Crime Information for Tourists in Guinea

In Conakry, as in many large cities, crime is a fact of daily life. Residential and street crimes are very common. Some crime is perpetrated by individuals in military uniforms. Sentiments toward U.S. citizens in Guinea are generally positive, but criminals regularly target foreigners, including U.S. citizens, because they are perceived as lucrative targets. Crime – both nonviolent and violent – is a problem. Most nonviolent crime involves acts of pick-pocketing and purse-snatching, while armed robbery, muggings, assaults, and carjackings are the most common violent crimes. Despite the police’s good intentions, they have been unable to prevent the rapid escalation of crime. Police and military officials have also been known to make direct and indirect requests for bribes. Criminals particularly target visitors at the airport, in the traditional markets, and near hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners. Visitors should avoid unsolicited offers of assistance at the airport and hotels because such offers often mask an intention to steal luggage, purses, or wallets. Travelers should arrange for hotel personnel, family members, or business contacts to meet them at the airport to reduce their vulnerability to these crimes of opportunity.

Commercial scams and disputes with local business partners can create legal difficulties for U.S. citizens because corruption is widespread in Guinea. Business is routinely based on bribes rather than the law, and enforcement of the law is irregular and inefficient. The U.S. Embassy has extremely limited recourse in assisting U.S. citizens who are victims of illegal business deals.

Business fraud is rampant and the targets are usually foreigners, including U.S. citizens. Schemes previously associated exclusively with Nigeria are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Guinea, and pose a danger of severe financial loss. Typically these scams begin with the receipt of an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from a stranger who promises quick financial gain, often by transferring large sums of money or valuables out of the country, but then require a series of "advance fees" to be paid—such as fees for legal documents or taxes—to finalize the release of funds. The final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. A common variation is the scammer’s claim to be a refugee or émigré from a prominent West African family, or a relative of a present or former political leader who needs assistance in transferring large sums of cash. Still other variations appear to be legitimate business deals that require advance payments on contracts. Sometimes victims are convinced to provide bank account and credit card information and financial authorizations that drain their accounts, incur large debts against their credit, and take their life savings.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense—if a proposition looks too good to be true, it probably is. You should carefully check into and research any unsolicited business proposal before committing funds, providing goods or services, or undertaking any travel. A good clue to a scam is the phone number given to the victim; legitimate businesses and offices provide fixed-line numbers, while scams typically involve the use of only cell phones. It is virtually impossible to recover money lost through these scams.

Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may be breaking local law too.

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