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5 common travel scams in Nigeria and how to prevent them

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Like every other country round the world, Nigeria has its share of scam artists and fraudsters in every sector, including hospitality and travel.

As tourism becomes more popular, jet-setters are venturing into new and distant locales within the country, and like bees to a flower, fraudsters are drawn to vulnerable visitors and tourists who are unaware of their schemes and have resources to burn. These fraudsters directly or indirectly trick these travelers out of small change or, worse, set them up in way that spells danger for both parties.

A pleasant trip can go downhill the moment  a person becomes a victim of fraud, and so, while the dreaded risk of a scam is not reason enough to quit travelling entirely, it is important to be prepared and on the lookout for the possibility of such situations. As a guide, Jovago.com, Africa’s No. 1 online hotel booking portal has put together the most common travel scams in Nigeria and how to prevent them.

Distraction scams

This is the most common and easily pulled off scam. The muggers basically distract you so that you are oblivious when they rob you.

For instance, a person might come to you with the pretense of getting clarification on an address or direction and while you are listening to him or her or trying to help out, someone else robs you, and by the time you are done speaking to the person who seemingly needed your help, you will notice your pockets have been ravaged and the content possibly pilfered by an accomplice.

This scam is mostly pulled off by phonies on busy street, however, they can easily be prevented by focusing on your destination and being conscious of who you speak to. Also, be alert and protective over your personal belongings.

The slow count

This is also a common occurrence in Nigeria. At first, you would not know this is a scam as the perpetrator usually seems honest and willing to perform the services that eventually gets delayed in a bit to take advantage of the tourist.

It plays out in many ways, but most popular is a cashier at a fast food joint, bar or restaurant engaging you in a painfully slow process while calculating your purchase or counting your change, that way you impatiently do not pay attention to details and leave without cross-checking the amount you have been handed until you are already far gone.

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The best way to avoid this scam is to use credit or debit cards, and carry smaller denominations of money around when travelling. You can also try patience and wait it all out, ensuring you cross check your purchase with your change before leaving.

Crooked policemen

It is no secret that most policemen, especially in urban areas, love tips and bribes, and will go extra lengths to gain additional benefits, including carrying out small-scale fraudulent acts. Some of the scams these corrupt policemen pull off include pretending the tourist has broken a law and then demanding a fictitious fine.

In other cases, they stop the tourist, engage them in conversations and search them, then either confiscate some of their luggage on the grounds that it is “illegal” or even just fine them for certain possessions. This is one of the scams that are hard to combat, however, it helps to remain responsive, keeping your emotions in check while relating with these policemen.

Injured beggars

These are gangs of fraudsters who prey on the peoples emotions and generosity. You see the beggars with fake injuries seeking donations from strangers. The most common in recent times is that of a woman sitting with a number of babies – that are likely not hers – seeking financial support.

In other cases, the money these injured beggars make are collected by gang masters who serve as pimps.  While giving is a virtue and should be encouraged, it is preferable to give actual service to these beggars like taking them to the hospital and paying the bills; referring or registering them at related NGO’s or church programs  or paying for their food rather than just giving them money to go and get a meal.

Aggressive touts

Most people are scared of undue confrontation, especially when in unfamiliar locations, and usually would do anything to avert the discomfort that stems from it.

With that in mind, aggressive sales people and street hawkers tend to tail tourists while pestering them until they shed out some bucks to purchase whatever product they have or to just get them off their trail.

To avoid falling for this trick, it is advisable to avoid touring very busy areas, and if you must, carry as little items as possible.

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