11 Most Common Tourist Scams in Dominican Republic

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Dominican Republic

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Out of all the nations in the Caribbean, Dominican Republic is by far the most diverse. The country is famous for its beautiful beaches, romantic settings, exquisite golf courses, upscale hotels, and stunning views of the mountains, bays, coves, and waterfalls. The Dominican Republic is a tourist hotspot because there are thousands of things to do in this stunning country.

However, there are numerous scam artists waiting to make a quick buck off unsuspecting tourists. If you want to protect yourself in the Dominican Republic, continue reading!

 

A. TOURIST ATTRACTIONS/ACTIVITIES

1. Travel and tours scam

Dominican republic tours

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Travel and tours scams are quite common in the Dominican Republic. When you visit the country, many travel and tour operators will try to talk to you and sell their travel packages. There are many problems with such tour operators because they may not be registered and they won’t have insurance. If you meet with an accident or something happens, you won’t be covered.

Sometimes, the tour operators will try to cut costs so that they can offer cheap packages. For example, if you take a snorkeling package, you will have to go to the sea without life jackets, which can be extremely dangerous.

These tour operators will also ask for a down payment to make the necessary arrangements. If you try contacting them, you will discover that the numbers are fake or that their office doesn’t exist. These tour operators can put on a convincing act with a uniform, brochures, and even a company book.

Rule of thumb:

Avoid travel and tour operators who solicit aggressively. If you want an operator, request the hotel staff to help you out. You can also approach local travel and tour offices or research reputable ones online.

 

2. Sanky Pankys

sanky-panky

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Women traveling alone or in a small group should practice extreme caution when approached by lone males. Sankies are male gigolos who operate in tourist spots such as bars, hotels, restaurants, shops, and beaches. They are master manipulators looking to steal money from unsuspecting women.

These Sankies will try to lure women with their charms and have the perfect relationship with them. They will tell women how beautiful and unique they look or that they are extremely lucky to have met them. If the victim is receptive, they will take them out for dances, lunch and dinner dates and parties. They may also try to introduce their family to the victims, to make the act look convincing.

Once they establish an intimate connection with their victims, they will begin exhorting money through various techniques. They may ask you to pay their bills because they lost their job or buy them new phones because they lost theirs.

These sankies usually have more than two victims and will continue to extort till the victims stop sending money. The sankies may also try to marry their victims so that they can obtain travel visas. Once they are in the victim’s country, they will wait till things are going well before ending the marriage.

Rule of thumb:

If a lone male approaches you or your friend, proceed with great caution. If they ask you to pay for things, politely decline and steer away from such men. They will tell lies to convince you but don’t listen to what they have to say.

 

3. Pickpockets

Just like every other tourist hotspot, the Dominican Republic has a large number of pickpockets. These pickpockets work in gangs and will do everything possible to take your belongings by a series of distraction techniques (e.g. one will push you/block you/talk to you, be it a sob story or asking for directions, while the other steals from behind).

They operate in areas where a large number of tourists visit such as museums, hotels, restaurants, monuments, airports, subways, train stations, and beaches. You can find them at secluded tourist spots and casinos as well. They will look for tourists who look like they won’t fight back. Generally, pickpockets here are teenagers.

Do check out the articles on Netherlands and Spain on the different pickpocketing tricks, as the ones operating over here are real pros.

Rule of thumb:

When visiting crowded places, be aware of your belongings. Keep everything valuable in your side pockets or any other inconspicuous place.

Be cautious when people try to distract you, especially when you are in a crowded place. Avoid wearing headphones and expensive chains or carrying purses or anything flashy because it is as good as painting a target on yourself.

Also, keep photocopies of your passport, driver’s ID and pretty much any other ID that is extremely important because anything can happen. Carry only a small amount of money with you at all times to minimize loss.

 

4. Spiked drinks

Dominican republic drinks

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Drinking scams frequently take place in the Dominican Republic. These scam artists will wait at bars or any other popular drinking spot and pounce on unsuspecting victims (usually lone travelers or small groups of tourists as they are easier to manipulate).

They will either offer to buy you drinks or join your drinking session. They will wait till you visit the bathroom or they will distract you and slip narcotics into your drink. Once you consume the spiked drinks, they will take advantage of you. They will also rob you of your belongings.

When you are visiting bars near your hotel, you should keep an eye on your tab as the night progresses. Some of them will overcharge for drinks while others will keep adding to your tab.

Rule of thumb:

When a stranger offers to buy you drinks, always reject. If you are drinking with strangers, take your glass with you, everywhere you go. Always be wary of strangers who are over-friendly to you because they may have nefarious motives.

 

5. Snatch and grab

There have been several reports of robberies being committed by people on mopeds (similar to other countries such as in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, etc). These criminals are always on the lookout for tourists who are not paying attention their surroundings. Usually, it’s tourists who are on their phone or withdrawing money from the ATM.

When these criminals find their targets, they will quickly pounce before the victims realize what is happening. They will come at you and try to speed away with your belongings. They may try to knock you to the ground to make the whole process easier. They will also keep a lookout for tourists who leave their phones and wallets on the table.

Rule of thumb:

Try to keep a low profile – avoid flaunting jewelry in public as it attracts attention. Never keep your wallet or phone on your table in the restaurant or café. Carry your things in a small shoulder sling bag or a hidden pouch. Also, avoid walking in secluded places late at night.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Fake police and corrupt officials

There are a lot of scam artists who will pose as police officers to rob unsuspecting tourists. They will wear the official uniform of police officers and forcefully stop private vehicles or taxis and rob tourists at gunpoint.

