Scam City

There’s this TV show called Scam City that’s on Netflix.  The premise is pretty noble.  The host goes to different famous world cities and search for the different scams that go on in that city ranging from fake “authentic” goods to pickpockets to taxi driver kidnappings and even prostitution.  The shows does all this in an attempt to make potential tourists who are watching at home aware of the disreputable scams in the city.  It turns out that many of the show’s scams are found in every city… 3 card monte, fake authentic goods, pick pockets, “friendly bars” and the list can go on.

Although I’m no expert, I have had my fair share of traveling.  I think the culture of the country and/or city is also a big part of whether or not people will get scammed/hustled.  As a traveler there are certain things to be aware.  Pickpocket is probably the number one concern.  There’s not much a traveler can do without money, without credit cards and potentially without identification (ie Passport) too.  Being kidnapped is also a concern but I think the likelihood is much less in more touristy locations.  Plus with easy access to the Internet, using GPS and Google maps should always be a given to ensure the taxi is going to the correct direction.  In general being aware of the surrounding is important for staying safe.  So… “Don’t walk down that dark alley” or “Don’t talk to strangers” generally works in your favor.   Keep in mind hustlers are trying to relieve your wallet of some money as quickly and as easily as possible.  Making it hard for them is never in their benefit.

Apparently though, some of the episodes are not without controversy per the wiki entry on Prague and Amsterdam.  Is Scam City scamming the TV audience!?

Anyways, watching this show leads me to a few questions…

  1. Why would anyone want to go to these cities now?
  2. Why does the show seem to portray certain non 1st world cities in a much more negative light?  The Mumbai and New Delhi episodes make these two cities out to be pretty bad as does the Bangkok episode.
  3. I sometimes feel like they are actively looking for scams that happen.  And that tourists would have to be really really stupid to fall for some of these tricks.  Maybe it’s to build suspense up similar to how ABC’s The Bachelor and the contrived storylines.
  4. Pickpockets are still the world’s most dangerous petty thieves.  Some of the pickpockets on the show are really good and have great finger/hand dexterity.  The Jerusalem Mount Olive pickpocket scene was pretty interesting.  He used slight of hand and a common magic trick of directing attention away from the wallet.


Ideally, the tourist needs to be aware of the hustle and take whatever precautions needed to minimize the hustle.  Ultimately as a tourist, staying safe is the ultimate priority to enjoy the city.  Happy traveling!


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