16 Most Common Tourist Scams in UAE

Safety at Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Al Ain, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, Dibba Al Fujarah, Jebel Ali, Palm Jumeirah, Hatta, Ajman, Yas Island, Saadiyat Island,

 

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UAE has seven emirates that include Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al-Qaiwain, and Fujairah. With pristine sandy beaches, blue seas and palm trees, Dubai is the ideal tourist destination. Although the nation follows Islamic traditions, it’s a multi-cultural melting pot and this makes it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.

However, there are a number of traveller targeting crooks roaming the country. Read on to learn how to protect yourself here!

 

A. TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

1. Spilled liquid/spit scam

This is a scam found around the world (e.g. Argentina, UK, Thailand, etc)

A common trick they use is to spit on tourists’ clothes as they pass by. Then, on the pretext of helping them clean the spit, they will steal your wallet or purse.

The pickpockets look to target people who are carrying bags in both their hands. This makes it easier for them to spit on their clothes and then approach to help. When tourists find that someone has spit on their clothes they tend to get annoyed and pickpockets make use of this annoyance to steal the wallet.

The other method used by these crooks is to spill a chemical/liquid on tourist clothes and then come forward to help. When the attention of the tourist is diverted they steal their valuables. These thieves usually operate as a gang and are so fast that unknowing tourists are generally unable to react in time.

Rule of thumb:

Always keep your valuables safe and avoid using open pockets or having valuable items on show. Use a spare walletmoney belt and/or an anti-theft bag to prevent your items from being stolen.

 

2. Pickpockets

In every major city across the world you should be aware of pickpockets. The most common way this happens is when in a crowded place one person causes a distraction whilst another person takes your wallet or phone using sleight of hand whilst you are confused. Before you know it, your items are gone and so are the thieves.

Another trick involves one member of the gang bumping into a victim and then hugging and saying sorry. while another steals from the tourist.

One more situation to watch out for here is if you were to be approached by someone on the streets with a sob story. The scammer will ask if you can help, usually in the form of donating some money. While you are distracted, the accomplice strikes and steals your valuables.

To be even further prepared, do also check out the pickpocket section in the Netherlands and Spain. There are a multitude of situations and creative ways the pickpocket pros go about their business.

Rule of Thumb:

If you want to avoid becoming a victim, it is best to keep your cash safe and secure. Avoid carrying the purse or wallet in the back pocket. Also, use a spare walletmoney belt or anti-theft bag to further protect yourself from pickpockets.

Further, keep most of your valuables and passport in the hotel safe. Carry around a photocopy of your passport instead. Also, consider using hotel safety tools such as a hotel safe lock or door jammer to further strengthen the security of your hotel room.

 

3. Woman with sick child

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This street scam intends to tug at a mother’s heart strings. The victim is usually a single woman sightseeing or shopping on the streets of Dubai.

You are usually approached by a woman in a burka (outer garment worn by woman in Islamic countries) and they will tell you that their child is hospitalized and they need money for the medical bills. They promise to pay you back and get your phone number but never call back.

Rule of Thumb:

Don’t be afraid to just walk away and if they are persistent you can threaten to call the police. Begging in any manner is illegal in Dubai.

 

4. Travelling salesman scam

This is a scam that occurs in many other countries as well, such as Thailand, USA, Italy, etc.

You are approached on the streets or in a car park by men who claim that they had just finished exhibiting Italian designer suits in a fashion show. However, they don’t intend to take them back to their country and are willing to sell at a discount. In order to gain your trust, they will show you models of good suits.

When you show your interest in buying, they take you to a car or other place and sell you fake copies of the original suits that you had been shown. These people are just trying to sell fake copies of branded suits and make a profit from it.

The crooks will try to rush you through the process of buying giving you little time to touch and check whether the suit sold is original or fake. Most of the time you are given a cheap piece of clothing that is not worth even a few dirhams.

Besides suits, many other things could be peddled as well, such as electronics, some branded products, etc.

Rule of Thumb:

Always remember that designer suits are seldom sold on streets and if anyone tries to do so it is an obvious scam.

 

5. Injured beggar

This is a common scam where a man with a gaping wound on his arm or leg approaches you and asks money for treatment. These people will never be willing to accompany you to a hospital to get their wounds treated.

The wound and the blood are not real and all that he is doing is begging for money. Over the years beggars have become more creative and have started using makeup and props to show injuries and blood.

Rule of Thumb:

Keep walking and avoid making eye contact. In most cases they just stop following you after a few steps. However, if they are persistent, threaten to call the police.

 

6. Ran out of petrol

These crooks are usually stationed nearby a shopping mall or a petrol bunk.

When you walk past the car with a family in it, the driver may ask you for money as they have run out of petrol and need money to get home. They may also pretend that they haven’t eaten anything from the morning. As such, the money asked for will enable them to buy petrol and food for the family.

The women and children in the car are part of the act and they may shed a few tears to tug at your heart strings. Most tourists tend to fall for this act and these people make a good sum of money each day.

Rule of Thumb:

Walk away and don’t fall prey to tears and innocent looking eyes.

