Originally published at: Watch people get scammed in Italy | Boing Boing
Originally published at: Watch people get scammed in Italy | Boing Boing
The black-market exchange in Russia/Old Soviet was 5.00 rubles to a US 1.00 dollar circa 1981. The only way to scam you was with counterfeit bills, and then you find out that just about all the money exchangers were circulating counterfeit bills. Somehow in the end it all worked out, don’t ask me how…
In comparison, you have currency exchange windows on both sides of the US/Mexico border that post “no commission” signs, and signs recommending you count your money before leaving, so you know without having to ask.
@Papasan Ugh, remembering when eastern European countries were changing over to the Euro, or simply updating their currency, so taxi drivers and the like would lie to folks that the old currency was the new currency…
Ok. Once again, these are the basic rules.
Don’t use currency exchanges. For Murphy’s sake, it is the 21st century. Even backwards places like Europe (/s) have ATMs. Use them. Using a currency exchange is as archaic as using traveler’s cheques.
If anybody approaches you on the street and starts talking to you in Europe, it is a freaking scam. Either they are going to a direct scam, or their pickpocketing buddy is relieving you of all the currency you just exchanged. Loudly tell them you are an American, you are armed and you do NOT like people touching you.
And, although it did not come up in this episode, never hail a cab on the streets in Prague.
edit: spelled “traveler” more better
A pack of US cigarettes in Soviet Rusky could get you a private taxi for the entire day, and I’d tip them with a candy bar. After that I could not shake the guy, he was my new bestie all right…
Also, the “luggage stewards” in the Gara de Nord train station in Bucharest DO NOT work for the train companies nor the train station. They’re just folks who got themselves some coveralls or a reflective vest, and want to charge you $20 US for rolling your luggage 50 feet.
His last tip is the best; just use a debit card. My first trip to Europe I took cash and travelers checks. The traveler’s checks were a huge mistake as very few places even wanted to cash them and the ATM cost me virtually the same as it did back home. The next time I went I think I exchanged my cash once upon arrival and back to dollars upon return just to have some pocket money. Everything else was my card.
Also, alert your bank if you’re traveling! You’ll probably find it is disabled for suspicious activity the first time you use it abroad, otherwise.
Sometimes the black market can actually work to your advantage, but you have to be super cautious. On a trip to Cuba in 2015, because they were so desperate for US dollars, I could actually get BETTER than the nominal exchange rate which was available at banks. Of course, you always have to be on the lookout for scams like counterfeits and short counts.
You are always a target when traveling, and crowded places like train stations and tourist attractions are a common place for ripping off tourists.
Ditto. The only time I have ever bought cigarettes is when I went to Russia/CIS.
While a sailor, it was in our contract to be provided with a carton of cigs weekly, a non-smoker could amass a huge stash over time, it was viable currency just about any place I went.
Every time I see them at the airport I’m surprised they still exist. No-fee debit card for the ATMs, no-foreign-exchange-fee credit card for other standard purchases, and transferwise for anything big or for which bank transfer might be appropriate (since US banks still treat bank transfers as a massive profit center).
Normally, my wife and I try to minimize potential loss, and one carries the visa, the other the master card, one ATM/debit card, and so on. That way, if one pocket is picked, not everything is canceled. We updated that slightly after vacationing in Nice, where the airport ATM ate the card. A few phone calls revealed we could get it back three days later leaving us very thin on cash for much of our trip. On top of that, the ATM cards have different numbers for the same account.
We didn’t get any attempted scams (other than flower sales at restaurants) in Italy, but a note for the tourist: you can tell you’re getting close to attractions because vendors of crappy toys and selfie sticks will start getting as common as common as flies.
Of course, you still need to be careful with ATMs… It’s the same exchange scam, just now with more automation!
This “Honest Guide” channel has a lot of really good tips. Frankly, watching them, it surprises me how much scam work there is going on in Europe…
Unless you’re an American traveling in Cuba. No ATMs for Americans. you have to take cash, and exchange it either at a government-run place or on the streets.
At one point or another I tell all the polite young people in my life the same thing: you are under no obligation whatsoever to engage with a random person who accosts you on the street. That advice will help them avoid most of these short cons.
As for the currency exchanges, just avoid those clip joints altogether. Use a branded ATM in a bank or go to a teller inside if you need cash.
I once came back from a trip to Bermuda with some leftover local currency that I had failed to spend. The Bermuda Dollar is linked 1 to 1 with the US Dollar so it’s really convenient, you can spend American money without exchanging it first. But you usually receive local currency in change.
Back in the states I tried to get the leftover cash exchanged back for USD and the exchange guy was really surprised how awful the exchange rate was when he looked it up. (Obviously there’s no market in the US for people trying to get Bermuda currency before making a trip.) he said he’d be embarrassed to make such a predatory transaction and said I’d be better off just keeping the money as a souvenir.
Ha! This bring up a memory of telling someone how one of the trick toys worked (or didn’t, actually) and that their kid would be sorely disappointed. The scammer confronted me and said something like “we don’t do that here” (scam people? rip off little kids?) and followed me down the block. Fortunately, he had to leave his crap behind and turned back, but it was definitely a moment of “well, what the fuck do I do now?”
In 2003 we parked our car near Venice in a ramp, and a bunch of men were acting like parking attendants (but they didn’t try to scam us for parking money). Instead, they insist you need to take a gondola or water taxi into Venice. You can’t possibly walk! It’s too far!
So we asked how far, and the guy said “blah blah kilo-meters”
And my friend – an American – deadpans, “What is that, a mile?”
Everybody laughed. We walked into Venice. It wasn’t even a mile.
Cuba also has (had) 2 different currencies - one for tourists called the Cuban Convertible Peso or CUC - which is pegged 1:1 to the US dollar; and the Cuban Peso or CUP - which is used only by locals. As an American, you almost always exchanged dollars for CUC and if you ended up buying something at a small shop you might get CUC back, which is essentially worthless as you can’t exchange it when leaving.
I didn’t know this until just looking but it appears Cuba has officially done away with the CUC starting Jan 1st of last year. So everything is CUP now .
Yeah, “no thanks” or “I don’t have any cash” go a long, long way.