Canada has a fairly low crime rate all around, meaning even in larger cities you shouldn’t have to be too concerned with swindlers and con artists. But there are a few travel scams that are worth mentioning, as they can be unique to Canada, and if you haven’t come across them before, you’re more likely to get caught. These scams target ordinary people including Canadian citizens, but work very well against tourists and foreigners. Let’s check out which scams you need to watch out for in Canada.
Homeless People With Sob Stories
I don’t want to take away from real homeless people with real life sob stories. But having spent a significant amount of time in Halifax and Vancouver, both of which have a fairly large homeless population, you start to catch on to some of the sleazy games, and see many of them using the same stories day in and day out.
One of the most common tactics I’ve seen in several cities:
”Can you please help? I need $2 to get on the bus to go home. My purse was stolen / I lost my money / I don’t get paid until next week.”
This scam works because it’s a low ask, and we’ve all been stranded before. I would walk the same way to work each day and somehow these homeless people never recognized me as the guy who always said no. I was once given the $2 for bus fair sob line several times in the same week by the same woman. I’d often see her clean house as tourists and even locals tried to help her out. I figured one day that she must have been pulling in anywhere from $100-200 a day. Who needs a job when you have no shame and tax free income.
Blind or Deaf Card Shakedown
A blind or Deaf person hands you a card or piece of paper with their sob story. You awkwardly read it to find out they “can’t get a job because of their disability” and are asking for your help. As you glance away from the card or paper you see them with their hand out.
This one works because they’ve given you an item that you want to give back to them which they usually refuse. Then if you try to walk away with the card only to throw it out, they’ll follow you trying to get money while doing their best blind or deaf impression. Canada looks after people with disabilities fairly well, don’t fall for this one, and don’t get bullied into giving money away.
The piece of crap car
“My car broke down and I need money for a bus (or cab) because they forgot their wallet at home.”
Another shot at the sob story which works often enough as we’ve all had our car break down. It sucks. With this one they’re usually trying to get anywhere from 10 to 20 dollars vs the smaller change with the bus scam.
The Rap Superstar
CD’s or posters. If a sketchy looking person puts a CD in your hand, they’re not giving you it for free. They’re going to demand you pay them money for taking their CD. They’ll often intimidate you and refuse to take the CD back when you show no interest. If you get caught try to be firm and simply place the CD on the ground and tell them you’re not interested. I encourage everyone to never accept anything from anyone on the street. Just keep walking and give them the cold shoulder. You might feel like a dick, but I’d rather be a dick with his hard earned money than a nice guy with none.
Airport Credit Card Sales People
This one is technically legal, and is found across North America. You’ll find these people dressed up in business clothes, behind or standing near a desk with a large bank logo. They’ll try to sell you on the great value of their fancy new credit card, and usually go for the jugular by offering big discounts on loyalty card miles. While there are some people who are able to bank those miles and make them worth while (see: /r/churning), most people don’t need more credit cards to worry about. These cards also usually come with yearly fees.
Petition Signers & Donation Drivers
Another technically legal scam in Canada. These types of scams are most often found in larger cities. You’ll see these random people from a mile away with their vests and clipboards, pestering people as they walk by. Usually they’re after a signature, but more often than not they’re asking for a donation to some sort of charity or registered non profit. They use attention seeking tactics in an effort to force conversation. The go-to’s include:
“Hey where did you get that shirt from?”
”Woah, I really love your shoes”
Just know that they don’t really care about your shirt or shoes or anything you’re wearing. You are simply a target. When you stop to thank them or provide them with t-shirt intel, they’ll move into their sales spiel. I recommend not stopping for any strangers on the street. They’re usually up to no good. If they catch you try to get out of the conversation by using my favourite go-to “Sorry, late for work, I gotta run”.
Have you come across any other travel scams in Canada? Share them below in the comments!