Sometimes, they will stop you and ask you to pay a fine accusing you of breaking the law. These fake police officers will also try to set up tourists by working in groups. A stranger will shake your hand or slip narcotics into your pocket. A fake police officer will immediately arrive at the scene and arrest you for carrying narcotics. If you want the officer to set you free, you will have to pay a small fine.

You might also find these criminals wearing the uniform of officials and robbing tourists on the road. They will approach vehicles in motorcycles and ask the tourists to give them money.

Most of the time, these officers will be armed to intimidate tourists. There are also cases of fake officers asking tourists to follow them to the police station before robbing them.

Rule of thumb:

Always follow the law in the Dominican Republic, especially when you are on the road. If a police officer stops you, request the officer to issue a ticket if you have to pay a fine. Also, ask for the officer’s name and badge number and threaten to call the police hotline to check. However, if you are in a secluded area, you are much better off paying the fine.

Also remember that the law stipulates that all police officers must wear a name tag on their uniform.

 

2. Unmarked taxi scam

Dominican republic taxis

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Happens everywhere in the world (e.g. UAE, Poland, Morocco etc), but in the Dominican Republic, you might find more scam artists using unmarked taxis to rob unsuspecting tourists. They will wait at the airport or any other place frequently visited by tourists. When they see you, they will offer to drop you to your destination at a cheap rate. Some of these taxis will ride around with the window kept down.

When the taxi stops at a signal, a motorcyclist will approach the taxi and steal your valuables. Sometimes, the taxi will take you to a secluded spot before robbing you. Other times, the taxi will drop you far away from your destination.

Rule of thumb:

Use only authorized taxi services. When you are at the airport, ask the officials to help you out. Otherwise, only take the taxi offered by your hotel. At all times, you shouldn’t get into any unmarked taxis.

Also, always ask the taxi driver to roll up the windows and keep your valuables out of sight.

 

3. Carros Publicos

Carros Publicos

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Some public transport like the metro is safe, but others like the “carros publicos” or route taxis are not always safe.

These vehicles (usually banged up cars/minivans/small pick up trucks) look for tourists who are hitchhiking or want to save money. They carry at least six or more passengers at one go and are quite cheap. Once you board such public transport vehicles, you might find yourself the target of pickpockets.

Rule of thumb:

Avoid public transport, especially when you are traveling alone. If “carros publicos” or route taxis offer to drop you to your destination, say no. It is much safer to travel in private buses as they are reliable.

When you are traveling in “motoconcho” or motorcycle taxi, keep your valuables out of sight. Use authorized taxis where ever possible, even if you have to pay a little extra.

 

C. MISC

1. Real estate scam

Dominican republic real estate

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As the Dominican Republic becomes a popular retirement destination, scam artists pretend to be real estate agents. These people work in groups and deploy foreigners in restaurants and bars, to make the act more convincing.

They will offer to sell you their beautiful house or a part of their property for an extremely low price. You will even be brought to the property and shown around. Once you are happy with what you see, they will ask for a large sum of money as downpayment. You will only find out that you got scammed when you try registering your newly acquired property.

Rule of thumb:

If you plan to purchase property, always look for a reputable firm. There are many legitimate real estate agents in the Dominican Republic. Some of these real estate agents have offices in foreign countries. If you get an unbelievable offer for any property in the Dominican Republic, turn down the offer.

 

2. Money exchange scam

Money exchange scams are increasingly common. Some scam artists will offer to exchange money on the street. When you give them your cash, they will make a run for it.

Some money exchange places may also give you a slightly lower amount in the hopes that you don’t notice it. When you try to count your money, they will try to distract you. Should you realize that you are shortchanged, the scammer will simply claim that it is due to some hidden/administrative charge.

Rule of thumb:

Always look the current exchange rate and note it down before going to exchange your money. Ask if any extra charges are levied. You should count your money in front of the bank teller before you step out, in case you didn’t get the right amount. Always ask the teller for a receipt before taking your money.

 

3. Rigged ATMs

rigged ATM

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This is somewhat common in the country. Criminals will stick pieces of paper or photographic film in the card reader of the ATM. When you insert your card, it will get stuck in the machine. The criminals will then extract your card and use it.

Also, there are comprehensive credit and debit card scams. Insiders provide criminals with information from ATMs and card machines that function normally.

Rule of thumb:

If possible, don’t use your credit or debit card here. Withdraw all the cash you need before visiting the country as it is the safest option.

When you are withdrawing cash from ATMs, scan your surroundings for any suspicious characters. If your card gets stuck in the ATM, call the officials immediately.

Keep a close eye on your credit and debit cards if you have used them in the country. If there is any suspicious activity, block your cards immediately. Also, always keep your credit and debit cards with you at all times in the Dominican Republic.

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency Numbers to Call

Dominican republic tourist police

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  • Ambulance: 911
  • Fire department: 911
  • Police: 911
  • Tourist police: 809-221-8697

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1 Comment

  1. That can happen in any part of the world. Taxi in the Dominican Republic are safe, they carries ID, and they are not to many company.The public cars, or carritos, are very safe, it is not scam, they have, IDs and also they belong to a gremio.The samkin pamkies, if you are a adult and get involve with them it is you problem.

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