Some people don’t realize, but we are usually very vulnerable when traveling. And that’s perfectly normal, as you’re in an area unknown to you, or maybe even in the midst of a completely different culture, with different language and manners.
That’s when shady, tricky scammers will try to take advantage of you. The good news is that they’re not that crafty, so most travel scams end up becoming widespread on the internet and well known among the general public, that can easily identify them.
Avoiding travel scams is mostly about being informed. Here are some examples that will teach you how to tell if someone is scamming you.
#1 – Online travel scams
It all could start even before ever leaving your home when you’re collecting information and comparing prices for your next trip. Sometimes a really good offer from a travel agency pops up to seduce you, with a dream vacation at a very good price.
Surprisingly good. These are most likely fake travel agencies, made up for the sole purpose of deceiving you into giving away your credit card and other personal information.
Usually, you can easily identify a fake travel agency, but you’d be surprised at the number of people that fall for them. Things can go downhill from there, and although most banks are very serious about online scams, the whole refund process will definitely give you lots of headaches.
Also, if some travel agency or airline sends you an external link with a promotional offer, just check if they’re legit before opening. This is another typical scam, known as “phishing”: a fraudulent attempt to steal sensitive data like usernames, passwords, and personal information.
Always be wary of offers whose prices are well below the market’s average. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is – the old saying fits perfectly here and is one of the best tips to avoid travel scams.
#2 – ATM scams
Card skimming has been the most frequent ATM scam for years. Scammers install a fake device on a normal ATM machine, a skimmer, that looks just like a regular card reader. It is, in fact, a card reader: it reads and saves your credit card data for the scammers.
Using a small camera placed above the ATM, the scammers now have both your card info and PIN code. The best way to avoid this scam is to make sure that everything looks perfectly normal with the ATM you’re using, and use your other hand to cover your PIN as you’re entering it.
There’s also the fake ATM scam, albeit way is more uncommon, as it is extremely elaborated. It consists of setting up a device similar to a regular ATM designed to steal your information. Important tip: only use ATMs that are contiguous to a banking institution.
#3 – Wi-Fi scams
Internet access is indispensable nowadays, and when traveling you probably connect your devices to your hotel’s Wi-Fi first thing after checking in. Scammers know it.
So, they might try to replicate your hotel’s Wi-Fi name to trick you into accessing their fake connection. Once you do it, it is only a matter of seconds before they extract delicate information out of your computer or smart devices. When in doubt, take precautions, even if it means walking over to the reception and ask for help.
#4 – Taxi scams
Taxi scams are amongst the most common travel scams, and they’re somewhat responsible for the bad reputation taxi drivers have in some countries. They can either be pretty obvious or incredibly subtle.
If a few minutes into your ride the taxi driver alleges that the taxi meter is broken, he’s either extraordinarily unlucky or he’s trying to scam you. This is more frequent in countries where the taxi industry is not heavily regulated.
You now have two options: you can confront the taxi driver and hope for a glimpse of honesty; or just ask him to stop, pay the fare and try your luck again. Just make sure you don’t exist in a shady neighborhood.
When you inform your taxi driver of your destination, be it a hotel, restaurant, or club, and he promptly tells you that it is overbooked, closed, or is simply just bad, take that information with a pinch of salt. In most cases, taxi drivers will try to suggest a more expensive alternative.
That’s because they have an arrangement with these locations and get a share for every customer arriving in their cab.
Sometimes the taxi driver will just take a longer route so you end up paying a few extra dollars. The good thing is it won’t hurt you, because you’ll most likely never know. Unless you control your commute with your phone’s GPS navigation app.
#5 – Unreasonable bills
This one happens even in the most developed countries. There are some bars and restaurants that appear to have reasonable prices when you inspect their menu, but when the final bill comes, it makes your jaw drop. These are known as “extortionate bills”: bills that overcharge by adding surcharges the client is not expecting to be that high.
With services like TripAdvisor or Yelp available inside of your pocket, there’s no excuse to fall for these scams anymore. Quickly check the restaurant or bar you’re about to get into and read a few reviews.
#6 – A final warning for women
According to travel safety experts, female travelers face greater obstacles, as they’re frequently the victims of opportunistic crimes such as bag snatching, harassment, and assault.
These are crimes that can occur at any time, but criminals often target travelers because of their vulnerability: disoriented, unfamiliar with the language, etc. Be extra careful and avoid walking by yourself around areas you’re not familiar with, especially late at night.