Top 5 Scams in South America

After the overwhelming success of our previous article in this series (“Top 5 Scams in South America”), the scam-awareness train could not be derailed. Thus, we move ever onwards into somewhat uncharted waters and explore the most common scams and swindles that occur in South America. If you’ve ever been scammed and felt stupid about it, this is definitely your go-to info-hub as the details that we are going to share might be unknown to many tourists hitting South America for the first time. So, by all means stick around and if you find the words scribbled down here useful, then by all means, share this page (wink)!

1. Skimming:
Alright, so this is a swindle that occurs all around the world but South America has quite an accentuated problem with it. For those of you who have never heard of it, skimming basically means the following: an ATM is rigged with a small device (a skimmer) to record your data. Subsequently, the scammer will try and rid you of your card so that it may be used to then extract your money (using the previously recorded information, of course). This is especially dangerous if you rely on a single bank account for money during your entire trip. Dispersing your money into multiple accounts is always a good idea – in such a case, even if you fail to detect the skimmer and get robbed, you’ll still be able to enjoy your trip for the most part. Please research how skimmers look for they change form quite often and never insert your card into suspicious-looking ATMs.

2. Street artists:
While all South American countries are brimming with culture and art, there is also a shady side of the story that can add a nasty taste to some people’s mouths. What happens here is that when sightseeing in touristy areas, you’ll often find people dressed in popular film characters, cartoon characters, or the sort. Some of them might even offer to dance with you on the spot. The catch, however, is that once you’re in their net there’s no escape without battle. Once the photo-session or the tango-ride ends, you will, in many cases, be harassed quite intensely to pay. If you refuse to do so after having indulged in the “services” that they offer, they will even make a scene and pressure you. The best way to avoid this is to take photos from a safe distance where these conmen don’t notice you and never dance with suspicious-looking individuals who beg on the streets.

3. The parking guard:
This scam is one of the vilest ones ever to have been spawned by humanity. If you’ve already been to South America and thus not a first-timer, you might have noticed the fact that in some major cities, there is a serious parking problem – there simply aren’t enough spaces for everyone to safely leave their vehicles while sightseeing. This then produced a whole new generation of opportunists who call themselves private parking guards. These people, no matter their apparent harmless natures, are some of the nastiest scammers out there. The way they operate is by telling you that they’ll watch your car until you come back for a small fee. If you do not opt for their “services” (which cannot be called a service by any standards) or if you refuse to pay them thinking that they might be legit and that they receive salaries for their acts, they might go out of their ways to make you regret it – often even going as far as damaging your vehicle while you are away. If you see such a person in an official or a makeshift parking space, just ride away and find a location void of them.

4. Pirate cabs:
There is no doubt about the fact that pirate cabs are a plague around the world but the major cities of South America are especially teeming with them. Lurking around central transport hubs and often targeting unsuspecting tourists, these people will demand inflated prices after they’ve taken them on round-runs. To protect yourself, always urge the drivers to start their metres and check the routes ahead on your smartphones. Should anything look awry, stop the car and leave. If they are pirates, you are not forced to pay – instant karma (wink).

5. The banknote swindle:
This is often related to services and their corrupted workers, so pay attention. Whenever you are handing money to a cab driver or a waiter, make sure you keep a close eye on your cash. The reasoning behind this is that some of them might try to distract you and when you look back at the banknote, it will be a smaller one: a 1,000 instead of a 10,000. They will cause a scene positing that you’ve paid the wrong amount and you might just get confused and ashamed enough to pay again. Trust no one and always stay alert, no matter how nice people seem – don’t get paranoid, though (wink)!

Did you enjoy our list? What scams have you witnessed in South America and what solutions have they inadvertently spawned? Hit the comment section below and be sure to check back from time to time for some exciting new updates and content! Safe travels!



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