country you plan to visit. This can help you take precautions to avoid these potential traps and better enjoy your stay. Here are some examples from the simple search of “Scams in [country of your choice].”


© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

We both love going to Japan and feel it is a very safe country to visit. The first hit on Google mentions something called the “Drop and Swap.” Shopkeepers, waiters, or taxi drivers will “accidentally” drop your change, and instead of giving you back the change they dropped, they give you similar-looking coins of less value. Counting out change, yourself, will help prevent you from losing money in this situation. This one is common in many Asian countries and is comparatively petty.

Another common scam in Asian countries is the fake monk scam. Scammers pose in robes and harass tourists for money, forcing charm bracelets and demanding payment, or even claiming that the visitor will be cursed if money is not forthcoming. Real monks legitimately stand on the streets to collect donations, but they never approach travelers; they rely solely on willing offers.


Photo by Dennis Jarvis (Creative Commons), you can find him here: flickr

There are many attractions to Peru, but unfortunately, you may be an attraction to scammers during your trip. Here, something called “The Splatter” can take place. A person will intentionally splatter you with ketchup, water, or something else to distract you while another person comes in to help you clean it up.  They mop up the mess and secretly mop up your valuables. Your watch, cellphone, wallet, and any jewelry could disappear in an instant. If this happens, just walk away quickly and clean up the mess yourself.


We found there are several scams that can really happen just about anywhere you go. Here are some of the most common:

  • Someone Offers Unsolicited Help – A stranger offers you help when you are not looking for it, then proceeds to give you something you don’t need while demanding a tip or fee for it. It could be as simple as taking a picture for you, or claiming a place is closed and taking you to a similar place that is open to get a finders fee from that shop.
    • In this case we would just ignore the person and keep walking. We are used to city living and are good at ignoring people trying to offer us something. 
  • Pickpockets – A pretty common problem in many tourist areas is pick-pocketing. Usually you get distracted by one person while someone else is taking your items. An example would be getting bumped into, while someone else slashes your bag open to take things.
    • Don’t carry expensive valuables with you or look like you are really well off. Since we a photography and video couple, we will try to minimize our gear. We will also try to blend in with the country so we do not look like American tourists whenever possible.
  • Muggings or Robbery – Many places have travel advisories saying not to go out at night and this is a good reason not to. It is a prime time to get mugged or assaulted for your belongings or even kidnapped for a ransom.
    • Keep a fake wallet with some used gift-card type credit cards and a little cash in your pocket. Then you can keep the bulk of your funds, passport copy, credit cards in a money belt. The robbers will think they got something out of you and will move on. Socks can also be a storage for some backup funds or identification. Avoid traveling at night or in dark empty places. If you do, travel in a larger group and stick to well traveled streets.
© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

Our experience in Japan

While we were in Japan, my most uncomfortable situation was when a Japanese person with fluent American English came up to me and asked me if I wanted to meet with a woman that night. He seemed very well dressed and professional, so I heard him out as he started the conversation off casually and then switched to business.

I obviously wasn’t interested, the deal sure sounded shady, and Brianna was just around the corner taking pictures, so I just said no thanks and walked away. Who knows what would have happened if I were some lonely single guy who thought this was a good idea? It could have led to a mugging or an otherwise illegal encounter that could potentially put me in prison.

It is worth noting that this occurred in a heavily touristy area, near bars in the city at night. Almost our entire time there, we felt very safe.

Scammers can fool you instantly and gain your trust. They appear more familiar – more like you in a situation where everything else is foreign. They can then trick you or distract you to steal your belongings without your knowledge. It is better to take precautions so you don’t get burned.

What experiences or advice do you have? Let us know in the comments section.

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