Many people assume that only older and less educated people fall into scams.

But according to a report in Channel News Asia, scammers cast a wide net and prey on those who respond. They would target specific weaknesses, such as fear of authority (for scams purporting that you have broken the law), or even loneliness (for ‘love scams’). In fact, 1 in 5 Malaysians has fallen for internet auction scams.

What this means to you and me is that – all of us could fall into a scam, any day.

It appears that victims are not ‘dumb’, they are really just, human. Scammers try to appeal to your human side – whether it is fear, pride, insecurity, or even compassion. Watch out for these travel scams during your next trip to Southeast Asia to ensure it remains a meaningful one!


1. The Cute Kid or Single Mother Scam

travel scams mother

The scammers know that you may be on your guard when it comes to money. So they request for food items instead. Sounds reasonable, right? An adorable or poorly-dressed child will approach you (sometimes, it’s a nursing mother carrying a baby) to ask for formula milk because they can’t afford it.

It’s difficult to resist, so victims usually follow the scammer to a local grocery store, pays a sum for the formula milk. After the victim has left, the scammer would return to the grocery store, splits the profit with the store owner, while the formula milk goes right back on the shelf. This is one of the oldest and most common scams in Cambodia.

Where:

  • Cambodia

How to avoid it:

  • Just say no, even though it may be difficult.
  • Be cautious around kids, single mothers and wary of requests to help a person buy something, whether it is milk or a grocery item.

What to do if you fall for it:

  • Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do unless you can immediately take the scammer to make a police report, where the police report can be factored into the loss of personal money in your travel insurance. It has been a scam that has been perpetuating for years and written about, yet about a dozen milk powder formula is bought for a single baby each night.

2. The Spill On Your Clothes Scam

travel scams spill clothes
Image Credit: Jony Ariadi | Unsplash

You’re on a busy street with huge crowds and suddenly, someone accidentally spills something on you or bumps into you. The tell-tale sign is the person who is dramatically apologetic and offers to clean up your mess almost instantly, without waiting for your permission. While messing with your clothing, this person either pickpocket you or acts to distract, while his/her accomplice pickpockets you from behind. You get so consumed by the situation and by the time you realise the crime, the scammer is long gone.

Where:

  • Busy attractions, huge crowds or bustling streets

How to avoid it:

  • This scam targets a distracted and unguarded tourist. So be extra careful when you’re on a busy street, bustling area, going past huge crowds where you have little control of the belongings on your body.
  • Always hang on to your valuables on a busy street, e.g. putting your hands in your pocket, and check on them often. Also, if someone did spill something on you, refuse to let the person clean up for you, go to the nearest restroom and clean the stain yourself while ensuring your belongings are still with you.

What to do if you fall for it:

  • Loss of personal money is commonly covered in most travel insurance, up to RM1,000 for some policies. Find out the coverage for your travel insurance policy.
  • However, most insurance companies require a police report to validate this loss of personal money, so the first thing you should do upon any theft is to report it to the nearest police station and get a hard copy of the written report.

3. The Border Scam

travel scams border

When crossing the border, many shops and travel agents will try to attract you by saying that making visa with them is cheaper and easier. This is not true because when you reach the official immigration control, you will find that the real rate is half the price the scammers were offering. There are also reports that even the official department could demand a higher price than you should be paying.

Where:

  • Thailand
  • Cambodia

How to avoid it:

  • Never fall for any “cheaper visa” prey and always go to the official department. If the officer demands a higher rate than you know (do your research in advance or look at the official documents around you) at the border, stand your ground and don’t budge.

What to do if you fall for it:

  • Because it is such a notorious scam, and corruption is rampant, prevention is the best thing. Scammers may also try to scam you into making unofficial health tests and quarantine – never believe them and stay focused on exiting the border.

4. The Motorbike Scam

travel scams motorbike
Image Credit: Georgia Ho

Bike owners will spoil your bike after you have paid for rental so that they can make you pay for it. Their modus operandi is typically like this: after you’ve rented the bike, the owner will follow you secretly until your bike is parked and unattended. The owner then proceeds to spoil the bike or ride it away to “steal” it, so that you’re forced to pay a huge sum for the bike replacement or repair.

Where:

  • Vietnam
  • Indonesia

How to avoid it:

  • Rent your bike from a reputable place. Test out the bike before paying for the rental so that you can identify any problems immediately.
  • Be cautious of your surroundings and get your own lock so that it won’t be easily stolen.

What to do if you fall for it:

  • Some travel insurance covers personal liability to the person insured also, so ensure you have proper documentation when renting so that it can be claimed later on through your insurance company.

5. The Currency Exchange Scam

travel scams currency exchange

Currency exchange companies typically hike up the exchange rate and yet claim to provide a cheaper exchange rate. They come in the form of a random establishment/kiosk, or an individual standing near a closed exchanged money kiosk. The scam may come in the form of an unreasonably high exchange rate or even a transaction with counterfeit money.

Where:

  • Indonesia
  • Vietnam

How to avoid it:

  • Don’t exchange money with an individual on the street, or even a seemingly professional but dodgy looking establishment. There are also people standing freely near a closed money exchange kiosk, and they would tell you they can also change money for you. Don’t ever trust them, because you don’t even know if the money is genuine.
  • It’s better to change money via ATM which doesn’t have any charge at all if it’s the same bank e.g. Maybank Card from Malaysia used in Indonesia. A lot of people are not aware of this. Even if you’re using a different bank, the service charge is as low as RM12 and the exchange rate is as per market rate.

What to do if you fall for it:

  • Always insist on a receipt, and with the receipt, make a police report along with the counterfeit money. Take photos of the establishment as part of your evidence.

Travel Smart When You’re Overseas

When you’re travelling around Asia or around the world, the most important thing to take note of is your safety. These common scams can be avoided, but if you do fall for a scam, don’t panic. Take stock of what you have left and make sure you will still be able to survive for the rest of the trip. Failing that, look to the nearest embassy for help.

Read More: bin(بن) Or No bin In Your Name + 7 Lesser Known Travel Hacks

*This article is contributed by Loanstreet, a credit card and personal loan comparison tool, among many others. Visit their website for more tips and tricks on personal finance.

*Keep a lookout for HotelQuickly vouchers and CheapOair promo codes when you book your trip.