Whenever travel Avoid Being Scammed
Whenever we travel, especially overseas in an unfamiliar country, we travelers become quick and easy targets for all kinds of scams and theft. Knowing what scams are popular and what the warning signs are can help save you a lot of time, hassle, and money. Some popular scams and theft tricks going around include:
One of the oldest dangers facing travelers, it can occur a clock from home or a thousand miles away. Nothing can ruin a trip or vacation like finding yourself the victim of a pick pocket expert. So, be prepared and take steps to protect yourself during your travels. I always use a money clip and keep my valuables secured close to my person while traveling. I do not carry wallets in my pockets and avoid bulky packs. I refuse to use fanny packs as they just scream ‘tourist’ to any thief within a ten mile radius. I do use a handle little travel pouch on a sturdy lanyard. This is where I keep my money, cards, passport and any necessary documents with me, securely around my neck, and relatively safe from any shifty fingers.
The Gold Ring Scam:
There are variations of this scam but they all involve the same basic elements- a loot piece of jewelry, an overly generous stranger, and the losos of money. He scam basically works like this, as I have seen it played out by scammer trying to take me for a ride. Someone approaches me with a piece of jewelry- they either just found it or will walk along with you/in front of you and then act like they picked it up off the ground. The scammer then offers the item to you, making mention of how expensive it looks and will say something along the lines of them not wanting/needing another piece of jewelry. They then offer it to you to do with as you like, but will ask for a little bit of money for it. The item is an fake and any attempt to sell it will end with the victim getting laughed at for falling for such a scam. This is a relatively obvious scam but I find it amazing how many people fall for it. If I ever see anyone approach me with any watch, ring, bracelet, or other expensive item, I tell them no and walk away. I would not be surprised if this scam starts taking on a technological feel with iphones and such becoming the item of choice.
Photo Opportunity Scam:
This scam takes advantage of many traveler’s genuine desire to help out fellow travelers and tourists. The scammer will approach the intended victim and ask if they could spare a moment to take their picture for them. After the photo has been taken, as the scammer is looking at the photo that was just taken, their hand slips into the pocket or purse of the person who took the photo. This scam allows them to get closer than they normally would and presents an excellent opportunity for light fingers to make off with a wallet or wad of money. I will still take photos for people but I am very wary of where their hands are and I will often have my hand in my pockets or on my lanyard, protecting my valuable from any itching fingers.
Cab Fare Scam:
This is a popular one for big cities, where taxi cab rides are almost the only way to get around. The easiest way I have found to protect myself from these scams is to do a little research before hand. Whenever I stay in a hotel in a big city, I check with the desk or the tourist information desk and find out what the usual rates for cabs are. I will also find a map and get a general idea of where I am going and how long it will take. This way I get into a cab knowing about how much they should charge and how long the ride should take; this prepares me to be alert to extreme charges or wild out of the way driving routes.
Taxi/Shuttle Bus Scam:
a favorite among airport scammers, this act is so prevalent many airlines post warnings about it on the airport shuttles and pickups. Basically the scam works like this. A tied passenger gets off a long exhausting flight. They are ready to get to the hotel and crash. As they are looking for a shuttle to take them to their hotel someone approaches them with a better deal. They offer some discount or extra service that makes their deal seem better than what the airport shuttles and other tram services offer. The scam comes in that often times the passengers are over charged or end up with bags and valuables missing by the time they reach their destination. This is why I always use the hotel provided shuttles or make reservations for a shuttle to pick me up at the same time I book my flight. A friend of mine once lost her camera, laptop, and some money when her baggage was gone through on one such ‘discounted’ shuttle service.
Hotel Upfront Charge Scam:
Not as prevalent when traveling in North America, this scam is widespread in Europe and Asian cities across the map. Basically what happens is when you check into the hotel, they demand payment upfront. This isn’t too uncommon, but the problem comes with the fine print no one tells you about. If you have a problem with your room or the service and try to check out early or end your reservation, the hotel will not issue you a refund of your money. I always make sure to check the hotels I will be staying at and see what reviews they have online- fellow travelers are the best source of information on things like this and the internet has a wealth for such information that can help save you some time and money by avoiding scams such as this.
It usually is common practice to take care when using ATMs, especially in an unfamiliar place. However, this is never truer than when traveling obverses and it cannot hurt to hear it again- be careful! Watch who is around you and who may be approaching. I have known people who have had someone come up behind them just as they typed in their code and punchy some buttons and run off with whatever money comes spitting out of the machine. It is never a bad thing to be overly cautious when using an ATM. Keep eyes alert and know what and who is around.
Cheap Ticket Scam:
I know firsthand the pain of this scam. Someone approaches you with an offer for discounted or special tickets to some big event, tour, museum, or gallery. You buy the ticket, only to go to the event and be turned away because the ticket is a fraud and you just wasted your money. I got scammed this way on one of the first trips I took overseas before I was wiser in the ways of traveling. I wanted to get into a museum for a special exhibit that was sold out the day I wanted to go. Someone was selling tickets at the street corner near the museum. I bought one for a special showing that was being held later that same night. I went to the museum with the ticket and was promptly shown the door, the security guard telling me the ticket was fake and I was then tenth person that day to be taken in by the scam. I vowed that day to never be so foolish again, and so far I have been able to avoid most scams.
This scam also plays on a traveler’s heart and sense of compassion and sympathy. The scammers walk up to you and ask you to sign a petition- it can be for anything but usually centers around some big global campaign- anti-drugs, gun control, food for the poor, or some made up charity. The scammer approaches you and asks you to sign a petition. In the event you do sign, they will pressure you for a donation- all of it going straight into their pockets. I am always wary of petitions and donation requests on the street and for me, I can give to a group or charity another way and be certain the money is going where I want it to, so I give a firm ‘no’ to these requests.
Street Corner Vendor Scams:
I live by the motto of being overly cautious. Anyone trying to sell me something cheap or offering me a deal that is too good to be true, I turn and walk the other direction. Discount watches and jeweler are fake or stolen. Requests for money are usually scams. Offers for a great deal are often lies. It is a sad truth but the standard and tried and true means of getting tickets, rides, and souvenirs are the way to go.
These tips have helped save my wallet and my sanity many times, and they can do the same for you!
I would like to take this time to thank my assistant Sarah Jo Coryell for her help on making this article extra amazing.
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