5 Common Scams

Chances are, you will encounter at least one sketchy cabbie and one aggressive guide on your trip. Check out the top 5 scams below to avoid your Moroccan Nigerian prince:

#1 – Taxi: Broken/Non-Existant Meter

The Recipe

You’re an excited, unsuspecting tourist who assumes the cost of the taxi ride is determined by a meter (like back home).

The Scam

Scenario I

You’re so hyped up for sightseeing that you don’t notice the meter is missing. You hop into the cab, and tell the driver your destination. When you arrive, he gives you a sky-high quote. You’ve been scammed. 😢

Scenario II

You’re hella hyped for sightseeing, but you remember to ask the cabbie to restart the meter. He says okay, no problem. You get into the cab. He starts driving, but he doesn’t touch the meter. Maybe he forgot. You remind him to turn on the meter again, and he fiddles with it. But oh, no! Surprise! It’s broken! He shows you the screen. It’s black. But he tells you not to worry. It’s not a problem. He has had experience driving this route, so he’s familiar with the cost. You arrive at the destination. He demands an exorbitant amount of money. You’ve been scammed. 😢

Avoiding the Con 

Ask your riad/hotel for a rough estimate of what your ride should actually cost. Before getting into the cab, ask the driver to reset the meter. If he does so immediately, he will generally respect the price displayed at the end of the ride. He can screw you over in other ways, so read the other scams below.

If instead of resetting the meter, he responds with either “It’s broken,” or “I don’t have a meter,” start talking price. Agree on the payment before getting into the car. You should be able to talk your way down to roughly the estimate your riad/hotel gave. There is a good chance you will need to pay a few dirhams more, especially if you are a noticeable foreigner. But some cabs will still take you at the local price. See my post on bargaining for tips on dealing with cabbies.

#2 – Taxi: The Special Souk/Market/Festival

The Recipe

You’re an Instagrammer/content creator/traveller who wants to capture the most special moments. You may or may not have a severe case of FOMO.

The Scam

During your ride, the cabbie will try to change your mind about your destination. He’ll say something along the lines of, “There’s a special souk open only today. It’s very close. I can take you there.” He’ll call you “lucky” and try to convince you to go to this alternative location by using words like, “special”, “only once a week”, and “very rare”. You agree. You get dropped off at this other location. You’ve been scammed. 😢

This scam is used by cabbies who enjoy exercising their dormant creativity. The ending is very DIY. You may find yourself being extorted an exorbitant amount of money, dropped off in a weird place far away, dropped off in a nearby but small and common market (where the cabbie gets commission off your purchases), or any other ending the cabbie can imagine up.

Avoiding the Con

Firmly insist on your original destination. If you feel like combatting some fire with fire, you can exercise your creativity by telling the cabbie you have a very important, very special meeting with someone at the original destination.

And no, if you’re wondering, there isn’t actually a special market.

#3 – Taxi: I Don’t Have Change

The Recipe 

You’re very excited to be in Morocco for the first time, but you didn’t prepare properly by keeping small coins and bills handy. You only have large bills.

The Scam

You agree on a price with the cabbie before hopping into the car. While you’re getting the payment ready, you realize you only have 100MAD notes, for a 15MAD ride. You arrive at the destination, and the driver starts demanding payment. You tell him you only have a 100MAD note. He claims he does not have any change. He intimidates you into handing over the 100 note. You’ve been scammed. 😢

Avoiding the Con

Have exact change. Break your large bills in restaurants, grocery stores, and other official establishments. You may feel embarrassed for handing over a 200MAD note to pay for a 10MAD postcard at a gift shop, but that feeling is temporary and not being scammed is forever. Collect small bills and loose change. Love them. Treasure them. Appreciate them. Thank them before you go to bed.

#4 – Guide: Nice Guy 

The Recipe

You’re lost, clutching onto your cellphone and trying to navigate with a very uninformative Google Maps (or a mangled paper map).

The Scam

A man appears out of nowhere, asking if you’re lost. You obviously are. You’re sweaty and confused, and you just want to get to your destination. Miraculously, he’s familiar with the area. “Follow me,” he proclaims. He chats you up, and makes you feel the famous Moroccan hospitality. What a sweetie. You arrive safely at your destination and you thank him, expecting him to be on his way. But he doesn’t leave. He lingers and he starts demanding payment, perhaps gently at first, then aggressively. You give him a few dirhams. He still doesn’t leave and he starts to make you feel uncomfortable. You give him a little more to get rid of him. He starts getting angry, and he demands something ridiculous, like 500 dirham. He’s not a sweetie! He’s an extortionist! You’ve been scammed. 😢

A variation of this scam: someone comes up to you to explain the history of whatever you’re looking at/offering to help take a picture. If you ask questions and try to learn more, they will happily share. But this isn’t just a nice conversation! They will later intimidate you into paying them for their “services”.

Avoiding the Con 

If you are lost, duck into a restaurant, bank, or another official establishment and ask the staff there. These people will not scam you.

If you are wandering around, but enjoying the experience and someone asks if you are lost, simply reply, “I am, but happily. Thank you.” That will generally get them to leave you alone. Be firm. Remember, if they are being pushy and making you uncomfortable, you do not have an obligation to be polite.

If, however, you would like their help, agree on the payment beforehand. Say you only have however many dirham before you follow them anywhere. Make sure you have exact change.

#5 – Guide: My Father’s Shop

The Recipe 

You’re chilling and enjoying your time in the medina, but you have a nice face. You look like a polite person who could be bullied.

The Scam 

Someone approaches you and starts a conversation, asking where you’re from. After a brief exchange, he will try to cash in on the rapport he just built with you. He’ll want to show you his father’s shop. You feel pressured to follow him, as you do not wish to come off as rude to your new friend.

You follow him to a shop and he hands you off to some salesmen. He leaves. The salesmen are nice, but you’re not interested in buying anything so you look to duck out as soon as possible. To your surprise, the guide is loitering outside the entrance, and he tries to take you to another place. Then another. Then another. At the end of the “tour”, he’ll butter you up for some cash. You’ve been scammed. 😢

Note: the guide will become more and more aggressive if you buy something. He gets commission off all your purchases, so if you open your wallet, he’ll suspect you will buy more if he takes you around to other shops. Ditching him can be difficult.

Avoiding the Con

If you see someone loitering down the street, he is most likely one of these faux guides. He will reach out to you in English. Do not engage in conversation. If you feel obligated to acknowledge his presence, say “Hi,” back, and walk away.

If he follows you, the most effective solution is pretending you don’t speak English. If you can’t use this excuse, firmly convey your disinterest in anything he proposes. Keep walking away and ignoring him. Duck into a shop or a restaurant to lose him.


Takeaways:

  • Talk price first, be firm, and do not feel obligated to be polite
  • Always bargain, as the first price is never the final price
  • Generally, helpful men who approach you in the middle of the street in English are scammers
  • If you really do find yourself in a pickle, threaten to call the police. This will generally scare them off

Check out my other articles on Morocco to make your trip as easy as pie:

🇲🇦 Bargaining – Tactics to Make Mama Proud

🇲🇦 Finances – How to Handle Your Money Like a Pro

🇲🇦 Culture and Society – 10 Facts You Should Know

🇲🇦 Basic Arabic Phrases – Impressing the Locals 

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