Whether you know it or not, you’ve contributed to underworlds in one way or another. It’s almost impossible to live in modern society without doing so, regardless of how innocuous it may seem. The underworld. It’s a vast and integral part of humankind and therefore each country’s culture.-John Cain
By definition the police are the opposite of criminals but the line is thin and crossed frequently, everyone knows this. While most people will never have to deal with a corrupt cop, it’s more likely a traveler will deal with them while abroad than be attacked by an
“aggressor” (see below).
Police in developing countries with high tourism commonly pull a “passport visa trap”. They would demand random tourists on the street to look at their passport then illegally fine them cash on the spot saying their visa is invalid or something in that nature. This is a clever scam that works because it seems logical to a foreigner in a strange land.
Similarly but more maliciously, a cop would work (unofficially) undercover as a drug dealer or even work with a real one and seek out tourists to sell to. After finalizing the deal, the cop would then “arrest” the tourist and offer an ultimatum of going to jail or bribing him (with no intention of actually making an arrest). Alternately, the cop would be nearby and bust the deal and offer the same ultimatum to the tourist but then split the profits with the drug dealer.
PRO TIP : If you do fall victim to a corrupt authority, it’s best to go along with it if you’re not too street savvy. Otherwise, be vigilant and clever but never disrespectful or antagonistic because they still are the law and you the foreigner.
The most likely type of criminal you’ll encounter while traveling abroad. Pickpockets, snatchers, rummagers and rarely the muggers. These are usually crimes of opportunity and end before the traveler even knows what happened. These petty crimes are also the most common throughout the world but a Western tourist in typically non-Western cities are automatically labeled “rich” and therefore clear targets.
Confrontational muggings are extremely rare compared to; razor cutting the bottom of your backpack and taking what comes out in a crowded public area, grab and runs of your luggage or other gear, hotel room theft by staff and crawling under your seat to rummage through your gear during bus / train rides.
PRO TIP : Carry a “decoy wallet” to give to an unavoidable mugging. Also, hide any excess cash or valuables you may have rolled up in dirty laundry or socks to deter thieves from taking for when they look through your backpack.
Licensed taxi professionals, freelance (random person with a vehicle) and tour operators. They’re in a unique position to scam tourists on a small but persistent scale because if you’re needing their services, then you NEED their services and sometimes there may not be another ride.
The most obvious and common scam is for the driver to overcharge, overdrive or over quote. Others will collaborate with an “attraction” and try to convince you to go there so they can earn a commission – doesn’t sound so bad but it’s almost always actually a sort of gift shop where you’ll be pressured to buy crap, either way the driver gets paid.
In a worst-case scenario, a driver will take you to their predetermined “jump spot” where a team will be waiting for you to rob you.
PRO TIP : If a taxi has a meter, ask them to turn it on otherwise you’ll get jacked up prices – classic tourist cab scam. Always set a price if no meter is present before departing and ALWAYS haggle the quote the driver gives you.
This term is typically used to describe street level drug dealers but I’m referring to anyone who sells illegal, counterfeit and legal goods and services. This can be anyone from a prostitute to a shady shop owner. Most people can spot “pushers” in their own city a mile away but you may not even see them coming until it’s too late as a traveler in a foreign land.
There are too many types of sales street scams to list but here are a few that actually seem to work on many people; rugs in Istanbul, gems in Bangkok, Rolex watches in New York, visa runners in Laos and universally the currency confusion / exchange tricks.
PRO TIP : In just about all instances, the pusher’s deals seem too good to be true, ironically by design but it works on tourists all the time, don’t be the fool.
Although crimes against tourists other than for the purposes of monetary gain is rare, it does occur because the human nature of people wanting to hurt other people just for the sake or enjoyment of it is universal. Brawlers, rapists, racists and terrorists differ from all the other criminals on this list because they don’t do it for the money.
An exception are kidnappers where the primary motive is monetary gain, of which is even more rare.
PRO TIP : Common sense and situational awareness will get you far but not everything is avoidable. If in doubt, run, it’s always better to evade than to battle in a land not your own.
Children, not teenagers but preteens and even younger. Some poorer parts of the world are messed up places with desperate families that train their kids to beg, scam or steal from tourists. In some ways children are potentially the most dangerous criminals as they’re unsuspecting and any sort of physical defense against them will in fact make you the criminal.
Skilled pickpockets no older than the age of 10 ghost the tourist busy streets of many cities around the world. But the worst are organized gangs of children using violence and numbers to rob tourists.
PRO TIP : Children are underestimated for obvious reasons, never do this when you’re in a bad or poor neighborhood.