How to avoid getting scammed while traveling the world
I no longer felt safe.
My hotel in Belgrade, Serbia was compromised, so I relocated to another part of the city. The front desk understood why. It was partly their mistake.
Why they'd let a drunk and coked-up Serbian party animal wake me up at 5:30am is beyond me. This guy owed me money, so I thought maybe — just maybe — he was entering my room to pay me back.
I was so wrong.
Because as soon as I opened the door and heard him barge in saying:
"Ray, I'm taking you to go f@#! h00kers!"
... I knew I'd made a mistake.
I was tired and I had work to do that day, so I refused.
Most people don't understand I work while traveling; I'm not like most tourists here visiting Belgrade on holiday.
Besides, coke and prostitutes in an unfamiliar country isn't my idea of a good time.
"You're a boring American," says my (former) Serbian friend.
He assumed I'd say yes to hookers and blow. He even said the pimp and the girls were expecting payment — with my money. This ass promised made a deal with money he didn't have — and because I wanted the situation to end, I gave him some money so he'd get the hell out of my room.
That morning was only one of the many misadventures I've had in Belgrade since arriving last Friday.
Rather than write about each one in this post, I want to share some of the lessons I've learned so far in Serbia.
What's interesting about this guy's hustle was he wasn't strategic. It was habitual. After what I imagine was years of scamming people, he knew what to say, how to act, and what to do / not do to build trust.
He scammed me... multiple times and looking back, I feel like an idiot.
But hey, I learned what to look out for and once you read these lessons, I hope to help you avoid the same problem.
#1: Don't Trust Anyone
It's so cliché, but as most cliché go, it's true.
Don't trust anyone — especially if you're an outsider in a foreign country.
You might think someone asking you to light their cigarette is harmless, but a simple request is how it starts. The Serbian asking me for a light was his "lead magnet" which started the conversation.
Another thing to watch out for when helping someone with a light: someone else reaching into your pocket or taking something from your table.
Trust is built over time.
It's better to not trust anyone than take a risk. Thankfully, I'm okay. Last time I checked I have all my fingers, toes, and passport.
It could've been worse.
#2: Avoid 1-on-1 Interaction With Strangers
This may sound like overkill, but at least consider what I'm about to say.
People trying to earn your trust will try to separate you from other people. They know that other people = resistance.
Another reason: they likely have a growing list of enemies and being in public spaces means running into someone they double crossed.
Also, if the person you meet is from the city — but doesn't have any local friends, then that's a bad sign.
One more thing: if you're with someone you don't know, always know where you're going. It also helps to set a deadline. With my Serbian friend, I told him I had a date in an hour so I couldn't hang out long. It worked.
#3: Cut Your Losses Early
I made the mistake of thinking I'd get my money back. After a 2-hour meeting where I thought I would, I didn't. The excuses came and the conversation went like this:
"Keep my money or drop it off at the reception at my hotel."
"Nah bro, we'll meet up first thing tomorrow morning and I'll give it to you. Trust me. Don't be like that. Why you making a big deal over 100 Dinar?!"
(Note: 100 Dinar is about $100 ... and it was actually more than 100 Dinar he owed me — but notice how he was reframing the conversation?)
"Drop it off at reception."
"Haha, call me after your date!"
We both walked away and I haven't heard from him since. Which is a good thing. I was furious when it happened and I have a bad / good habit of not letting my anger get the most of me. Not that I've cooled off, I'm glad I let this all go.
What hurt more than the $500 I lost — which can be easily made back in day, especially when you read and follow the steps in my new free book called "6-Figure Freelancing" (coming soon) — was the time and energy invested into all the BS.
I had to cut my losses, move from a hotel to another part of the city, and start over. But now, I couldn't be happier.
I'm currently in a nice cafe in a quieter part of town where the locals outnumber the tourists. I feel better here.
But of course, I'll still be careful.
Much moreso now than before.