HOW TO AVOID TRAVEL SCAMS
How to Avoid Travel Scams
16 Things You Must Know for Your Safety
By Ken Faught
Important travel safety tips – common scams to avoid while traveling.
Tourists can be high-value targets for theft, given the right opportunity. We want you to travel safely, intelligently, and avoid becoming a victim, so we came up with this list of the most-common travel scams. We want to help you avoid getting ripped off, plain and simple and we reference this story in our top 27 travel safety tips blog on the site. I wanted to give you a travel blog focused on detailed travel safety tips and tricks. I also recommend that you read our top travel tips, the best of the best story because it too is loaded full of the best travel information and is an incredible resource for new and seasoned travelers.
Travel Scams: The Most-Common of All-Time
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 1 - Hotel Scams
The thing about scams is they are designed to make them as unnoticeable as possible to the victim. This particular scam is where a taxi driver asks you if you have reservations for your hotel. If you say no, he tells you that your hotel is overbooked or closed, and then recommends another hotel where he gets a kickback. This doesn’t happen if you have reservations, so take note.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol when you are around strangers because it impairs your judgment.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 2 - Taxi Scams
Before I get into this one, I recommend to everyone that they don’t ever flash large sums of cash, ever. I want you to say that again - I recommend to everyone that they don’t ever flash large sums of cash. This immediately identifies you as an opportunity to anyone around you.
I always carry my money two separate places at all time. I typically go somewhere private, like a restroom, and put the money I need for the next thing I am purchasing, like a cab ride, and maybe 30 percent extra. This way it looks like I don’t have much money. I have traveled with friends who pull out a wad of cash, wrapped with a $100 bill on top, and it just screams “rip me off.”
So, getting back to the most-common taxi scam. This is where the driver claims that his meter is broken and overcharges you. To avoid this scam, I always ask for the price in advance. The driver can use an app on his cell phone to figure out how far away he’s taking you and how much time the journey will require. Also, ask the staff at your hotel about common taxi rates. One time I paid a guy $100 for four hours to take me on a tour of Panama. No tricks, no games, and we both knew exactly what we were getting.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 3 – The Free Gift
I like to travel to Cabo San Lucas a lot because it’s a short two-hour non-stop flight from San Diego, California, one of my home airports (I’m lucky cause I can fly from there, LAX, Orange County or Ontario). Around the marina, there are all sorts of peddlers who want to put something on your wrist, like a bracelet, or around your neck, like a necklace. They claim they are giving it to you for free, and typically site religious reasons. Then, once it on your body, they ask for payment, and if you don’t pay up quickly, they cause a commotion, hoping you will just pay them to make it all go away. Simply never let anyone put anything on you. This is also a great way to be pick pocketed because they are now within your personal space.
Want to know more about how to travel safely? Read our story dedicated entirely to travel safety tips & tricks.
Be leary of traxi drivers telling you that your hotel is overbooked or sold out.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 4 – Fake Authorities
I was in Exuma, Bahamas when I had a person pretending to be law enforcement ask for my passport. I asked him to present ID, and it looked very suspicious. I simply told him that I was a tourist and that I left it at the hotel. I didn’t want to give him any personal information, as I had done nothing wrong. Passports themselves can be very valuable, and I heard that an American passport on the black market or dark web is worth $13,500.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 5 – Beggars, Children, & the Disabled
This isn’t really a scam, but it’s a way to lose money easily and enable people to live off a system. In third-world countries, it’s very common for little kids, barely of walking age, disabled people, and others to beg for money. Sometimes the person claims to be pregnant, deaf, blind, injured or wherever. Sometimes there are even other people watching all the action, just to see where you place your wallet. They may or may not even be connected to the people asking for money. Their intention is to pick your pocket and steal your wallet if it’s placed in a vulnerable spot. I grew up in an area that had a lot of panhandlers, so I learned a lot at a young age at how this can actually encourage them to do this instead of get a real job. Their goal is to pull on your sympathy and your heart strings so you will dig deep to help them out. It’s best that you don’t even though you may really want to help them.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 6 – The Intentional Spill
One common trick is where two people pair up to steal your wallet. Once finds a way to spill something on your clothing, like a condiment, bird pool, or something else they can toss onto you from a few feet away in a crowd. Then a second person tells you that you have something on your clothes and offers to help clean it off. This sets the person to be pickpocketed and have their wallet or something from their purse stolen. If this is a woman, their goal oftentimes is to get them to have to set down their purse to take off a coat or jacket. That’s when the first scammer comes back and steals the purse while the fake good samaritan tries to help clean it off. Then, when the woman realizes her purse has been stolen, the samaritan pretend to help want to help you catch the thief.
