There are many travel scams that target tourists with the aim of separating them from their money or committing identity theft. Some scams, such as phony travel offers and fake rental listings, may occur before you even disembark on your trip.
But assuming your travel arrangements are legitimate, you still need to be careful once you arrive – scammers and thieves can target unsuspecting travelers on holiday. Here are five travel scams to avoid when you reach your destination.
1. The Taxi Scam
If you’re planning to get around your travel destination in cabs, you need to watch out for common taxi scams, which will try to exploit your need for ground transportation and lack of familiarity with your surroundings. There are a few common variations on the taxi scam:
- The long route: Unscrupulous taxi drivers may avoid the most direct route to your destination and take the long way around to drive up your fare. To beat this scam, be sure to use a map or your phone to have a general idea of where you’re going, and ask the driver to take the most direct route.
- The broken meter: In this scam, the driver will claim his or her meter is broken but offer to negotiate a fare that is dramatically overinflated. In most cases, the best way to avoid this scam is to reject the offered fare and get out of the vehicle.
- The illegal taxi: In some areas, unlicensed and unregulated drivers may try to pick you up for a fare. The best way to avoid this is to pick up rides from official taxi stations and look for licensing information in the cab.
2. Unsolicited “Gifts”
When you’re out and about in public areas, a person may approach you and offer you an unsolicited gift, such as putting a trinket in your hand or tying a bracelet around your wrist. He or she will then insist you owe him or her money and harass you until you turn over cash. This is a common scam in Europe. To avoid this scam, do not accept unsolicited items from anyone.
3. Currency Scams
When traveling to a foreign destination, you probably aren’t as familiar with the currency. Scammers may take advantage of this by offering phony money, switching your real currency with fake bills, or shortchanging you when they make change. The best way to avoid a currency scam is to familiarize yourself with the local money, only exchange cash through legitimate sources like banks when possible, and count your money at the point of sale when you receive change.
4. Unsecured Wi-Fi
Criminals can set up unsecured Wi-Fi hot spots in public areas, then wait for people to connect their phones, laptops, and other devices to the public network. Once you connect, any information you send or access via the network can be stolen – including personal information, usernames and passwords, and account information.
This scam can occur while traveling or in your hometown. You should only connect to verified, secure network. If you’re in a trustworthy business, ask which network is the official one. When in doubt, use your data plan instead.
5. Card Skimmers
Card skimmers are devices that pull data from credit cards and bank cards. Your card data may be swiped through an unauthorized device without your knowledge. Skimmers can even be attached to legitimate ATMs to trick unsuspecting bank customers.
You should avoid giving anyone your card unless you’re about to make a purchase and only use ATMs located inside a legitimate bank location. Always check your credit card and bank account statements during and after a trip to make sure your information hasn’t been stolen.
Traveling can be an immensely rewarding experience, and part of that experience is meeting and engaging with new people. While most residents of your travel destination are trustworthy, scammers and thieves are out there, so you need to be diligent to protect yourself.