It’s true travelers can get scammed everywhere, even in Europe and other traditionally safe destinations, especially when it’s their first time going abroad and they haven’t quite got the hang of it yet. Nevertheless, there are five specific destinations where the risk of being deceived is higher, and more caution is thus advised.
Going abroad and immersing yourself in a different culture can be an incredible experience, but it surely does not come without its own set of challenges. On the downside, most of the time your knowledge of the local language and customs will be limited, and this inevitably leaves you more susceptible to scams – even online.
For that reason, you may want to read up on the data compiled by the online trading platform InvestinGoal on the number of scams reported across a number of countries in 2021 ahead of boarding your flight:
Continent(s): Europe, Asia
Number of scams in 2021: 1,938,900
Turkey – officially Turkyie – is the fifth country with the highest number of online scams in the world. When planning a visit, travelers are urged to book their flights and leisure activities through reliable websites, as credit card cloning and data theft are much more common in Turkey compared to other European or Asian countries.
More specifically, the online fraud ratio is 23 per 1,000 people, but it’s worth noting that’s only limited to cyber crimes. Sadly, other types of scam have been widely reported in Turkey, such as friendly shopkeepers kindly offering ‘free’ samples you’re later coerced to pay a fortune for, and taxi drivers operating on inflated fares.
Continent(s): Europe, Asia
Number of scams in 2021: 5,330,000
While we do not see tourism resuming in Russia anytime soon due to its aggression against Ukraine, this cross-continental behemoth has captivated visitors for centuries, having spawned novelists like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and being a home to the Bolshoi Theater. Notwithstanding its cultural prestige, Russia is the fourth most corrupt nation on this ranking.
There are currently 37 scams per 1,000 people in Russia, with Americans being among those affected. In fact, the U.S. Department of State has dedicated an entire section of their website to internet dating scams in Russia; additionally, visitors are told to beware of ‘bogus police officers‘ and unlicensed tour operators charging extortionate fees.
Continent: North America
Number of scams in 2021: 5,500,000
America’s favorite, Mexico charts at an undesirable number 3. This corroborates other findings that, in the short time span of three years, travel scams have increased by more than 200% in one of the country’s most popular beach spots. As it seems, ghost agencies selling fake vacation packages are largely to blame for the reputational damage.
With 42,7 scams per 1,000, Mexico is the only North-American country to make the top five, in spite of the Government’s latest pledge to fight crime more actively. Whether it’s the targeting of vulnerable tourists online, or Cancun’s well-documented record of taxi scams, Mexico still has a long way to go in becoming a fairer society.
Number of scams in 2021: 120,000,000
The runner-up, India registers a whopping 87 per 1,000 people, more than double the figures of Mexico and Russia. Beyond the internet, where shady operators sell the usual fraudulent packages, visitors can get ripped off at unofficial ‘tourist offices’, taking higher-priced cabs from the airport, and falling victim to India’s trademark ‘hotel switch’ scam.
Additionally, the U.S. lists ‘crime’ and ‘terrorism’ as two other reasons why Americans should not let their guards down when visiting India, and maintain a high level of situation awareness transiting areas marked my conflict (e.g. along the border with neighboring Pakistan). Women may also be at a particularly high risk of danger when traveling alone.
Continent: South America
Number of scams in 2021: 125,410,052
Crowned the Scam King by a large margin, Brazil had a rate of 590 scams per 1,000 people in 2021, a staggering 503 points ahead of India, and an even farther 567 from number-five peaking Turkey. Although India has a population of 1.38 billion, and Brazil only 212.6 million, the latter still surpasses the South Asian giant in total incidents.
This may be South America’s top rated sunny destination, with 4,650 miles of coastline and a myriad of incredible, off-path places ready to be explored, but traveling the continent-sized country requires careful planning in advance and a deeper knowledge of Brazilian culture. Furthermore, robbery and violence remain a huge concern.
While InvestinGoal’s data does not inform how many of these online scams have affected tourists, or were related to travel specifically, the research is a clear indication of countries where the practice is widespread, irrespective of its nature. In Mexico and Turkey, for instance, tourism makes up a significant part of their GDP, making this specific sector extremely profitable for criminals.
Hence, in order to avoid getting scammed and having your vacation ruined when traveling to any of the above countries, make sure you:
- Always book leisure/tour activities via a licensed operator
- Avoid making a flight or hotel reservation through a local travel agency you’ve never heard of, or whose online reviews aren’t good
- Use Uber or official taxi apps where they’re available (to be extra safe, double check the driver’s score)
- Pre-book airport and/or intercity transfers online in advance
- Keep a low profile when visiting overly touristy sites where scammers and robbers are known to act (never flash jewelry or other valuables unnecessarily)
- Keep an eye on your personal belongings when approached by a random stranger, however friendly they seem
- When in need of help as a visitor, or seeking information, find the nearest tourist reception center
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com