Petty street crime is a problem in The Gambia. Travelers should be careful of pickpockets in crowded market areas and on ferries. Packages or luggage should never be left unattended, especially in taxis. U.S. citizens in The Gambia should be careful not to leave valuables or identity documents unsecured in hotel rooms or cars. Travelers should also be cautious of individuals who persistently offer unsolicited help.
Visitors and resident U.S. citizens may wish to leave their windows up and doors locked while driving due to several reported automobile burglaries, including theft from occupied cars stopped in traffic with windows open or doors unlocked. Long-term residents may wish to consider hiring security guards for their home to deter burglary and theft.
Women should avoid walking alone, especially after dark, including in beach and tourist areas. In addition, female visitors to The Gambia should be particularly cautious of men locally known as “bumsters,” who approach females wishing “just to get to know you,” or offering to be tour guides. Bumsters often use romance in hopes of gaining money and other assistance, or in the hope of departing The Gambia through marriage to a Westerner. Travelers are advised to be polite but decisive in turning down unwanted help or attempts at conversation.
Business fraud, long associated with other parts of West Africa, has also been reported in The Gambia. The U.S. embassy has received reports of several scams in which U.S. businesses sent, but did not receive, payment for shipments. U.S. citizens should be very suspicious of any unsolicited offers to participate in lucrative business opportunities, especially if they require financial disclosures, money transfers, large up-front investments, or promises of confidentiality. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is common sense – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. You should be suspicious of any unsolicited business proposal originating in The Gambia. Carefully scrutinize all proposals before you commit any funds, provide any goods or services, or undertake any travel. For additional information, please see the Department of State’s information on International Financial Scams.
The U.S. Embassy is frequently contacted by victims of romantic Internet scams and health-related plea-for-help scams perpetrated in The Gambia. Generally, a U.S. citizen befriends someone or gets engaged to someone over the Internet. This person, who can claim to be a U.S. citizen or a Gambian citizen, eventually requests financial assistance from the U.S. citizen to help pay for urgent medical treatment, to tide him or her over after a recent robbery, or to pay some form of alleged exit tax or government fine. In the vast majority of cases, the person with whom the U.S. citizen has been corresponding is using a fake identity and is in no need of assistance. In general, U.S. citizens are advised not to send money to anyone they have not met in person. For more information on this type of scam, please refer to the State Department brochure on International Financial Scams, specifically the section on Internet Dating and Romance 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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