Foreigners like to take advantage of the exchange rate and use it to make money off you. Know the daily exchange rate and use the calculator on your phone to make sure you aren’t getting taken advantage of at any time.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 7 – Hotel Concierge & Cab Driver Information
I learned this in Las Vegas because I own a business there called Pole Position Raceway, and I like to go out a lot, but it’s common everywhere. This happens when you ask the concierge or taxi driver where to find the best Mexican food, the best steak house, or anything where you want his/her advice. I used to think that hotel concierges were there to help, and most are, but a lot of them are on the take. We actually advertised our indoor go kart track in a magazine that put secret indicators on ads to alert cab drivers of how much money (i.e. kickbacks or commissions) they could make by sending you to their way. I heard strip clubs in Las Vegas can pay cab drivers $30-$50 a head per victim. They way this works is after the cabbie drops off the victims at the front door, he waits for them to go inside, then goes around and gets his commission from one of the strip club employees. There is nothing illegal about this, but the main point is that you may not get to the “best” place that you had requested, instead you are taken to the place where they can make the most money off you. To avoid this, do research online or simply ask a local or another tourist, not the hotel staff or a cab driver.
Did you know that Hawaii is one of the world’s safest travel destinations? Read all about our adventures on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.
Don’t buy tickets from strangers as there is a good chance they are fake.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 8 – The Closed Attraction
This usually happens in heavy traffic tourist areas where people are walking to a variety of tourist attractions or activities. This is where someone, a local, asks you what you are doing that day, and when you tell them you have an activity booked, they say that activity is closed for a myriad of reasons, and offer you a solution at a discount. Don’t fall for it and check out the activity yourself.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 9 –Fake Event Tickets
This is where someone on the street pretends to be a tourist and wants to sell you tickets for an attraction at a huge discount. Such a big discount that you really don’t want to say no. In reality, the tickets are fake, the person isn’t a tourist, and if you buy the tickets, you won’t be granted entry into whatever they were pretending to be selling you. This is basically theft, but it happens all around the world.
Make sure others aren’t watching you enter your pin at any ATM machines.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 10 – The ATM Helper
This is where you are approached at an ATM machine by a person with the goodwill claim that they can save you local bank fees. What they are really doing is trying to get your card into their hands so they can secretly (i.e. descretely) slide your card with a skimmer they have hidden in their pocket. Then they try to watch you enter your pin so they can access your account. To avoid this, never let anyone be around you when you are making any time of bank transaction.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 11 – Public Wi-Fi
Watching using unsecured free public Wi-Fi as hackers oftentimes use they to gain access into your computer and install malware. To avoid this, if you are at a public restaurant and you want access to their Wi-Fi, ask a staff member which network is owned by the business. To really be safe, encrypt you information by using your own VPN through a company like Private Internet Access.
What’s the safety vacation destination in Mexico? We love Cabo San Lucas and you can find out why in this story dedicated to our adventures in Mexico.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 12 – The Group Photo
This is where someone offers to take a free photo of your group with your camera – you know, a guy who just wants to be nice. Then, when you are distracted for even a second, he magically disappears. A more comprehensive part of this is when another person pretends to assault “Mr. Nice Guy,” steals the camera, and jumps onto a bicycle or scooter and takes your gear. To avoid this, never hand any of your personal possessions to anyone, period!
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 13 – Fake Jewelry or Watch
One of the most-common scams anywhere in the world is lying about the quality of something. People try to sell you something that they claim is made of a high-quality solid gold and it’s just gold covered. Sometimes this is done by a street peddler or it could be someone saying they are stranded need money for a tow truck and are willing to sell an expensive watch for pennies on the dollar. Just beware and don’t buy anything unless it’s from a store and you know what you are really buying.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 14 – Rental Damage
This is where you rent a scooter or a moped and the owner demands more money because he says you damaged the vehicle. It could be a dent, a tear in the seat, whatever. The best way to prevent this is to take photos with your cell phone from a variety of angles. Do a 360-degree walk around the vehicle and shoot a dozen or so photos. It’s just cheap proof of vehicle condition before you rented.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 15 – Credit Card scams
This can happen anywhere in the world and it’s where you get a call late at night or early in the morning and the person on the other end claims to be from the front desk. Think about it, you can call any hotel and ask to be connected to any room by simply giving them a room number. Then, the person calling says they are from the front desk and need to verify your credit card information. As a rule of thumb, only give the hotel your personal information when you are at the front desk or if you were the one initiating the call. If they insist, simply tell them you want to call them back to verify their identity. Then, call the front desk from the number typically printed on the phone or in a nearby resource directory.
How to Avoid Travel Scams – Tip 16 – The Sexy Woman (Or Even an Ugly One)
This is where you meet a flirtatious woman in a bar, or man for you women, and seem to want to hookup. After a while, that person disappears and you are forced to pay their bills. An extreme version of this is where a woman sees you on the street alone, asks you to take her to a bar that she just happens to be standing near, and goes inside and runs up a tab. What you don’t know is that it’s a scam, the bar owner is her/his friend, and they take you for a couple hundred bucks in no time. Once again, avoid strangers, even if you are horny!
No matter what, you simply can’t protect yourself from every scam, there are just too many out there. What you can do is conduct a Google search before your trips and look for scams specific to the country you are travelling to and be very thorough. After all, the money you save is your own.
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