Consortium for International Education & Multicultural Studies
The Hit List
Here are some frequent scams reported by visitors to the U.S. and U.S. visitors going abroad. Below are a few recurring scenarios. As you can see, most can be avoided if you are alert, use common sense, avoid wearing jewelry, and don't flash a wad of bills around. Blend in, be in control, and you might be able to con the con artists.
The Booster Bag. This bottomless bag fits over luggage, shopping bags and purses. Inside hooks grab the bag and the thief walks away with your luggage or purse. It is most frequently used at airports, bus/train stations, hotel lobbies, lines to use the telephone - in general, places where travelers tend to set down their bags.
The Identical Bag Scam. You've probably seen a takeoff on this in the movies. The thief has luggage that is identical or similar to other luggage, places it next to the bag of an unsuspecting traveler, and when no one is looking, walks off with the traveler's bag, leaving his empty, identical one behind. A good way to avoid this is to mark your luggage in some unique way, either with tags, tape, or other means.
The Decoy. Someone collapses, is hit by a car, or flees an abuser. The decoy either flees to you or the crowd eases you to the down person. After much commotion, the crowd dissipates or you ease away - minus your money. The intent is to create jostling, noise, and commotion while you get pickpocketed. A friend who travels frequently (and knows better) was recently relieved of his bills from one front pocket, and his wallet from the other front pocket, and didn't realize it until 10 minutes later.
Snatch & Run. On foot, bike, motorcycle, or car. Targets are handbags, earrings, necklaces, shopping bags, watches, cameras dangling on their strap - anything that can be yanked off.
Back Home Boy. Yes, unfortunately, crooks go on vacation. They meet somebody from back home. Defenses go down and so does the scam. Usually, it's robbery (mostly from hotel rooms). Solution: don't allow others access to your room - and if you go to theirs, watch what they put in your drink!
Seat & Counter. Signing traveler's checks at a counter? Putting a bag under your seat (which can be accessed from behind)? Beware. Watch your belongings wherever you go!
Hold My Bag? Objective is either to gain your confidence (eventually they'll be holding your bag) or create a fall guy. The latter is particularly nasty. Hundreds of North Americans are in foreign jails because they had someone's bag (containing drugs or contraband) or because they allowed others access to their bag and something was planted. Don't take anyone else's gifts through customs for them. Don't watch a stranger's bag while they go to the bathroom. Don't ask someone to watch your bags.