Throughout our travels we have witnessed and become targets of various travel scams. While we were able to avoid (or at least mitigate the damage of) those scams, many fall victim to them everyday. Below we talk about the scams we've encountered, where to expect them, and how to avoid them.
3.) The Dirty Cop - Mexico
You've rented a car in Mexico and are driving it back to the airport. Suddenly, while approaching your exit for the airport, a police officer pulls you over. You're sure you weren't speeding, but he shows you a radar gun that reads otherwise. He takes your license and tells you that you can't have it back until you've paid your ticket, which he tries to get you to pay then and there without appearing in traffic court of any kind. He tells you the court isn't open until tomorrow and seems surprised when you tell him you're on the way to the airport to fly home. After walking around your car to peek through windows and see what valuables you have, he asks "what do you want to do about it?" and waits for you to offer to pay him whatever cash you have in your wallet.
Sure enough, we were pulled over by a cop on a motorcycle just yards from the highway exit to the airport. These guys are experts at profiling tourists in a rental car. We knew for a fact we weren't speeding because I, already knowing about the scam, had been calling out all of the changing speed limits as we drove past. The cop insisted we were speeding and showed us a radar gun with a bogus speed on it. The cop then took Brent's license and told him he couldn't get it back until he paid the $300 ticket at the police station when it opened the next day. When we let him know we were headed to the airport he asked what we wanted to do about it. Being prepared, we told him he could keep our license, mail us the ticket, and we'd come back to pay it (knowing that it is our passports, not license, that get us back into the U.S. and he sure as hell wasn't going to take those from us). He tried to push us to offer him money, even telling us he would "discount" the amount of the ticket to $180. When we told him we didn't have that much money he asked how much we had. Brent pulled out a $10 and the cop took it, throwing Brent's I.D back into the car. We then asked if he knew of a place where we could get gas that took credit cards, as said that was our last $10. When he heard that, he tossed the bill back into the car, told us where the nearest gas station was, and let us go.
Best way to avoid this scam: Avoid renting a car in Mexico. Take a shuttle or taxi to your hotel instead. If you do choose to rent a car in Mexico, be aware of this scam and its popularity. It might just happen to you, so don't let yourself be shaken down by the dirty cops.
These are just a number of scams we've seen first hand while traveling internationally. There are a number of others out there that travelers need to be aware of. For instance, while it hasn't ever happened to us, we're always vigilant of pick-pocketing and take measures to reduce the risk. Always be aware of your surroundings when traveling to a foreign country and avoid distractions that may be a set up for a pick-pocket scheme. Carry your money and valuables wisely.
Of course, our number one tip for avoiding travel scams is doing your research. Before you travel, look up popular scams in the city you're going to. Knowledge is power!
Have you ever fallen prey to a travel scam or narrowly avoided becoming victim to one? Drop us your story in the comments below!
And as always, before you plan a big trip, consult your Journey Genies! We'll get you set up and prepared for your vacation so you can enjoy, and be smart about, your travel!