“How To Travel Smartly”

“How To Travel Smartly” 960 662 Greg Ellifritz

There are some fairly sensible travel safety tips in the article linked below.


Project Gecko Tells You How to Travel Smartly


If you are mostly interested in international travel, you should also check out this article on South American taxi scams.  These are all very common.  Use Uber or Lyft instead of relying on local taxis as a gringo.

All-Inclusive Resort Bracelets

All-Inclusive Resort Bracelets 480 640 Greg Ellifritz

If you happen to be vacationing in an all-inclusive resort, you will likely be given a non-removable wrist band that identifies you as a resort guest.  It also identifies you as a “gullible tourist” if you leave the resort grounds. Those wrist bands broadcast information to a lot more folks than just the hotel staff.


If you are ever in a local market frequented by tourists, find a place to sit and watch the stall owners interact with the shoppers.  You will notice that the first place they look when evaluating a customer is the customer’s wrist.


If they see an all-inclusive resort bracelet, they immediately know the person is not likely a local.  It also means that the tourist probably isn’t as comfortable traveling as someone who might stay at a local hotel and procure his own meals and drinks.


The tourists wearing the bracelets will get approached more aggressively and at a more frequent rate. Prices will automatically be at least 20% higher than the prices quoted to a traveler who isn’t wearing a bracelet.


The shopkeepers can recognize the bracelet by the color and emblem.  They will instantly know if you are staying in a luxury hotel or a cheaper resort.  If they recognize the bracelet from the five-star resort where you are staying, your price for their goods just doubled.


Additionally, there are several scams locals use on tourists with all-inclusive bracelets.  Scam artists use the bracelets as a topic of conversation and a way to approach the traveler.  They use their resort knowledge as a way to build rapport with random travelers.  You’ll see approaches that go something like this:


Approach #1– “Oh, I see that you are staying at XXX resort.  That’s a beautiful place!  How do you like it?  I’ve stayed there several times in the past.  Which is your favorite restaurant there?

You know, that hotel is actually my second favorite place to stay.  Why don’t you take a walk with me and I’ll show you my new favorite place.  You’ll be stunned at how much better it is than the  place you are currently staying.”

Approach #2- “Hey!  I recognize you guys!  You are staying at the XXX resort.  Do you remember me?  I’m the person who cleaned your room yesterday.  I was disappointed that you didn’t leave a bigger tip.  Didn’t I do a good job?  Are you too rich to care about the local people here? 

Why don’t you make it up to me right now.  I think $20 US would be a good apology gesture for being so greedy and insulting.”



Approach #3- “Oh, look at that!  You’re staying at XXX resort.  I recognized the bracelet.  I worked as the tour guide coordinator for that resort for 15 years before starting my own guide business.  I know the hotel’s excursion pricing.  I know I can give you a better experience for cheaper.  Would you be interested in booking a tour with me?”

If you are staying at a resort that uses bracelets as identifiers, ask them to place the bracelet around your ankle instead.  That way you can cover it with pants or socks if you go into a nearby town.  Some will accommodate that request and some will not.


If they refuse to put the bracelet on your ankle, put it on the same arm that you wear your watch.  That way you can at least partially cover the bracelet with your watch band and make it less noticeable.


During my Mexican vacation a couple weeks ago,  I stayed in an all-inclusive for convenience.  They required guests wear the bracelet on a wrist.  Take a look at the two photos below to see how I mostly hid the bracelet with my wristwatch whenever I left the resort for any reason.


Standard all-inclusive identification bracelet


Same bracelet hidden by watch band.


Common Hotel Scam

Common Hotel Scam 585 391 Greg Ellifritz

If you ever stay in hotels, you should read this short article.  This is an extremely common scam.  I’ve responded to complaints of this happening more than a few times in my police career.  Interestingly enough, this scam is probably more common in the USA than in foreign countries.  Many locals in foreign countries don’t have the English language skills to pull this one off.


Be especially alert for calls like this in the early morning (4am-6am).  That’s when I’ve seen this scam happen most often.  People are drowsy and less aware when they have just been awakened from a sound sleep.

Two Great Travel Scam References

Two Great Travel Scam References 746 382 Greg Ellifritz

In doing research for my future book on travel scams, I recently came across these two excellent resources.  Together, they provide a solid education to keep you from falling from the most common travel swindles.



How To Spot Signs of Being Scammed While Traveling



The video below focuses on Barcelona, but you’ll see the same scams all over Europe and most of the rest of the world as well.


Barcelona SCAMS: Tips For Avoiding Crime and Pickpockets in Spain.


Latin American ATM Scams/Thefts

Latin American ATM Scams/Thefts 1920 2560 Greg Ellifritz

In my book Choose Adventure: Safe Travels in Dangerous Places, I cautioned tourists to avoid “helpful” locals at the ATM machine and to shield the keypad from view while you are entering your PIN number.  Watch this short video to see real-life examples of ATM scams and thefts.  It’s very well done and you can see how smooth many of these criminals are.


Watch Out for Scammers at the ATMs in Mexico


The Philippine Bullet Scam

The Philippine Bullet Scam 1263 500 Greg Ellifritz

Headed to the Philippines?


