Know before you go: Scams in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a beautiful country where many people are open, welcoming and friendly even though they may live in abject poverty. Life is not easy for the people living on this exotic island. Daily existence has become much more expensive for Dominicans in recent years – and tourists are the main (and often only) source of income in many areas. Television and tourists provide a daily parade of “what could be” for many Dominicans. Some cannot resist the temptation to try everything to become part of that glitzy world that is dangled before them.Read here how they do it.
1. Real Estate scams
The popularity of the Dominican Republic as a retirement destination is rising, and some unscrupulous people have taken advantage of unsuspecting visitors:· Selling real estate they do not own. In this scam, the victim is lured by the promise of a local selling his condominium or a land parcel for a very low price. The “lead” is often provided by people hanging out in bars and restaurants – frequently foreigners themselves and thus more convincing to their compatriots. The victim is then invited to view the property or condominium. The deal is sealed with a hefty down payment for a condominium or the full price for a land parcel. Only when the victims try to occupy or register the purchase they find out they have been duped. There are many legitimate real estate agencies in the Dominican Republic, some of them with foreign offices. Always use reputable firms when making a real estate purchase, and be suspicious of prices below marked value.
2. Corrupt officials and fake police
If you are renting a car in the Dominican Republic, heed all traffic laws and exercise caution such as keeping your windows closed. The following has happened to tourists:
Police demanding you pay a cash fine on the spot. If it’s a small amount (5 or 10 USD), you may be better off paying it unless you are in a safe and busy area. Ask to be issued a ticket instead of paying the fine, and request the officer’s name and batch number.
Criminals posing as police. You may be stopped by locals in some sort of uniform – often on a motorcycle – demanding money. Some go into the trouble to make it look official, others just use the uniform to get you to stop and then confront you with a weapon.
3. Money exchange and credit/debit cards issues
· Compare exchange rates, and recount your money in front of the teller before leaving the exchange booth or bank wicket. Ask for a receipt and take a calculator with you. · Be careful when withdrawing cash from an instant teller machine. Choose one in a secure and/or busy area (hotels, shopping centers, etc.), and avoid withdrawing money at night. If your card gets stuck in the ATM, call the number listed on the ATM (if available) and your home bank as soon as possible to lock our account. There have been reports of criminals sticking tape into ATMs to retain cards and later retrieving them to withdraw money.· Several travelers had their credit card compromised in the Dominican Republic. Be cautious when using your card in the DR, and check your bills for several months after returning home.
IMPORTANT: Never change money on the street!
– You may end up with counterfeit bills.
– You may get incorrect amounts because the seller tricked you while counting the bills.
– You may be buying drug or extortion money from criminals. ____________________________________________________________________________
4. Scams involving Tours
Many vendors may approach you to sell you a tour. You may encounter the following issues: · The tour operator is not registered and/or not insured. This means you will not be covered if anything happens. Some people have been left stranded after a tour vehicle gave out on the road. Safety measures are sometimes skipped to save money, for example life jackets on snorkeling trips. It is safest to buy a tour from your tour operator or at your hotel, of from a vendor with a local office. · The tour sale is fraudulent. Some travelers have reported tour sellers asking for a down payment or the full price on the spot, and then disappeared. They acted very convincing, with a schedule book, brochures, and a uniform – but when the travelers tried to contact the tour operator they found out the business did not exist and the phone numbers were fake.