8 Common Travel Scams To Be Aware Of

If you are going to a busy tourist area, you don’t want to fall prey to these common travel scams and ruin your trip. While these scams can happen anywhere, you can be more susceptible when you are in an international destination where you’re unfamiliar with the local culture and customs. Here are eight common travel scams you should know about.

Public WiFi Networks

Be wary of free Wi-Fi networks that don’t require a password to enter. You may be joining a hacker’s hotspot that makes it easy for them to compromise your computer or phone.

What To Do Instead

Instead of hopping onto the first network, you see at a cafe, store or public place, verify the login details with an employee. An official literature piece such as a menu may have this info too.

Fake USB Charging Ports

You have probably seen free public phone charging stations in the post-security airport terminals. These airport kiosks are most likely safe to use because they are in a restricted location. But you should be cautious about hooking up your phone to a public charging cable in shopping centers or other high-traffic places open to the general public.

The “juice jacking” scam may show your phone charging when you hook up the appropriate USB charging cable. However, the cable may actually be installing malware onto your device that can steal your personal information.

What To Do Instead

Bring your own charging cable and wall adapter and plug directly into a power port, if possible. Another option is to include a portable battery bank on your carry-on packing list.

ATM Skimmers

ATM scams occur less frequently as more travelers pay with a chip-embedded credit or debit card. However, they can still be likely, and you should inspect the card reader of ATMs and self-service gas pumps before inserting your card.

More elaborate scams may involve two people huddling around an ATM kiosk. Typically, one is a bystander that appears to be telling the person trying to make a withdrawal that the machine is malfunctioning. Then, the unsuspecting tourist comes up and receives assistance from the bystander but ends up entering their debit card into a skimmer.

What To Do Instead

One option is to inspect the card reader and give it a good tug before inserting your card. To be more secure, you may look for ATM kiosks that are in a bank lobby or another trustworthy area, as the machines can be less likely to be manipulated.

Pickpockets

Pickpocket scams come in many shapes and sizes. These three are the most famous varieties:

  • Bump and Grab: A stranger bumps into you in a big crowd and pulls an item from a pocket. This scam is most likely on busy sidewalks or in train stations.
  • Spilled Drinks or Stains: Someone may claim there is a drink stain or a bird dropping on your clothing. Then, they move in closer to inspect or clean it and potentially steal something from you.
  • Friendly Locals: A group of locals might be very conversational with you. As there are multiple people, it can be challenging to keep an eye on all of them. One may have a brief opportunity to steal something from a zipped luggage compartment, such as a laptop.

These schemes have been occurring for a long time and have adapted to the current generation. A prime example is “The Artful Dodger” in Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel, Oliver Twist, who would steal kerchiefs, watches and other valuables from the innocent.

What To Do Instead

Consider keeping your valuables at home or consider putting small items and documents in a lap belt. Also, try to keep your essential things in sight on your person.

Trinkets And Fortunes

Touristy areas in popular international destinations may have scammers that appear to be kind-hearted, often giving you a small valuable-looking ring, rose or a balloon to children. It’s all good until the end when they demand payment.

What To Do Instead

If possible, walk away from the person or tell them “no” instead of striking up a conversation as you see them approaching you. If it’s too late for that, try to return the item and tell them “no.”

Broken Taxi Meters

The most common taxi scams move you from Point A to Point B, but you’re overcharged. Taxis outside airports and hotels may look legit, but the driver may claim their meter is damaged or inaccurate. It’s also likely they have a working meter, but the cab is unlicensed.

What To Do Instead

Use an authorized taxi service only and try to negotiate rates before hopping into the cab when possible. In international transportation hubs, you should see an official taxi kiosk in the terminal to get a ticket that you can hand to a driver.

You can also consider calling Uber, Lyft or the local rideshare equivalent. Ridesharing apps have predictable pricing and additional security features to protect riders.

Fake Tuk-Tuk Tours

Tuk-Tuk scams are common in Asian destinations where this transportation is most popular, although it’s catching on worldwide in dense metro areas.

Tourists like to go on tuk-tuk tours to visit stores and see memorable sites. However, fake tours involve lengthy visits to stores where the driver most likely receives an under-the-table commission from the shop owner. These tours may take a long time and not see your desired tourist highlights.

What To Do Instead

Look for reputable operators on Airbnb Experiences or other trusted travel platforms. You should also avoid free or cheap tours as they are more likely to offer this unpleasant experience.

Damaged Moped Or Jet Skis

If you’re renting a moped, jet ski or similar power equipment on vacation, the owner may accuse the renter of damage or vandalism. In international countries, the owner may hold your passport or other personal documents as ransom until you pay for the repairs.

What To Do Instead

Perform a thorough inspection of any existing damage before you accept the rental and alert the owner of any potential issues. You should also take pictures or videos at check-in.

For overnight rentals, do your best to secure the equipment in a protected area that’s less subject to tampering or vandalism. Fraudulent rental services may hire people to remove attachments while you’re asleep but bolt them on again after paying for damages.

Inspecting customer reviews for rental services can also help you avoid travel scams.

Summary

Even well-prepared travelers can become travel scam victims. Being aware of the possibilities makes it easier to spot red flags. You can also be more confident in trusting your instincts and avoiding bad situations.

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