More and more adventure travelers are discovering Namibia, a nation in southwest Africa that offers deserts, beaches, safaris, and hikes. Unfortunately this rise in tourism has led to a rise in tourist scams. Namibia’s Mines and Energy Minister, Isak Katali, has warned miners to stop selling fake gems and minerals to tourists. Mining is big in the country, and many miners are independent prospectors who scratch out a difficult and hazardous living from the rock.
One way to make extra money is to sell their finds to tourists. This has proved too tempting for some, and they’re using their specialized knowledge, and the average tourist’s cluelessness, to fob off colored glass as precious stone. While most miners are honest, buying minerals and gems in Namibia has become a tricky game. Mr. Katali says this has already hurt tourism and the country’s reputation.
Namibia is certainly not the only country where cheap imitations are fobbed off to unsuspecting visitors. People will fake pretty much anything if they think it will sell. When visiting the ancient oasis city of Palmyra in Syria, I was offered a “genuine Roman coin” made of aluminum! Back in 2008, Italian police broke up a gang selling fake Ferraris.
Have you ever bought something overseas only to discover later it was a fake? Share your tale of woe in the comments section!
[Image courtesy Arpingstone]
Let’s start with the lesson first: if you’re going to Paris, take out all the cash you need at home. There’s a new scam at work … using the oldest trick in the book.
Think about the last time you went to a gentlemen’s club. As breasts went bare, men parted with their money. It’s utterly predictable. Now, assume you have two girls who can’t dance – and aren’t old enough to become strippers. How could they employ this technique for financial gain?
Two 14-year-olds in Paris figured out a way.
In the Sixth Arrondissement, the duo set out to distract ATM users and swipe their cash. After waving a newspaper at one person, according to a Reuters report, one of the criminal masterminds “allegedly opened her shirt and grabbed his [the user’s] genital area, while her accomplice took the 300 euros (about $385) that the machine spit out.”
And this isn’t the first time they used the technique. They did the same thing to lift 500 euros from a female ATM user. Taking the scam to a new low, however, they enlisted the help of an even younger accomplice.
While USA Today offers a handful of tips for avoiding ATM-related theft in Europe, here’s a good one: keep your eyes off the jailbait.
[photo by jonklinger via Flickr]
Touts, hawkers and scam artists are a persistent nuisance in countries from Morocco to Vietnam, yet many a novice (and seasoned!) traveler believes that to remain open to local cultures, they must be polite and friendly to a pushy people who just want money.
In my experience, the best bet is to completely ignore anyone trying to sell you something if you did not start the business transaction yourself. Do not make eye contact or even say “no thank you.” If you do business in common markets, the things you want to buy will initiate plenty of genuine, local contact as it is.
[Photo: Flickr | mckaysavage]
In certain countries a popular scam in tourist areas involves a lost wallet. It works like this:
- A stranger picks up a wallet in front of you.
- He offers you half the cash inside.
- If you accept, he disappears and his larger, angrier accomplice appears, demanding the full amount that was in the wallet.
In short: When traveling abroad, if something seems too good to be true, assume it is. Especially if it involves free money.
The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission has uncovered a massive scam/scheme in which 1.8 million riders were overcharged.
The scheme netted 36,000 drivers an extra $8.3 million in cab fares, charging passengers about $5 too much for each ride.
The overcharging wasn’t even that hard for them to pull off – the cabbies would simply change their meter to a higher per-mile fare, reserved for rides in the Nassau and Westchester area.
When activated, the meter would show the new fare code, but I doubt anyone sitting in the back would actually notice. Sadly for the cabbies, the taxi commission did notice – and thanks to recording equipment and GPS tracking, they have been able to determine exactly which drivers were involved.
One driver – Wasim Khalid Cheema overcharged his passengers 574 times in one month, and has now lost his taxi license.
Of course, the cabbies are fighting back, claiming it could all just be one big misunderstanding. According to Bhairavi Desai of the Taxi Workers Alliance, the meters are to blame. Other cabbies join her – mentioning how easy it is to press the wrong button, complaining how small the buttons are on the meter.
Soon, New York taxi’s will be outfitted with updated fare warning systems, which will alert riders to the higher fare, and make them acknowledge the fare change on the rear displays mounted in New York Taxi cabs.