Common Travel Scams and How to Avoid Them

Traveling this summer? Vinnie asked personal security expert Justin Lavelle about possible scams and how to avoid them.

Summer vacations are intended to explore the world and make memories. In most cases, this is the outcome, however, there are instances where local con-artists take advantage of naïve travelers and turn their world upside down. Below are some common scams and practical ways to avoid them.

Broken Taxi Meter Scam – It is not uncommon for taxi drivers near train stations or airports to notify passengers that their meter is broken. This scam is common in Central America. If the meter is not utilized, passengers can be held responsible for outrageous taxi fees. Ask the driver to turn on the meter, if indeed the meter is broken, negotiate the rate before driving away from the curb. If the driver insists the ride is cheaper without the meter or refuses to turn the meter on, get out of the taxi and request a different taxi driver.

Overbooked or Closed Hotel – This scam also involves taxi drivers. While en route to the hotel, the driver may say the hotel is closed or over booked then try to lure you to a more expensive property where he gets a kick back. To avoid being scammed, contact the hotel upon arrival to insure the reservation is confirmed and request a hotel shuttle pick up.

Free Jewelry – This scam tends to target female travelers. A friendly man or woman may strike up a friendly conversation then place a “free” bracelet on your wrist. Before departing they will demand money and refuse to takethe jewelry back. These are often handmade crafts sold to support their family. Refusal of payment usually causes an embarrassing scene. Avoid this scam by refusing to accept any kind of “free” gift from a stranger.

pills on your Clothing – This scam is common in Europe. While sightseeing a person may accidentally spill something on your clothing or bump you from behind. This is a mere distraction to keep your focus on the spill and not on personal belongings. While helping clean up the mess, the culprit will pick purses or pockets. Avoid this scam by being aware of your surroundings and declining help should someone spill condiments or beverages on you. Go to the nearest bathroom and clean the stain yourself.

Fake Police Officers – Large cities are notorious for scamming tourists. In this scenario, a person will approach a tourist and request illicit substances like drugs. During the discourse, a couple of people dressed in uniform will approach and flash fake police badges. This ploy is designed to get tourists to turn over their IDs and passports. To avoid this scam, request the officer show ID and call the police department to confirm their identity. Refuse to hand over the passports citing they are locked in the hotel room and request they follow you to the hotel. If they refuse, simply walk away.

Closed Attractions – If traveling overseas, be wary of locals who speak perfect English. Locals may approach tourists fishing for information about their travels and interests. They may try to steer tourists to another location stating their original attraction was closed then directing them to an attraction or excursion that charges more and pays a kick back. Avoid this scam by checking out the original site or asking other shop owners orticket counter for verification.
ATM Helper – Be aware of people hanging around ATM machines, especially overseas. They may insist they can help save transaction fees, when their true intent is to skim your credit card number and PIN so they can drain your accounts later. To avoid this scam, never let anyone near while you are
making an ATM transaction. Always cover the keypad when entering your PIN code. If someone is hanging out nearby, leave and find another ATM. Store all credit/debit cards in a RFID sleeve for an added level of protection.

Group Photos – Be leery of people who approach to take a group photo. Often times scammers will hang out at landmarks and tourist attractions posing to be friendly. After you hand over your camera/phone and start posing your group this helpful person will take off with your expensive camera or cell
phone. Avoid this scam by asking one of the tourists in the group to snap the photo and offer to return the favor.

Fake WiFi Hubs – In this day and age WiFi is available most anywhere, but unsecure connections can be quite dangerous when it comes to protecting your identity. Hackers are always on the lookout for unsuspecting victims. To avoid this scam, check with the hotel, airport or coffee shop to ascertain which WiFi connection is safe. You can also use a VPN (virtual private network) to encrypt your online activity.

Fake Wake Up Calls – Calls in the middle of the night can be startling. Waking up from a dead sleep can make you feel disoriented and more likely to share valuable information. Should you receive a call from the front desk regarding your credit card information do not confirm over the phone. To
avoid this scam, take the caller’s name and inform him you will come down to the front desk and verify information in person.

Taking these simple precautions will help insure a pleasant and uneventful vacation. Personal security is essential when traveling abroad and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is wise to be aware of your surroundings and keep in mind, if a deals seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Justin Lavelle is Communications Director at PeopleLooker is the fast, affordable, and easy way to access public records and search for people. Find out ages, marital status, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, criminal records, and more.

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