Please sign in to post.

What is a scam?

What would you perceive as a scam?
Personally I feel it is something when you have honest intentions and have been duped out of money.

Posted by
2443 posts

Straight theft - pickpockets or mugging or break ins - is not a scam to me. It’s a crime, but scam has a more specific meaning.

A scam is where you are convinced by deception to “willingly” do something. Like a rigged game, or the thing where someone tells you you dropped a ring, then somehow convinces you it’s valuable and you pay for it. Or the one where an attractive person gets you to buy them a drink - which costs a ton of money, but you didn’t ask the price. And you end up paying for a $200 gin and tonic. Or where a taxi driver convinces you the 50 euro note you gave him was a 5.

Posted by
4978 posts

There has to be subterfuge on the part of the scammer and a failure to deliver what is promised. Your definition only takes into account the feelings of the scammed, a scam is an action by someone else.

Example: It seems many on here have honest intentions, but felt duped out of money if a budget airline charged them for overweight bags. Not a scam, rules were likely clearly stated, they maybe just thought they could save a few bucks and could "get away with it"

That brings up a second truism about scams, nearly all are fueled by some level of greed on the part of the person scammed. Getting a great deal, something free, special access, you name it.

Posted by
8293 posts

Two of the above examples given by Mira, may be classified as scams, but they depend on the dimness of the people taken in by them. Anyone who falls for the gold ring trick is dim but sly, thinking a valuable piece of jewellery can be had for a song from the ragamuffin wanting to sell it. As for being duped into paying $200 for a drink by a pretty woman, well, really! Anyone who does that should not be allowed out alone.

Posted by
440 posts

I agree with Norma. The ring is not a scam because the 'victim' is being greedy by thinking they can get a good deal and make money on it, so IMO its their own fault and they have been brought down by their own greed.

Posted by
11613 posts

I don't think greed disqualifies these activities as scams, on the contrary, most scams rely on the cooperation of the scammee.

Posted by
5635 posts

That is what con men say: all cons depend on the greed or weakness of the mark.

Posted by
8293 posts

Keith, I agree with you entirely. So, so many posts here from people using the word “scam” about anything they paid for that disappointed or displeased them.

Posted by
1029 posts

all cons depend on the greed or weakness of the mark

unfortunately that's not true. Some scams depend on the victim's good intention and willingness to help others - which IMO makes them worse than the ones which depends on greed.

Posted by
2525 posts

“Helping” confused tourists buy tickets for public transit and stealing some of their money is a scam without greed on the part of the victims.

Posted by
440 posts

Prime example being Somebody paying €100 for a meal because they didn't understand the menu so they come on here and accuse the restaurant of being scam artists and the like because of their own ignorance.

Posted by
5635 posts

Some scams depend on the victim's good intention and willingness to help others -

Thats what I meant by depending on the mark's "weakness". Who can resist a pretty petition girl asking for your help, or the poor woman with the sad hungry baby?

Posted by
971 posts

Some scams also involve the underlying threath of violence or other unpleasant consequences. I once fell for the bracelet scam on the stairs to Sacre Coeur in Paris. Two young men approached me and my friend and asked us to show us our fingers, as soon as we did they startet veawing a bracelet tied to our fingers. Right away we knew we had fallen for their scam and in some way “accepted” to buy the bracelets. We were chatting and joking with them, but it was clear that we would have to deal with their friends hanging out on the curb if we tried to get out of it.

Posted by
792 posts

I think most of us would agree on the basic terms of what a scam is. BUT, some posters would like to share a bad experience they had while traveling. Maybe it isn't in the pure sense of the word a scam. Maybe it is entirely a careless mistake that they made, but they want to warn others not to make a similar mistake. Sometimes they take full responsibility for the mistake up front and sometimes maybe it takes a few days for the anger and embarrassment to fade and they are still blaming the other guy.

When they are looking for the best place to post their experience they choose the scam category.
Perhaps the heading should be changed to: Tourist Scams and Other Travel Warnings.
This would give more leeway as to what could be posted here without getting scolded.

Posted by
16815 posts

Scammers also depend upon a mark's confusion, trust in humanity, lack of similar experience, and inability to react quickly.

Posted by
11613 posts

Note that my post said "most scams rely on the cooperation of the scammee", cooperation can be good will/good faith, or greed, but not all scammees are greedy. I like Laura's inclusion of not reacting quickly, or not having similar experiences as reference points.

Posted by
12076 posts

Victims were trusting ( which is not same as stupid), generally
optimistic and not cynical. They were also of the generation brought
up to be polite. If someone contacts you, you politely engage
regardless of any suspicions you might have. Another major factor was
that scammers are REALLY good at what they do. It's their job, they
are professional.

Emma, that is really interesting. The scams which make me the saddest are the internet ones which prey on the elderly, the lonely and the vulnerable. I don't see them here but some other travel forums are littered with lonely hearts who have been taken to the cleaners by false online relationships, or need to be warned away from them before it's too late.

Posted by
1532 posts

Isn't there a point where misrepresentation or over-selling turns into false advertising? And do we still consider false advertising to be criminal?

