Common tactics include spilling something on you and invading personal space

When travelling, holidaymakers can face an unfortunate reality if they don't have their wits about them.

Tourists who are conspicuous and vulnerable make for easy targets to criminally-minded locals, who are able to exploit their unfamiliarity with the location and its customs, the Daily Mail reports.

Travellers who have fallen prey to con artists and thieves - who often perform a practised routine of distraction - have revealed how they were duped in an online thread. Read on for some of the strategies implemented across the world.

Throwing bird faeces or spilling food on you

There are several variants on this theme of soiling your clothing, revealed members of online community Quora on a thread.


One member shared that they had heard of a victim having fake pigeon faeces thrown at them and then as someone offered to towel them down 'they steal his wallet in the chaos'.

One veteran traveller shared a first-hand experience of this in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

John Thekkayyam said: "I had stopped at a cart selling street food and while I was eating a sandwich, a man and a woman came, ordered and began to eat.

"The woman managed to upset her plate over the front of my shirt and she pulled out a handkerchief and began to rub off the ketchup vigorously and she was standing so close and I was protesting saying it's alright but she continued rubbing me down. I have to say it was a bit erotic, her closeness and while I was thus distracted, my wallet was taken."

Dropping a pair of keys

The original anonymous Quora poster shared a reverse technique, which forces the tourist to help a stranger, inadvertently becoming their victim.

They said: "The victim is sitting on a bench with a backpack. The thief is listening to music, passing by and lets his keys fall out of his pockets. The victim picks them up, runs behind him and forgets about his backpack."

Often scams play on making tourists feel like they've been helpful. Photo / Getty Images
Often scams play on making tourists feel like they've been helpful. Photo / Getty Images

Californian backpacker Zachary Reiss-Davis explained why this technique is often successful. He said: "[It is] playing on helpfulness: Anything that makes the mark feel like a hero. Someone falling off their bike, someone dropping their keys, someone asking to see your map, asking you to take a picture of them, can all be distractions.'"

'Finding' and offering you a wallet or a ring

Another common scenario, Mr Reiss-Davis divulged, was the scam which "plays on greed" offering tourists a deal which is "too good to be true" whether it's a free ticket for a show or "finding" and handing you a valuable item.


Anya May, a tour operator, warned: "There is the gold ring or lost wallet scam where a person finds a gold ring and offers it to you."

While you're distracted, your wallet is likely to go missing.

The ankle grab

It can be so surprising when anyone forces themselves upon you that it's easy to lose sight of your belongings.

Mr Thekkayyam shared another incident where he fell victim to thieves, this time in Rio de Janeiro on a crowded bus. He said: "I heard the sound of coins dropping at my feet and a man standing next to me squatted down on the floor and grabbed one of my ankles very tightly.

"I tried to shake him off but he was like holding on as if his life was in danger. I got irritated and shouted at him to let go and then suddenly he left my leg and stood up next to me at an angle where I couldn't see his face. I was so relieved, my ankle was hurting from his grip, and all my attention was there."

When he got off the bus, his money was gone. The man had worked with an accomplice.
The hotel hustle

In the confusion of hotel check in, if tourists aren't vigilant they can fall victim to thieves the minute they step off their transfer.

Veteran traveller Chris Huffman explained: "It is check-in time (which usually coincides not too far from check-out), and a bus pulls up with 80 passengers.

"All of the sudden, men/women are hustling your luggage to the front desk area. Some are not hotel employees so your baggage does not get in to the lobby."

Slot machine mayhem

There's nothing quite as distracting as playing on the slot machines, which clever thieves know how to take advantage of.

A police officer, Tim Dees, revealed how some people make their "winnings" at a casino.

He said: "Women often place their purses between two slot machines as they play the machines. The machines are usually arranged in banks of 10-20 machines, with two rows back to back. One member of the team will ask the victim something about the machine or the game, or will spill a quantity of coins or something else on the floor.

"Either one is just a distraction while Thief No. 2 grabs the purse from the opposite bank of machines."

Faux friendship

Sociable travellers are more susceptible to this con, which sees them feeling good about themselves and befriending another group of "travellers".

Revealing an incident that took place in Shanghai at The Bund, American traveller Paul Orlando explained: "A group of normal looking girls take pictures of themselves and ask a tourist to take their picture, since they too are tourists from elsewhere in China.

"They then strike up a conversation and ask the (actual) tourists to go to an old fashioned tea house, often pulling out a map to make it seem that they don't really know where it is.

The newly formed group goes to the tea house and then are overcharged for tea. The girls get a cut of the fee."

Money-changers with sticky fingers

A tourist in Kuta, Bali, Scott Marlette revealed a common scam encountered when changing money. He said: "There were two of us and we closely watched the guy count out all the money specifically looking to make sure it was all there.

Money changers with a sleight of hand are able to slip cash out of the bundle you've seen them count, revealed a tourist in Bali. Photo / Getty Images
Money changers with a sleight of hand are able to slip cash out of the bundle you've seen them count, revealed a tourist in Bali. Photo / Getty Images

"He then picked up the piles, collected the money and handed it to me, all right in front of my eyes. When I got home and counted it again I couldn't believe that some of the cash was missing. I was totally swindled."

A waiter they met elsewhere told them afterwards that the counter often lets a few bills fall behind as they tap the money. They confronted the money changer and managed to get their money back.

Forcing you to buy souvenirs

Although this isn't as overt as stealing someones wallet, many travellers find themselves the victim of scammers intent on charging them for a service or item they never wanted.

A tour operator, Anya Mary, shared common scams she has witnessed in Paris including the "rose scam", where your female companion gets a "free" rose that you have to pay for.

She also highlighted the "friendship thread scam" where a 'guy will tie a rope around your hand and demand €20 for it'.