There is a high dollar bribery scam that has been executed against tourists at the Manila airport.  It doesn’t say so in the article, but I would guess that shooters might be seeing the brunt of it.  If you have bags with shooting logo or shooting gear, it might not be a far stretch for some customs official to plant some illegal bullets in your bag.  Be the gray man when you travel.  Don’t have any gun-related attire or gear anywhere on your person or in your bags.


How to Protect Yourself from the Airport Bullet Scam


And with regard to the Philippines, watch this nasty method used by criminals there to steal your phone (opens to Facebook video).

“Commitment Bias”

“Commitment Bias” 259 194 Greg Ellifritz


Learn about the “law of reciprocity” and “commitment bias”. These tools are not limited to comedians. They are techniques that criminals and con artists will use as well. Being able to recognize when you are being manipulated is a critical skill to possess.


Louis CK and the Hare Krishnas Used This ONE Trick for Success

Travel Scam Avoidance

Travel Scam Avoidance 751 271 Greg Ellifritz

Until I found the article below, I had never seen the website “Ranker.”  It seems to essentially crowd source tips from the public and readers vote those tips up or down.  The travel scam avoidance tips that had the most “thumbs up” were shared in the article below.


Although I may quibble about some of the fine details in a few tips, overall, this is high quality advice.


Tips To Help Tourists From Getting Scammed On Vacation



Travel Scam Compendium

Travel Scam Compendium 150 150 Greg Ellifritz

The chapter on scams and hustles in my book generates more positive feedback than any other.  I’m actually working on expanding that information and turning it into an entirely different book later this year.


Until then, you’ll have to suffice with learning everything you can from articles like this one.


15 Common Travel Scams (And How To Avoid Them)


If you travel at all outside of the USA, it would be smart to read up on these common scams that target foreigners.  I’ve seen many of them in my travels.  If you are interested in the topic, tay tuned for my next book!




Avoiding Scam Artists at Home and Abroad

Avoiding Scam Artists at Home and Abroad 217 346 Greg Ellifritz

“The bad guy can lure you to an isolated place. This is almost infinitely varied. Anything from offering a cheap, unlicensed cab to telling you that there is a beautiful shrine just down the alley that isn’t on the tourist maps. It’s hard to pass up. I have learned an incredible amount and had some great times because I was willing to be adopted by locals. With this one, watch for isolation. If they are taking you to the best local restaurant, you should see more people as you approach, not less.”– Rory Miller


Every location you visit is likely to have a few specific scams that con artists like to pull on people visiting the area.  If you are unfamiliar with the local scams, check your travel guidebook or ask the staff at your hotel.  You could even do an internet search on “scams in (your location).”


The majority of scams targeting travelers (either domestic or beyond) have at least some verbal component.  The con artists use words to either reassure the victim or to close distance.  Shawn Smith, in his book “Surviving Aggressive People” classifies these verbal interactions as “testing rituals.”  The testing rituals all have the following similar characteristics:

–          Persistence

–          Talking too much

–          Contradictions between words and actions or behaviors

–          Triggering your intuition (this doesn’t feel right)


As a reliable general guideline, any time you are engaged in conversation with a stranger and you notice one or more of those characteristics in the conversation, you should expect that you are being scammed.

Another quick scam identifier is when the scam artist hands you something.  This is always bad.  Don’t ever accept anything that a stranger hands you on the street.  At best, it will be a “gift” to guilt-trip you into donating money for the scam artists’ “charity.”  At worst, it could be a set up for a robbery.


I’ve seen that happen in tourist areas of Thailand where scam artists will dress up like fake Buddhist monks and hand travelers cheap “prayer beads” with a request for a donation, usually to support an orphanage.  Besides prayer beads, this scam often targets women with small bracelets, flowers, or even herbs.  The con artist will give the traveler a single flower or a sprig of rosemary and then demand an exorbitant price.  He will make a scene if you don’t pay for it.


This scam could end up costing you serious cash if the scammer hands you something valuable and claims that you broke it and demands payment.  Some of the scammers will even have corrupt cops working nearby to pressure you into paying for the “broken” valuable.


The best non-specific scam avoidance advice is to avoid accepting any item given to you by a stranger in public.  If approached by a scam artist who uses any of the “testing rituals” identified above, you should walk away.  Be rude if necessary. Keep your hands in your pockets.


You should also avoid giving any information about where you are from, where you are staying, or what type of work you do.  All of this information can be used later to construct more elaborate cons.


If the con man isn’t working on a long-term scheme, these simple questions become introductions to the testing rituals I mentioned above.  Most people will answer questions from a stranger on the street.  You shouldn’t.  Just stay quiet and keep walking.  Avoid verbally engaging with people you don’t know or with anyone who  initiates conversations with you in public in an uninvited manner.


Those three pieces of advice will keep you safe from most scams.  If you want some more information about common ruses, check out my  travel safety book Choose Adventure.  I could never possibly detail every scam you may experience, but in the book, I attempt to explain all of the common hustles that have been foisted upon either me or my travel companions over the years


I’ll follow Choose Adventure with a shorter book focusing solely on common travel scams and how to avoid them.  Look for it in the near future.