Our top tourist scams. Just as well you took out travel insurance, right? You did take out travel insurance?
Moneychangers. These kindly travelling Bureau de Changes often approach you in railway stations or on the street promising to get you a better rate on currency exchange than those nasty banks will give you. It may sound like a good deal, but these shady dealers are skilled at sleight of hand when counting out money, palming some money with a flick of the wrist.
Now that most of Europe has a common currency, travel is easier than ever but it can make getting our heads around currency conversion even more difficult. If we go further afield, there are plenty of people willing to take advantage of our ignorance, and relieve us of our cash. Shortchanging is the most common scam,employed by shopkeepers, taxi drivers and even officials, and applied indiscriminately from backpackers to the filthy rich.
The friendly guide. Some of the best travel experiences involve meeting and spending time with the locals. You may be approached by someone offering to be your guide, but use your discretion before accepting. If your guide suggests a restaurant or taxi, be prepared to pay.
Taxi. Insist on using the meter - if there is one. If not, negotiate an agreed fare in advance. Tourist information centres will give you a guide to standardised taxi rates, which will prepare you for extra charges, eg Airport or baggage. Don't stand for any hidden extras beyond those.
Fake policemen. They may ask for your passport, or even tell you that you must pay a cash fine. A man standing near you will surrender his passport, and have it returned immediately. You may not be so lucky though. Ask to see ID, and study it carefully - it's very easy to fake a police badge, especially in a different country. If in doubt, shout for the police, if your policeman is a fake, he'll scarper pretty quickly.
And some that are unique to certain areas . . .
Paris Most people know the gold ring scam in Paris. Somebody will approach you asking, if you dropped a ring. When you say no, they will exclaim, "Well, it's your lucky day. I think it's gold, do you see the mark? I can't wear it, you should have it." Of course, if you take it, you will be expected to pay for it. And you'd better be prepared for a green finger as well.
Rome Italians are warm, effusive and some are extremely friendly. Some more than others. Many people have found themselves chatting to a man in a touristy area in Rome, who will then tie a friendship bracelet onto the wrist of their new good friend. Even friends don't come for free though.
Bangkok A network of touts and con men present you with an opportunity to profit from buying discount gems from a jewellery shop. You are told that you can buy gems at duty free price and bring them overseas for a three-fold or more profit. You return home, only to find the jewellery to be worth far less than you paid for it.
India You board a train and thank your lucky stars you've managed to bag an empty compartment. While waiting for your train to draw out of the station, someone on the platform taps at the window, beckoning you. You approach, only to see them run off. When you return to your seat, you find that your bags are gone.
Ecuador Perhaps the most fundamental of all the scams, the block is often employed in a busy market or street. You're walking along when the woman in front of you stops to re-adjust her grip on the child she's carrying. As you are forced to stop, a granny relieves you of your valuables. Watch out as well for the woman carrying a baby who brushes up against you. You think her arm his busy carrying the child, until another hand slips into your pocket - the carrying arm is fake, and so is the baby.