Going to Cuba? Beware of popular swindles
Cuba’s underground commerce relies on tourist scams
Author: Hatzel Vela, Reporter, hvela@Local10.com
Andrea Torres, Local10.com Reporter, firstname.lastname@example.org
Published On: Nov 13 2015 07:36:48 PM EST Updated On: Nov 13 2015
09:11:21 PM EST
CAMAGUEY, Cuba –
William Navarro, 25, said he can spot a foreigner in Camaguey in a
second. He has been treating them as opportunities to make quick cash
for five years, he said.
Navarro is the version of a concierge with a covert financial interest.
If he manages to convince a tourist to stay at a specific home, he will
get a commission. Navarro said he doesn’t view his trickery as a crime
or as fraud. It’s not punishable by law, he said, so he stays friendly
and appears helpful — just waiting for that lost tourist.
Here is a list of scams used to target tourists in Cuba:
The “Casa Particular” scam
In following the tradition of the bed and breakfast, many families are
renting sections of their homes to foreigners. There are opportunists in
town who look for tourists in hope of earning a commission if they
decide to stay at a particular B&B. To do so, Navarro is one of many who
will pretend they are ready to guide or give directions.
Think before you gift
If someone at a store approaches you alleging they are in need of food,
think twice. It is not uncommon for someone to make a deal with a store
clerk. Once you have paid for what you think is powdered milk for a baby
and step away, they may split the money or exchange the goods. If you
want to help, you are better of doing your research and helping an
organization that helps the poor or a specific family.
The fake cigar
The romanticism of the Cuban cigar is often exploited on the streets.
There is a black market for counterfeit Cubans and this includes the
Cohiba Explendido, which can be easily faked and sold outside of the
Cuban cigar stores, where fraudsters look for tourists. Look for the
Cuban warranty seal, a hologram and a bar code.
The “take home” music scam
The container in front of performers asking for a contribution is on
every street corner that tourists frequent. Most recently, some
musicians have opted for also selling a $10 home-burnt CD. Don’t expect
to get good quality. And do expect an empty CD or a noisy unrelated beat
in some cases.
The Santeria divination scam
After reading your future, they will try to sell you overpriced tonics.
The real practice of the religion is traditionally secretive and having
access to a Babalawo, a Santeria priest certainly doesn’t happen through
a recruiter on the street.
Currency exchange scam
The socialist island has a dual currency system and remains mostly a
cash country. To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, recognize the
difference between the CUC and the CUP. Check your change when you are
out shopping. The Banco Central de Cuba posts daily currency exchange
rates on their website.
Source: Going to Cuba? Beware of popular swindles | Cuba Coast to Coast
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