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Fraud on Tourists in Tunisia

money demands - typical scams - confidence fraud - borrowing money - business

The Fraud on tourists, big and small, is widespread in the tunisian tourist areas and has a wide variety of expressions. "Widespread" means that sooner or later each visitor of Tunisia will be confronted with it.

It probably does not need to be mentioned, but I'll do it anway: Replace the country name "Tunisia" by any other country name of a poor, third world state and this article will apply as well.
Nevertheless, this is not a general article on travel, but one that concerns Tunisia and I have witnessed personally all of the below more than once.

Cheap prices and help

It begins, in many cases, when an hotel employee talks to a tourist and makes "special" offers or recommends to buy something with a friend or a family member.
All of these offers are overpriced, and will serve not only the "friend", but also the intermediary, who pulls 30 percent or more "referral fee" from this deal. Getting such referral fees is a normal part of tunisian (business) life.

If someone is not working in an hotel, he will often resort to this trick: on the road, he will talk to tourists and pretend that he is an employee of their hotel ("You don't know me? I'm your waiter at the hotel"). Often he even names the hotel correctly - because he can easily detect the hotel name by the "all inclusive" wristbands that most tourists wear.

After a short time of conversation, offers will follow to sellĀ  something, to show something or to help with something.
Often, help is sought from tourists, because a family member, often the father, mother or child is supposedly ill, or a (sometimes urgent) hospital treatment is needed.
In other cases, there will be a general rant about low living conditions, unemployment or unpaid bills with the expectation that the tourist shows sympathy (and pays...).

Conversely - if a tourists ask a Tunisian for help, he should be prepared to pay for the help, sooner or later. This is even sure in cases, where no help was required or asked for. It can, for example, happen that a porter grabs, without words, your luggage and carries it somewhere - regardless he expects to be paid for it. And the same is true for people who offer to show a sight or a way to a destination, or do so without even being asked to.
As a tourist, avoid being put in an hard place - do not pay for help that you didn't want and speak your mind right away, loud and clear!

Please note that beggars in Tunisia need to show an official permit - in most cases, they won't have one, though.
Furthermore, children beggars are often controlled by organized beggar gangs who rent the children from their families for their "work".
It is, therefore, best to ignore all begging attempts and to prevent buying goods from persons who obviously appear as "poor beggars".

No Money!

You need to, if you were to help in eg. health cases, insist on visiting the "ill" person personally, and pay invoices always yourself at the hospital or the pharmacy (and do ask about the medical history!).
Almost all physicians and pharmacist speak English, some German and all of them French.

Under no circumstances, never, one should give or send money to someone simply asking for it in such a case.

Sometimes, a tourist will be asked for a sum of money to borrow, always with the promise that this will soon be returned or sent (which is legally impossible from Tunisia).

Here applies a simple rule without exception: Money, no matter how much, once given out of your hand, is lost - it will never be returned!

If you hand over money, no matter for what claim, consider it always a gift - if you are not comfortable with that, don't give money at all!

There are significant parts of the economy of Tunisia basing on such fraud or "tricks" - and they are brought to an even higher (more expensive) level with real estate, business "opportunities" and, especially, with "love" relations.

If considerable sums of money are involved, please note: No money without a contract (an official one, legalised, that is, there are numerous state bureaus in every town that legalise such contracts for a very small fee) which includes the reasons for the payment and the conditions of repayment.
More than one tourist, more than hundreds, and more than thousands, have lost money which was meant for buying a flat or house, cars, business goods. Tunisian police and courts likely consider payment of money without a contract as a gift - therefore: never without a contract!

In short: Never ever give any money to someone who is looking for help from you! No matter the story, it is almost always a lie! If you were to invest, do business or engage in personal relationships in Tunisia, make always sure that you are well-informed ahead of time! Get information from a lawyer that you have chosen!
There are a lot of forums about Tunisia where you can get second opinions ... use them, or you will loose your money, no exceptions!


The topic of "Friends" is as delicate and controversial as the topic of "Relationships" because "Bezness" extends not only to close relationships, but, to an even greater extent, as well to friendships.

The probability that one finds, after a short time or a few days holiday, a truly reliable and probably even selfless caring person, is, in short, next to nothing.

Almost always there will turn up, sooner or later, the profit interest of the "friend" - which is, unlike as in relationships, emotionless and purely addressed to financial benefits.

Yes, there are people wo are honest and who do not favour first their own advantage, when they start a talk with tourists on the street.
However, to find such a person in the tourist zones in the streets or in an hotel is as probable as to win big in a lottery.

A "normal" tourist without detailed knowledge of the country or the culture should never ever surrender to the illusion that this happens to him!

See also: Love and relationships in Tunisia
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