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However, not surprisingly, none of the criminals showed remorse – they all had someone else to blame. “They knew what they were doing, so they had justified it to themselves.

"They thought, ‘these guys shouldn’t be going out looking for sex, hanging around these bars, we know what they’re doing, so don’t take the moral high ground with us, mate’.”

While filming in Barcelona, Woodman was running with a pickpocket gang originally from Romania. They explained to him how they were attracted to the Spanish city because the laws in their own country were too strict.

“They told me if they get caught stealing a wallet in Romania, they get three years in prison, but if they get caught in Barcelona, they get a fine,” he says.

“Their attitude was, ‘Where would you rather be a pickpocket? It’s Spain’s fault for having such lax laws’.”

Despite being fleeced by a tuk-tuk driver in Bangkok, getting ripped off by ‘gladiators’ posing for photos in Rome, and being conned in an antique carpet scam in Marrakech, Woodman says there are more unsafe places in the world where scammers operate on a larger scale – South America.

In Rio, Woodman joined the five-million revellers heading to Carnival. Along the way, his bag was stolen, he got scammed in a cab, almost drugged and robbed of most of his possessions – all in just a few days.

"Even so, Woodman still bills Buenos Aires as the most dangerous city in the world.

“It got pretty heavy because I got into counterfeit money, which overlapped into a world of guns and drugs,” he explains.

“The bills end up on the streets – taxi drivers and food vendors. They buy them at half price from a distributor, then pass them on to unsuspecting tourists, knowing they can double their takings for a week. As a tourist, it’s impossible for you to give it back as the locals won’t take them.”

But rather than his findings putting Woodman off travelling, he says there are ways to avoid being exploited.

“Don’t be scared, be prepared,” he advises. “Research every city you go to, and be aware that every city has it’s own unique scam. When you understand how they work, you’re much less likely to fall victim to them.”

Doctors in on the act: ‘50 per cent are fakes’

It’s not just the man on the street travellers need to be wary of – professionals can be in on the act, too. One of the biggest scams Woodman came across in India was in medical centres.

“I was in Delhi, where one of the big dangers is the doctors. Half of them aren’t actually doctors, they’ve got a fake certificate they’ve bought off the internet. Then the other 50 per cent are just as dodgy,” he says.

“I was treated by a ‘real’ doctor whose credentials I’d checked. I was faking Delhi Belly, and managed to fool him.

But what was really revealing was that he advised me to bump up my treatment, so my insurance claim would be worthwhile – that would cost me an extra 50 per cent of my treatment fee. That was a real doctor encouraging a tourist to scam.

“My tip is, if you’re ill, go to hospital for treatment, not a doctors’ surgery.”

Scam City airs every Wednesday at 8pm until December 19 on National Geographic Channel

 

Photos: National Geographic Channel


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Scam city: One man and his successful quest to get ripped off around the world
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