No matter which country you decide to travel to next, there is a good chance that there will be criminals lurking around. No country in the world is 100% crime-free; that being said, it is still essential to be aware and super careful when you are travelling abroad.
More often than not, criminals spot tourists easily and target them for petty crimes. Theft is the most common kind of crime you can face, but you might also find yourself getting duped by someone who seems like a perfectly trustworthy person.
Before the criminals can spot you, you must learn how to spot them. By doing so, you can save yourself from crime and even protect those around you.
Here are a few things you should know about spotting criminals while travelling abroad:
1. Overly Helpful Locals
When you are in a foreign country, it is not uncommon to sometimes feel ‘lost’ and need help. Whether this is to find a location, translate a word or phrase, or even dealing with the foreign currency. It is always great to find helpful locals who are willing to guide you with this.
However, when you notice someone being overly helpful, it should raise a little suspicion in you. You will find some people standing too close to you when you are withdrawing money from an ATM. They might be trying to memorize your PIN, or merely thinking of grabbing the cash and fleeing.
You might also come across locals who ‘warn you’ against pickpockets in the area. In many countries, this is just a distraction trick, which is used to disarm you and then later pickpocket you.
How can you avoid this? : Avoid taking unsolicited advice from strangers. If someone comes up and tries to warn you about local pickpockets, it is best not to engage in any further conversation with them. They might be a part of the same gang.
If you need help with the ATM or with understanding the currency, it is best to ask help from an official rather than a stranger on the road.
2. Making Instant Friends and Going out for Drinks
Part of the experience of travelling abroad is making friends with locals. This can be a great experience. However, many will use your innocence to rob you of your money.
It is common for certain people to strike up a conversation with you out of the blue and then offer to take you to a ‘highly recommended’ bar, pub or even a restaurant. They might offer to buy you a drink (which they can spike) or might buy drinks on your tab.
Either way, it is an easy way to dupe a tourist of their money. In some countries, even children are trained to be part of the play. While it is entirely normal and quite an exciting experience to make new friends with locals, there are a few signs to look out for and be safe as well.
How can you avoid this? : In case you do strike up a friendship with someone while travelling abroad, it is best not to visit bars and pubs with them without knowing a little more about them first.
In case you do decide to go to a restaurant or a pub, pick one of your choices after researching about it. Find out the prices of the drinks and menu beforehand, so that you are not surprised with a hefty bill after the entire thing is over.
Another very obvious thing to look out for is not to accept drinks, food or even cigarettes from strangers. These may contain certain drugs that are meant to knock you out and then steal all of your belongings and money.
3. Dropped Money or Valuables
This is quite a common trick played by criminals and scammers all around the world. Unfortunately, many tourists still fall prey to this trick and get scammed or even robbed.
In this case, you might come across someone on the road which points to either some money lying on the floor near you or a gold ring, asking if it is yours. If you engage with them in conversation, they might either try to ‘sell you’ the gold ring or offer to split the ‘found money’ in half with you.
Once you walk away with the split money, the ‘rightful owner’ of the money will come and demand either cashback from you, which you will inevitably have to pay from your pocket.
There are many variations to this trick, and more often than not, unsuspecting tourists fall prey to this scam and end up getting robbed.
How can you avoid this? : In case you do happen to see money or valuables do not pick it up. Walk away from the scene. If someone comes up to you claiming you have ‘dropped your money,’ do not engage with them. If you even try and take out your wallet to check if it is your money or not, they might snatch your wallet and make a run for it. It is best to avoid interacting altogether. If you can, then report the cash or valuables to any police or authorities you see around you.
4. Asking for Directions
Another tourist just like you comes up to you and asks you for help reading the directions. You are distracted for only a few seconds, and before you know it, your wallet, passport, or bag is missing. This is another common way of criminals to use the distraction technique to rob you.
How can you avoid this? : If you are a tourist in a foreign country, it is entirely plausible that you don’t know the directions to the place either! The best thing to do is politely tell the person you don’t know and walk away before engaging in further conversation. In case you need to ask for directions, avoid asking strangers and request an official for help, or use your GPS!
Keeping yourself safe from crime is extremely important. It is not only your money that is in danger, but also your passport and other valuable documents. These are some of the most common tricks that criminals use and how you can spot them to keep yourself safe.