Thursday, December 22, 2011

EARLY WARNING - Travellers Beware

EARLY WARNING – Travellers Beware

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting – December 2011

It’s holiday time again and sadly the scamsters are always devising ways of parting you from your hard earned cash or belongings.

Here are some tips that I found on the internet, to keep you safe:

“While we have pinpointed the countries where these crimes seem to pop up most frequently, any one of them could happen just about anywhere.

1. Fool’s Gold: France
If you’re walking the streets of Paris and someone appears to have found a gold ring at your feet, congratulate them and keep on walking. The ring is a plant and the person who pretends to have found it will use just about any sob story to get you to buy it off them.

2. Monkey Business: Bali, Indonesia
Proving that thieves don’t always come in human form, the monkeys at Bali’s Uluwatu Temple are notorious for swiping from tourists everything from sunglasses to cameras and then running off into nearby bushes. Seconds later, their conniving trainer, dressed as a temple official, appears to report that if given a few rapiah to buy bananas, he can coerce the monkeys into giving back the booty.

3. Automatic Theft Machine: Trinidad and Tobago
Using x-ray film, thieves in Trinidad construct a pocket that slips into the card slot of an ATM, holding it hostage. A helpful and observant bystander then miraculously appears to suggest that typing in a PIN backwards will release the card. Unfortunately, when the bystander later retrieves the pocket, the victim’s money will be released as well.

4. Postcards from the Edge: Italy
Kids outside the Stazione Termini have been known to thrust pen and postcard into the hands of tourists and ask for help writing a letter “home”. Then they dictate a story of poverty and hunger so disturbing that said tourist is often guilted into handing over some cash.

5. At Your Service: United States of America
The bottom line with this scam is that room service charges should always go on the credit card the hotel already has on file. If the waiter or waitress who delivers your food demands cash or a card, the egg on your plate is soon going to end up on your face.
6. A Crappy thing to Do: Argentina
Should someone on the streets of Buenos Aries try to wipe non-existent bird droppings from the back of your shirt, chances are that’s not all they’re wiping off you. Teams working in pairs use this technique to rob distracted and disgusted victims. An even messier French version of this trick includes real mustard.

7. Customer Surprise: Bali
Another in the seemingly endless array of ATM scams, this one involves a false “Customer Service” phone number posted on a card-swallowing machine. When the victim calls it, he or she is asked for the card’s PIN number, hotel and contact information, and assured the card will be returned soon after.

8. The Exchange Game: Zimbabwe
Street scammers here offer tourists incredible exchange rates provided that the transaction takes place in a secluded café. At the café, the money is counted out on top of the table, but rolled up into a rubber band under it; the explanation being that police may be watching. Needless to say, the tourists later discover a large discrepancy between the amount counted and the amount given.

9. Front Desk Phonies: United States of America
In this simple but highly destructive scam, sleepy unsuspecting hotel guests are awakened by a very early morning or very late night call from the front desk asking for credit card information. It’s not until much later when they realize that ‘front desk’ was actually a front for something else.

10. Funny Money: China
Although efforts are being made to solve this problem, the Chinese money supply has a significant amount of fake currency in circulation with much of it ending up in the hands of clueless tourists. Short of carrying around a counterfeit detector, the best way to avoid this is to refuse 50’s or 100’s altogether, or accept them only from banks.”

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a pleasant holiday – take care, travel safely and I will ‘see’ you all in the New Year.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or