If you have a case of wanderlust and can’t get enough of traveling the globe to exotic places, you will want to balance all that excitement with some caution. You should be aware that bad guys target tourists with some pretty slick travel scams. Even the savviest traveler can be taken in by a shady criminal. To avoid becoming their next victim, read on to find out about the most common travel scams to avoid.
Taxi Meter Broken Scam
This is a very common scam, and many a seasoned traveler has been taken in by this one. You jump in a taxi, and the driver tells you the meter is broken, and when you arrive at your destination, he charges you a fortune for the trip. If your driver says the meter is broken, find another cab; not all cab drivers are criminals.
Hotel is Closed Travel Fraud
We hear about this scam too often. Your cab driver asks for your designation and then informs you that the hotel has been closed or is awful. He then takes you to a fancy, more expensive hotel where he earns a nice commission for scamming the silly tourist. Using your cell phone, you can call the hotel and confirm it is open and your reservation all set.
Free Bracelets, Rosemary and Other Travel Fraud Scams
Friendly natives walk up to you and put a bracelet on your wrist or a sprig of rosemary in your hand. Once you have it in your possession, they demand payment. If you refuse, they make a huge scene. The idea is that you will pay up, so you won’t be embarrassed. To avoid this one, refuse anything “free” that someone offers you. Use an assertive tone when saying “no.” They will get the message.
Spill Something on You Travel Scams
If a total stranger “accidentally” spills something on you, hold on tight to your wallet. It’s a common scam where someone bumps into you and spills their coffee. They are instantly apologetic and try to help you wipe it off while slyly picking your pocket at the same time. Always secure your wallet and valuables in a zipper compartment of something attached to your body that cannot easily be accessed by a stranger.
Restaurant or Attraction is Closed Fraud
Either your cab driver or another helpful pedestrian informs you that the attraction you were seeking is closed, but they would be happy to take you to one that is open. The problem is they are in cahoots with the owner of the “better place,” and your original destination is open, they are scammers! Contact the place you want to go or look online to make sure it is open and available before heading out.
Fake Police Travel Scams
In overseas metropolitan areas, sometimes men will strike up a conversation and then casually offer drugs or other illicit contraband. Then when you accept, they will show you fake badges pretending to be the police. Since you have no way of knowing for sure, you hand over the bribe they demand to keep quiet. Never purchase or accept anything from total strangers while traveling; you never know who you are dealing with.
Group Photo Travel Fraud
If someone offers to take your photo while in another country, be wary. Often, while you are setting up the shot and getting into place, the thief runs off with your expensive camera or your cell phone. Don’t be fooled by this one. If you need someone to take a picture of you, ask someone who isn’t at all interested, they are less likely to be a criminal wanting to run off with your goods.
Fake Wi-Fi Hub Travel Fraud Scams
The world is a Wi-Fi playground nowadays. Just be careful when connecting to unsecured hotspots while traveling. Hackers are very sophisticated and may be watching your every move online. Always secure your mobile devices with anti-virus/anti-malware software and consider using a VPN to mask all your online activity while overseas.
Motorbike Damage Travel Scams
Another widespread scam to watch out for is when renting a motorbike or scooter. You spend the day cruising around having fun, but when you go to return it, it’s either stolen or has damage that was not there before. The owner demands huge payments for restitution, but he and his cohorts are the ones responsible for the damage or theft. It’s a bait and switch tactic that claims many victims. To avoid this one, take photos of the entire bike before using it and use your own lock to secure it. Never tell the owner where you are staying if you are keeping the rental overnight.
Found Jewelry Fraud
A man or woman bends down in the street and picks up what looks like an expensive ring. They offer it to you, asking if you dropped it. You say no, but now they want to sell it to you for a ridiculously low price. Many tourists fall for this one expecting to get home and appraise a gem only to find they have a worthless trinket instead, and they have been duped out of their hard-earned cash. Be very careful about when and how you buy souvenirs from your trips.
Friendly Pretty Women Scam
Generally, men are the target of this scam. An attractive, friendly native woman talks you up and suggests you go to a bar; you have a lot of drinks and fun until the bill comes, and you are expected to pay. Sometimes this one takes an even darker turn where you are drugged and end up completely robbed and alone in a foreign county. Be careful of the company you keep when traveling. Keep a close eye on your drinks and never take any pills or other substances you are offered.
Traveling can be a fun, exciting, and rewarding experience as long as you don’t fall victim to one of these popular scams. Protect yourself, always be on the lookout for something that seems too good to be true and use common sense when interacting with the natives.