Imagine being stranded in a foreign land without any cash, credit or even your passport. One of the biggest worries people have while travelling is of being scammed. After all, your entire trip is dependent on what you’re carrying. From Rome and Barcelona to Marrakesh and Delhi, Conor Woodman explored the darker parts of each city, so that you know what to do to avoid them or, more accurately, what not to do to prevent falling prey to such schemes. Here he shares some of his experiences with us.
From the cities you explored, which scam affected you the most?
I caught a pickpocket trying to relieve me of my wallet on the Paris metro once. And more than once I've fallen foul of a taxi scam.
Going undercover is always unpredictable. And criminals are also unpredictable so put those two things together and you have a potent combination. The crew and I work hard to make things as safe as possible but a few times, things got a little hairy.
What was your most frightening experience on the show?
It would have to be when interviewing a counterfeit money gang in Buenos Aires. It really was intense. The crew and I had no idea what we were getting into until it was too late and we were being locked in a room with 3 armed guys who were wearing scary masks and snorting cocaine. Their main job was distributing counterfeit bills but they told me they dabbled in armed robbery and kidnapping. In those circumstances you just have to stay professional, ask your questions, thank them for their time and leave quickly.
Does your faith in humanity falter when you encounter such scams?
Not really, every city has its scammers. The culture in each city, for example, Marrakech, is all about tall tales and colourful stories, and it is best that one rolls with it and enjoys it – it’s part of the show.
What is the most common scam people fall for?
Taxi drivers are all at it wherever you go. Whether they're switching notes, taking you the long way round or even pressing the 'turbo' button on the meter, you need to keep a close eye on those guys.
Where do you like to travel to?
For pleasure, I like to relax somewhere remote. I'm a keen diver so I like to visit Indonesia whenever I can. There are some great dive sites off Sulawesi.
What are some tips travellers should heed when travelling?
As a tourist, you're always going to be a target. So with that in mind, you need to make yourself as small a target as possible. Always remember to keep your valuable possessions close to you and zipped up.
Scam City airs on National Geographic Channel, every Tuesday, 10pm (StarHub TV Ch. 411 and SingTel mio TV Ch. 201)
Image credits: National Geographic Channel International