 

7. Fake goods/jewellery

Most of the things that are sold in the local market are cheap goods/fakes sold at a hefty price to tourists.

Rule of Thumb:

Check the quality of goods that are sold. If you think you are been charged more, you can always choose to complain. The shop keeper loses his/her license if they are found guilty.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Unofficial taxis

uae illegal taxis

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When you exit the Dubai international airport and arrive near the taxi stand, you are pulled aside and asked whether you need a taxi. If you answer yes, you are taken from a side entrance to a parking lot where a car is parked. You will probably not find a taxi sign on the roof but it may have a meter inside.

The meter may seem to work properly but when you approach your destination, it may suddenly add 50 – 100 dirhams to the total. You will have no option but to pay the extra charge. If you find yourself in this situation, you are actually lucky. If you are unlucky, you may even be driven to an isolated area and subsequently robbed.

Besides airports, you might find these unofficial cabs at tourist attractions or transport hubs as well. Some reported places are on Muroor Road, in front of LifeLine Hospital opposite the city’s main bus terminal; near the Etisalat tower, off Electra Street; on Airport Road; and on 17th Street, near St ­Joseph’s Cathedral.

Rule of Thumb:

Take taxis only from authorised taxi stands. Ensure that it has a taxi sign on the roof and the meter is working properly.

 

2. No taxi meters

abu dhabi taxi

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You will find these tax drivers near shopping malls. They approach you as soon as you exit the mall and ask if you are looking for a taxi.

You sit in the cab and immediately notice that there are no meters. When you get down at the hotel you are charged more than the normal fare.

Rule of Thumb:

Avoid taxis that have no meters.

 

3. Tampered meters

Even though taxi meters are difficult to tamper in Dubai, crooks use new and innovative methods to tamper them. If you find the meter moving quicker than usual, you can be certain that it has been tampered.

Rule of Thumb:

Be familiar with the right taxi fare for different distances. You can find this through an online research or by checking with your hotel. This ensures that the taxi driver will not be able to cheat you.

 

C. MISC

1. Knocking on the door

You may find a woman with a baby knocking on the door.

Usually a team of 2 – 3 women target a tower block on weekends or on public holidays. If you make the mistake of opening your door, they will beg for help. They can be persistent and ring the bell again and again.

Rule of Thumb:

Look through the peephole and avoid opening the door. If they are persistent, warn them that you will call the police.

 

2. Won a lottery

You receive a phone call from a local number saying that you have won a lottery. They may claim that you are the lucky winner from hundreds of shoppers and that you need to provide your bank details to claim the prize. All that they want is to get your financial information so that they can steal from your account.

Rule of Thumb:

Avoid sharing bank or any other financial information with anyone.

 

3. Fake police

Another common scam all around the world, you can find fake police in Poland, Morocco, Malaysia, Brazil and many more!

You are approached by police officers flashing their badges. They ask for your passport and other travel documents. They usually operate in a group and when you are distracted, one member of the group may steal your valuables. Or should you pass your wallet over, they might take your credit card or cash out while the other accomplices distract you.

The more aggressive ones will simply threaten you with deportation or imprisonment, unless you hand over cash or your ATM pin number.

Rule of Thumb:

Should you be approached, always ask to check their identification.

After getting their identification details, threaten to call the police hotline to check (end of this article). At this point, the scammers should have been scared off.

 

4. Fake iPhone

You might find yourself approached by a stranger on the street waving a new iPhone at you with a receipt. He asks if you can buy it from him for DH 1,000 so he can pay his rent or explain using some other sob story.

Rule of thumb:

Do not buy as the phone offered is a cheap fake.

 

5. Spiked drinks

drinks

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With the influx of tourists, there is now a big clubbing scene in UAE. However, cases of drink spiking have also increased as warned by the British Embassy in UAE in 2011. Both males and females are targeted, with some being robbed, while others are sexually assaulted.

Rule of thumb:

Simply do not accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended. Stay with your friends and avoid getting separated. If possible, buy only cans or bottles which are more difficult to tamper with.

 

6. Assault on females

Not a scam per se, but one important to highlight. For females, it is essential to protect yourself from assault in UAE due to the legal system. There have been a number of cases where female rape/assault victims have been arrested and charged with extramarital sex when they report the crime to the authorities!

For instance, an Australian woman was detained in jail for 8 months in 2008 and a Norwegian woman was sentenced to 16 months in prison in 2013 despite both being victims! Explanations for this include the cultural perception that drinking alcohol is asking for it; negative racial stereotypes towards Western women; the large number of fake rape claims, etc.

Rule of thumb:

Be wary of drink spiking. Also try to travel with a companion and avoid hanging out late at night around secluded areas.

If ever detained, seek help first from your country’s embassy or from organizations such as Detained in Dubai for assistance.

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

UAE Police

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  • Police    – 999 (emergency) 901 (non-emergency)
  • Ambulance – 998 / 999
  • Fire Department – 997
  • Coast Guard – 996
  • Emergency Services – 04-2232323

 

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