It can happen to anyone, but the trick is to keep it from happening to you. Be alert when you travel, and be aware of these common ways that people will try to scam you. Some of them are more prevalent in other countries, but any of them can happen anywhere.
Don’t carry a wallet in an outer pocket, front or back, even if it buttons. Don’t carry a wallet in a suit or jacket pocket. If you must carry a wallet at all, it should be in an inside jacket pocket, with the jacket zipped up.
Don’t carry a purse, or anything that can be rifled through without touching you.
Don’t put valuables in the outer pocket of a backpack. Anything worth stealing should be inside your backpack, at the bottom, with the zippers either locked together or safety-pinned shut.
The best place to carry money is next to your body, either tied around your waist in a flat band, or over your neck in a carrying case.
Any crowd in general is a good place to have things stolen. Be careful in train stations or other crowded areas.
Miscounting your change
Yep, I experienced this too, in Italy at the hostel. And I did exactly what I described, handed over ten times too much. This was back when they used Lire, and they had all those zeros to keep track of. I did not count my change until later, but fortunately I got my change back after returning to the hostel and asking the desk person to count her till. Maybe she needed her job more than she needed my lire. I’ll never know.
This I’ve never seen, maybe because bad things can happen to men who accost single women. I should ask around to see if anyone has experienced anything like this, or it’s just a myth.
Other fake officials
If you are unsure if the person asking for a ticket or money is real, ask someone. You might look dumb, but they don’t care and it’s better than being robbed. Before taking a train or taxi, confirm the expected fare with a hotel clerk or shopkeeper. Someone that seems trustworthy.
Renting a car
It doesn’t matter where you are; don’t leave valuables visible in a car. You can’t hide rental plates, but you can look like a local renting a car by leaving a bit of a mess in the back seat and a couple old, local newspapers in the front. Ideally you don’t leave your luggage locked in the car anywhere. When returning the vehicle, take your keys in to the front desk, don’t hand them over to the smiling person who walks up to you.
Leaving trains, buses or any public transportation
Know what you brought on with you. I travel with one backpack and a daypack, so my luggage is easy to keep track of, but anyone who’s been out for a bit of shopping is at risk for getting back to the hotel a few items short. If possible I’d put everything in one bag and hold it closed the entire trip.
Don’t make change for fellow travelers unless you know them, don’t loan them money, and don’t let them watch your bags while you run to the bathroom. Most of the time they are good people, but it’s that one bad guy that will mess up the rest of your trip for you.
Travel is a wonderful experience, and the fear of something happening shouldn’t hold you back. Keep your valuables close, count your change, and stay aware of your surroundings. Don’t flash wads of money and don’t take out your credit cards in public. If you do lose something and have followed these guidelines, chances are it will be something small, and you can write it off as the cost of experience – and a good story.