July 6, 2011

Summer’s here and vacation can’t wait. According to the Lonely Planet Guide, the Philippines is the sixth most attractive spot to travel as it offers best value for wanderers: accessible prices, nice beaches, beautiful landscapes and excellent nightlife. The Philippines seems to have all for an unforgettable vacation. For many Western travelers, it offers an memorable experience and some of the best beaches in the world, all at a fair price. Not all is perfect in paradise, however. Some tourists have fallen victim to a terrible scam, and have lost money and all their luggage.

Some travelers are reporting what has been named “The Nice Family Scam”. A couple, wife and husband, or even a supposed family with children makes friends with tourists on board a jeepney (a local taxi), a museum or a local spot. They are the friendliest people you have ever met; they break the ice and show you their grandchildren’s photographs gaining your trust. This couple is so warm and lovely that somehow you end up having lunch at their place or going to a tour with them. They are so happy they’ve found you that they honor you with a party and invite you to drinks in which they have put a drug called Ativan also known as lorazepam, usually prescribed to control anxiety disorders. This drug causes drowsiness, fainting or even comma, depending on the dose. In other cases, similar techniques can be used to distract the traveler once the travel feels comfortable with his new friends. Meanwhile, his good or money is taken.

The next day you wake up in a room, disoriented and with all your valuables missing. In some cases, female victims have been victimized and abused. The U.S. embassy in the Philippines and the local police departments and the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) are aware of this crime and are working together with Philippines private investigators Philippines private investigators to warn tourists and educate potential travelers.

What can you do to avoid being a victim? Do not talk to every stranger you cross when traveling, not only in the Philippines but anywhere in the world. Of course one of the good things about traveling is getting the experience of knowing locals and their culture, but be careful and skeptical. People can be nice and helpful but just as with online scams, new friends might not be who they claim to be. Beware of the risk, and be skeptical and keep an eye on your belongings and money. Be very cautious about receiving drinks from persons in the Philippines. Make sure it is an unopened bottle or get your own drinks, to be safe. If you are traveling to a foreign country and staying with a local family, make sure to get as much information about them before you sign in to stay. Experienced private investigators advise a Philippines background check to verify any individuals offering a home stay in the Philippines, due to the risk for fraud and scams.

All the best,
S. Birch
© 2011 S. Birch

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