Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stranger Danger - Pt. III

Posted on June 19, 2010 - by Janice

Solo Travel Stranger Danger Part III – Recognizing Danger

Parisian taxi drivers are known for overcharging. Watch the meter and ask questions if the price doesn't sound right.

This is the third post in the three part series on solo travel stranger danger. Part I emphasized the kindness of strangers. Part II told a cautionary tale of an experience I had in Paris that was very dangerous. Today, we delve into strategies for recognizing potential danger so that it can be avoided. .

Let me start by continuing on [a prior post], Caught in a Con Game.

After I phoned my friend’s friend in a panic and lost all my money, I hopped into a cab and made my way to her place – she said she would pay the fare. On route, the cab driver started flirting. In my limited French I explained that, no, I didn’t want to spend the next day with him. And I explained why. Oh, he wanted to show me that the men in Paris could be wonderful. I still refused. Then, when we reached my destination, he tried to charge me double what was on the meter. My friend came out to pay for me and tore a strip off him for trying to rip me off.

We really have to be careful. So, how can one recognize dangerous situations so that they can be avoided? Here are some ideas.

Take note of how you feel.

•Follow your gut. When your Spidey senses tingle, pay attention. Malcolm Gladwell studied the potential of an intuitive response in his book BLINK: the power of thinking without thinking. Here is a very good summary. It’s from a review by Barbara MacKoff on

The key is to rely on our “adaptive unconscious”–a 24/7 mental valet–that provides us with instant and sophisticated information to warn of danger, read a stranger, or react to a new idea. Gladwell includes caveats about leaping to conclusions: marketers can manipulate our first impressions, high arousal moments make us “mind blind,” focusing on the wrong cue leaves us vulnerable to “the Warren Harding Effect” (i.e., voting for a handsome but hapless president).

•Don’t be rushed into making a decision – whether its a purchase, transportation, accommodation…. If you feel rushed you won’t be thinking clearly. Rushing causes confusion and poor decision-making. Unsavory characters know this and use it to their advantage.

Read the obvious red flags

Being aware of your surroundings and how people are acting is critical to your safety.

•Recognize the signs of a bad area: poor quality buildings, poor lighting, closed stores, few people, no families wandering around just people of one gender or generation.

•Recognize the signs of an unsavory person: contradictions in their story, difficulty maintaining eye contact, making inappropriate demands

•Services that don’t look legitimate: as person on the street offering a great exchange rate for money, unofficial accommodation offers, gypsy taxis.

Know the common scams before your travel.

Watch out for people:

•Posing as police, showing fake ID and asking to see your wallet for counterfeit currency. Scam.

•Giving you something apparently free such as a bottle of water or a flower and then demanding payment. They can be very difficult to say no to but you have to. They’ll demand payment as soon as the item is in your hands.

•Taking your picture for you and then demanding a fee.

•Spilling ice cream on you or causing some other distraction so that their partner can pickpocket you.

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