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Avoiding Common Travel Scams: Tips for Confidence While You Travel

Nothing can turn a dream vacation into a nightmare like being scammed. The criminals are well-rehearsed and happy to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers. Here are some tips for avoiding common travel scams:

Getting a Ride

The Scam: There’s a long line of people waiting for a taxi or shuttle. Someone appears, offering to take you to your destination. Where they go instead may be an unknown location to rob you, or harm you. Or, they may have exorbitant rates but you’re already in their vehicle so what can you do?

The Solution: Look for the transportation company’s name and vehicle number on the outside of the vehicle and the driver’s registration and information inside. Also, be obvious about looking for the rate sheet and ask what the exact rate will be to get to your destination. 

Hotel Switch

The Scam: While we’re on the subject of getting rides, beware of someone telling you they’ll take you to a wonderful hotel that can accommodate you and has low rates. If you actually arrive at that hotel safely (and with all of your money), that hotel may only have very expensive rooms left. You’re exhausted, so you pay up. The guy who delivered you gets a kick-back from the hotel.

The Solution: Book all lodging ahead of time and through a reputable source. Contact them before departing to verify your reservation, confirming the rate. Also ask if they offer transportation and make sure you know what that vehicle will look like.

At Your Hotel
The Scam:
 Scambusters says a common scam happens in the middle of the night, when the “front desk” calls your room saying your payment information was left incomplete during the shift change and requests that you repeat your credit card number. You provide it and don’t know you were scammed by someone who might have stepped behind an unattended front desk or who may be located offsite. They may even ask typical hotel questions like “is the room acceptable? Would you like a wake-up call?” 

The Solution: Never give your credit card number over the phone. Tell them you will come down in the morning to straighten it out. 

“Free” Wi-Fi

The Scam: You’re trying to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot and link to one that says “guest” or “public.” It could belong to someone who is installing spy-ware on your computer. 

The Solution: Ask the hotel, café or store for the name of their Wi-Fi. Better yet, have your own hotspot device so you don’t have to rely on anyone else’s.

Know Your Money
The Scam:
When shopping, the cashier gives you your change very slowly or talks to you while giving it back.  According to Travelocity, their hope is that you will get distracted or in such a hurry to get out of there, you won’t notice you’re not getting back the right change.

The Solution: Know the names and values of the local currency and exchange rates.  Don’t let yourself be distracted or in a rush. Know exactly what you should be getting back and make sure you get it all.

Keep Your Money
The Scam:
Pickpockets may have been watching you get out your wallet to pay for something. Common tricks include dropping something in front of you so you’ll pick it up for them and there goes the wallet in your back pocket. Or, because they’ve been watching you, they know exactly where to grab.

The Solution: Don’t carry your identification, credit cards, passport or major amounts of money in obvious places like in a purse on your arm or back pocket. Use a hidden wallet to keep the important stuff under your clothes and out of view. Keep the day’s spending money in a front pocket that can be zippered, buttoned or snapped. Or wear a cross-body purse that can’t be grabbed easily. 

Hide in Plain Sight
The Scam:
 Although your credit card and passport are hidden away, criminals can easily scan the imbedded RFID (radio frequency identification) tags containing your personal and financial information just by passing you. Your cards and passport are still on your body but the information just walked away with the thief. 

The Solution: RFID wallets and purses obscure thieves’ ability to scan that information, acting as an invisible wall.

With awareness and the right tools at your exposure, you’ll be able to avoid the scams and can get on with the pleasure of travel.