The restaurants along the tourist row in Juan-les-Pins list 3 or 4 -course menus for a set price, and they list several options for each course, but then when you actually sit down to dine, there will be a parenthetical "E2 s." or "E2 sup." written next to some of the listed choices, meaning a supplemental additional charge for, let's say, the foie gras listed in the starters or the steak listed in the mains or the tarte listed in the desserts, so that the price displayed prominently for the menu doesn't actually apply to many of the choices listed on the menu -- you selected the restaurant in part because of the menu on display, and that menu misrepresents the actual charges. Once I even got a plate with two wedges of foie gras on it instead of the customary three, and I pointed it out to the server, and he replied that this is what is done for the special menu, knowing that I was already being charged a supplement for not picking the salad. Hence the more general advice to avoid the tourist row restaurants.

American commercial radio stations regularly play ads that have fast-talking fine print at the end -- "We're selling luxury cars at subcompact prices!" says the ad, but at the end someone mutters "Two at this price" or "not all buyers will qualify" -- meaning, in effect that the claim that the ad hinges upon is a false claim. So we have become accustomed to being lied to by our commercial media, and we hold everyone to this lower standard : hyperbole labels allow those yelling it to get away with anything.

I stepped into a cafe in the Eixample that had a chalkboard outside listing a lot of tasty dishes, great window display, too, and a 2-course light lunch price. I scan the counter for my favorites, and when I get to the cashier she tells me that the price for that menu only applies to a plastic container of yogurt and a pre-made sandwich on white bread. Why does the sign say 'your choice'? I ask. Because you can pick which flavor of yogurt and either the chicken salad sandwich or the ham sandwich.

Is that just me being naive, or unable to read the board?
Or is that a business trying to lure people inside and then upsell them?
And is that a scam or what?

Posted by
504 posts

It's interesting to read what other people think a scam is. However, I don't think that it's useful to dwell on whether a post is really about a scam. Discussion forums don't work that way. Think of this as the unpleasant surprise forum.

Posted by
12076 posts

They were going in and destroying people's hopes and self worth.
Horrendous but unbelievably lucrative for the scammers.

That's just evil. I've seen as many of those posts from men as women. The thing that floored them was the fact that it very well might not have been a female they'd been talking to online for months. "But she sent me her picture!" Sigh.

Editing to add: these posts end up on travel forums as the "girlfriend" (or boyfriend) often requests substantial funds to cover trips to meet their "true loves" in person.

Posted by
440 posts

Thank you all for your varied responses. I think most would agree this section should be renamed to scams and thefts or words to that effect. Thank you Emma for your post it was a great read.

Posted by
12076 posts

I think most would agree this section should be renamed to scams and
thefts or words to that effect.

Good idea, Jay. I'd remove the word "scam" altogether and go maybe with "Street Smarts" or something similar.

Posted by
11613 posts

I agree, Kathy, and changing the name to something positive (like "street smarts") would be more in line with the generally optimistic tone of the RS brand. Webmaster?

Posted by
31215 posts

One dictionary that I checked defines a scam as "a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation". That seems like a fairly broad definition, which could cover many different types of crimes that tourists might encounter.

Although not related to travel, one common "scam" that seems to reappear with some regularity in this area, is the "CRA Scam" (for those that aren't familiar with the term, "CRA" is the Canadian equivalent of the IRS). The scam starts with a phone call from a very stern CRA official who states that an arrest warrant has been issued for the victim for failure to pay income taxes. The victim is told that they can clear their account using thousands of dollars of iTunes cards. The victim sends the serial numbers of the cards to the scammer, and once that's done their hard earned money is gone forever. The method of payment would be a huge red flag for most people, but it's surprising how many fall for this scam. In a few cases, the victims have been reimbursed as a "good will gesture" by Apple or the retailer that sold the cards to the victim. Here's one story on the subject.

A variation of the CRA scam involves a phone call from a stern manager from the electric company, who tells the victim that their power will be cut off for non-payment of bill, unless they immediately pay the amount owing using (you guessed it), iTunes cards.

Regarding the "romance scams" mentioned above, "Catfish scams" seem to occur on a fairly regular basis also and many seem to involve people who are just lonely. Initial contact is often made on dating websites. They send many thousands of dollars (in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars) so that their boy/girl friend can return to North America. In many cases, the funds end up in Nigeria or similar countries, so there's absolutely NO hope of ever getting the money back.

Posted by
440 posts

Itunes cards? that is a new one what next? How on earth would they use them do they say to each other 'oh look ave just paid for some apps and music that i scammed out of somebody' madness.

Kathy

I think we should all get behind your renaming idea of 'street smarts'. It is a fantastic idea and more suitable.

Come on Webmaster

Posted by
11613 posts

I sent a message to RS ("Contact Us") the other day, suggesting Kathy's "Street Smarts", I will post if I hear anything back. Anybody else?

Posted by
31215 posts

"Itunes cards? that is a new one what next?"

Once the scammers have the serial numbers of the cards, there must be some way these are easily convertible to cash. It's amazing that anyone falls for this, as neither CRA nor the electric companies accept gift cards in payment for bills. That seems so obvious to me.

Posted by
440 posts

Maybe the scammers are running out of ways to get people to part with Cash. I have £20 of unused Woolworth vouchers I would happily give those away.