Travel Scams To Avoid
Most people love to travel and these days it is more affordable than ever before. Travel is about new experiences. Every country has something to see, exotic foods to taste and cultures to explore. Unfortunately, not all travel experiences are positive ones and some we want to relegate into the back of our minds to never be thought of, or mentioned again.
It would be almost impossible to travel to any destination where you won’t come across risks for tourists. Locals in every country can spot a tourist from a mile away and many have become very cunning at finding ways of scamming travelers to separate them from their cash or valuables.
Fortunately, many of the more popular scams have become common knowledge and tourists are able to check each country to see which scam is making the rounds at any given season. We’ve narrowed down a number of them to watch out for so you can enjoy your next trip, without any bad memories.
Just For You
In some countries, particularly in Europe, be wary of locals giving you gifts. This scam has been dubbed the “Rosemary Scam” and entails a very friendly local giving you a gift. They may compliment you on your jacket, get you into a conversation and then offer you a gift. The gift could be a t-shirt, hat, a bracelet or a simple sprig of rosemary. You accept the gift thinking you’ve just met a new friend when this friend starts demanding money for their generosity. Most people refuse when the gift giver starts causing a ruckus and shouting to gain as much attention as possible. The poor tourist often feels embarrassed and quickly hands over some cash just to put an end to the problem. The only way to avoid this is to not accept gives from strangers, no matter how genuine they first appear.
The ATM Assistant
You’re in a queue in front of an ATM, minding your own business and waiting for your turn to take out some cash. A stranger approaches and offers to help you avoid international withdrawal fees. The person behind you confirms that yes, indeed, you should listen to the stranger as he has helped others. The entire time you are at the ATM the stranger keeps talking. You ignore the stranger, take your cash and walk away. Then you come back home and realize your bank account has been drained. The stranger, and most likely the person that was standing behind you at the ATM are in cahoots. They keep you distracted while they watch your every move, including the PIN code you entered. What you most likely didn’t realize is that while they were in such close proximity to you, they scan your card and minimalist wallet with a card skimmer and obtained all the information they needed to get to your funds.
To avoid this scam you should always be aware of your surroundings when you’re at any ATM. If this type of scammer approaches you, ask them to keep their distance or move away to another ATM, preferably one where the machine is situated behind closed doors that you need to scan your card to gain entry. That way you are assured of some privacy. You should also look at investing in an RFID wallet. This wallet is lined with a special foil that blocks card scanners from reading any information you have on your cards.
You’ve arrived at your destination and you’d really like to see the local area on a motorbike or moped. You rent your bike for a few days and go see the sights. You park at your hotel to get some rest and when you come out, the motorbike or moped has been damaged or stolen. YIKES! You go back to the rental place and they demand payment from you. Chances are, the rental place has a scam going on and the motorbike or moped was damaged or stolen by someone in their circle as a means of getting extra cash from tourists.
There are a few ways to avoid this scam. Only rent from a reputable company that offers insurance for theft or damage. The really reputable ones will not allow you to rent without it. You should also only use your own lock and chain to secure the bike when you’re not using it and don’t give them the name or address of your hotel. You should also take pictures of the bike before you take it for a ride.
Public transport is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to travel around any particular country, especially if you want to see as much of a place as you possibly can. However, be wary of being scammed by fake conductors. You pay for your ticket and you’re happily traveling along, when an official-looking conductor approaches you, asking to see your ticket. They then inform you that you are in the wrong class and request you pay for being in the upgraded class. This scam is notorious on trains because of all the unsupervised carriages. If you’re asked to pay for such an upgrade, ask to be relocated to the class you supposedly paid for or ask to go to the front of the train to speak to a supervisor.
Beware Of Beggars
In some countries, beggars can be found lining city streets preying on the kindness of others. Quite often, these beggars can appear blind, crippled or a mother with a baby. They will play on your sympathies until you part with some of your cash. While there are legitimate people in the world down on their luck, many of these beggars are professionals in this field. They are often part of a highly organized gang of beggars who use children to do the begging for them. Sadly, the desperate mother holding the baby isn’t even the child’s mother and the baby is usually drugged to keep quiet. They usually have an elder or watcher keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t keep any money for themselves and the children are given a minimum amount of feed to keep them motivated to beg. If you really feel you need to help beggars, don’t give them money. Chances are their watcher is paying attention to where you keep your wallet and may try to pick your pockets later. Buy some food and give that instead. If nothing else you’ll be helping a child get a proper meal for a change.
If you get into a taxi at the airport and the driver informs you that his meter is broken, get your luggage and get out. The meter is most likely working and the driver will offer to take you to your hotel for a fair price. The price will be anything but fair. Ask for the meter to be turned on and if they keep insisting that it’s broken or flat out refuse, find another taxi with a meter, or one that will negotiate a set price with you before you get in. Your best bet is to book a hotel with a shuttle service and be picked up at the airport rather than play Russian roulette with shoddy taxi drivers.
Another popular taxi scam starts when you tell the driver to take you to your hotel. He will then inform you that the hotel is bad or not open for the season. He is quick to suggest an alternative which is usually more expensive and one where he gets a commission for bringing a new guest. Insist on being taken to your original hotel and again, keep an eye on the meter. Use your smartphone’s GPS if you must to avoid being taken on a much longer route.
Credit Card No-No
Some scammers at hotels have gotten clever at getting unsuspecting guests to divulge their credit card details and one such scam involves them calling random rooms pretending to be the front desk needing confirmation of your credit card details. They usually make such calls relatively late when guests have already settled in for the night and may be too tired to think clearly. The scammer then charges whatever they can to your card and you get a nasty surprise when you return home. If you get such a call, simply inform the caller that you will come down to the front desk in the morning and take care of everything then.
Wherever you travel, enjoy yourself, but remain alert and look confident. Walk with purposeful strides. Scammers generally look for targets that look lost or confused. Keep your valuables close to your body and when choosing luggage sets for your travels, make sure you choose something sturdy with a good lock or use additional padlocks.
Don’t let scammers stop you from mingling with locals. Part of the fun of traveling is meeting new people. Just be wary of strangers who want to get too friendly.