Friday , February 9 2024
Understanding Travel Scams

Understanding Travel Scams: How to Protect Yourself While Traveling

You might be a well-versed traveler, or this might be your first time out of your homeland. 

No matter the case, you have to be prepared for some of the most devastating yet, well-hidden travel scams out there. 

Research shows that nearly 30% of people have fallen or know someone who fell for a scam while traveling. 

Read on and save yourself a bad day and enjoy getting to know new places without any worries. 

Pickpockets, their schemes, and tactics

Pickpocketing is a sad reality for many countries and a problem that’s not easy to deal with. It’s one of the most popular scams around the world, and the victims are often unsuspecting tourists. 

You might be walking through a busy street, or admiring the incredible architecture, hypnotized by everything you’re seeing and learning.

Suddenly, somebody bumps into you. They get lost in the crowd, but your items, such as your phone or wallet, are no longer in your pocket. 

Here are a few simple techniques to discourage petty thieves from making you their next target:

  • Carry your money on a cross-body bag or a money belt; 
  • Keep your valuables close but difficult to access, like in a pocket inside your coat. Of course, keep the coat closed; 
  • Don’t get distracted in crowded areas; 
  • Don’t show off your flashiest items, like an expensive-looking necklace, rings, or earrings; 
  • Try to keep most of your money and identifications safe in your lodgings. 

Vacation rentals that don’t exist

It’s very important to book vacation rentals through trusted websites. Many of us assume we’ve got extremely lucky to find a cheap rental, only to arrive and realize that the accommodation doesn’t exist at all, or that it’s nothing like the advertisement. 

This is also a very common scam since it’s easy to upload fake pictures online and write wonders about a fictional place. People most often fall for luxury lodgings at a lower price, hence the importance of looking through reputable websites.

Here are some things you can do to avoid falling for this kind of fraudulent scheme:

  • Read the reviews thoroughly, both the positive and negative ones;
  • Reach out to the host directly and ask questions about the property;
  • Use secure payment methods, such as cash or online payment systems that you know are secure;
  • Don’t fall for things that seem too good to be true. Most often, they are. 

The “fake police officer” scam

Being in a foreign city is stressful enough. If you add to this a police officer accusing you of a crime you didn’t commit and trying to check your passport and other documentation, it’s a guaranteed bad day. 

In some tourist destinations, this scenario is played out a lot. A thief posing as a police officer might accuse you of the first crime they can think of: from carrying drugs to fake documentation. 

Do not give them your passport or personal items, ever. Instead, ask them to take you to the nearest police station or the embassy to solve your situation. If they’re not scammers, this is what they have to do anyway. 

Unauthorized guides and street tours

While exploring a new and exciting place, you’ll meet a lot of friendly locals. And some of them might offer you a historical tour around the main attractions for very cheap. 

Most people just want to help tourists have a good time, but scammers take advantage of the goodness of others to reach their selfish goals. It’s important to learn how to tell one from the other. 

For example, somebody might realize you’re a tourist, and they might talk to you about a secret spot that no other tourists know about. They might even offer to guide you there for very little money. 

So, you pay and follow this person through a crowded area. At some point, they will get lost among the people, and you will find yourself alone and with a little less cash on you. 

Follow these tips to avoid this kind of people: 

  • Be wary when somebody approaches you on the street with something too enticing; 
  • Book tours through reliable agencies;
  • Do your research beforehand;
  • Ask friends and family who’ve traveled to your next destination about the best spots to spend time and money on. 

Protecting yourself from online scams 

The internet can be a wonderful and terrible place at once. On the one hand, we spend a lot less time researching, and it’s possible to easily find new and barely explored destinations for the next holiday. On the other, virtual scams are on the rise. 

Cybercriminals try to access people’s data, especially their financial information. This is why they build fake websites and online marketplaces. Once you’ve put in your card number and key, they get access to your bank account.

For example, if you use a public Wi-Fi network, scammers can trick you into connecting to a different one with a similar name. They can intercept your data, and this is why it’s important to be cautious.

Here are a few steps to take to stay clear of online scams:

  • Make sure the websites you’re navigating through are secure. 
  • Before providing your information, double-check the website’s reviews. 
  • Download a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your activity online and protect you from malware and other virtual frauds. There are extensions for your browser, for example, Chrome VPN, that take only seconds to install on your devices.

The fake currency exchange

When you’re traveling to a new country, it’s necessary to exchange some money. If you head to the first exchange office you see, you might fall victim to a scam that will empty your pockets.

This is how it usually goes: people are lured in by great exchange rates, only to realize far too late that there are hidden charges or that they’ve been given less money with a trick of the hand.

This is what you can do to protect yourself against this scam:

  • Research what exchange offices are legitimate in your destination;
  • Compare rates (Google usually has an exchange rate tool you can use);
  • Don’t fall for rates that seem too good to be true;
  • Count your money carefully, and don’t let them rush you out the door. 

The expensive taxi meter

Taxi fares are one of the most infamous scams out there, and they happen in almost every country. This is why it’s crucial to pay attention when you climb on one, especially after a long flight and looking like a lost tourist.

Dishonest taxi drivers will manipulate the fare meter to inflate the charges, tell you that the fare meter is broken, and go in circles or take a long way instead of shortcuts.

Here are some tips on what to do to stay safe:

  • Use transport services that have good recommendations;
  • Research reputable taxi companies before arriving at your destination;
  • Make sure the meter is working properly from the moment you climb into the car;
  • Take note of the driver’s name and license plate. 

Although none of these things ensure that you will be completely free of scams, the possibilities reduce a lot. You can also contact the authorities if it’s necessary. 

To sum up

Being fearful will only prevent you from enjoying your trip. Instead, stay informed and take into consideration the tips we gave you above. 

Stay alert, research your destination, purchase everything from reliable websites, and try never to give your personal information away. Most scammers get discouraged when people are vigilant, and they go for the oblivious ones.

Pack your suitcase, board the plane, and go on those adventures you’ve always dreamed of. You’re well prepared to face anything that might come your way! 

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