TRAVEL SCAMS – WE HATE THEM – THEY HAPPEN BUT WE CAN TRY TO AVOID THEM. HERE’S A ROUND-UP OF 10 TRAVEL SCAMS TO AVOID ON YOUR NEXT TRIP.
These scams can vary from country to country, so a best practice is to google specifically for the country you are visiting and try your best to avoid them. Mistakes happen, so if you ever get scammed, don’t beat yourself up. Learn from the mistakes and keep it moving. The more you travel, the more experience you’ll gain on the road.
1.) THE VACATION CLUB SCAM
This is very prevalent in Caribbean countries. You’ll be approached to join wholesale travel clubs for a fee and a promise to access cheap vacation deals. However, once you’re in the system, the deals just aren’t up to par or are deals you can get on your own online for free. Remember – anything that’s too good to be true, isn’t real. 7 days in a luxury resort in Thailand for $500? Yeah right. Save yourself the hassle.
Solution – Just say no.
2.) THE CURRENCY EXCHANGE SCAM
Locals always prey on foreigner’s naivety in this regard. There are so many ways to go about it – they either give you fake currency, mix smaller bills in the middle or miscount the change. This scam is unusually popular no matter where you go.
Solution – Always go to a bank or ATM to get your money or if you can, change it at your home country in advance of the trip.
3.) FAKE TOUR GUIDES
This scam is hard to spot because I have found genuine tour guides just by being approached. But here’s how to spot them – when the tour guide starts insisting that you go to a specific shop to purchase something, you know that they are working on commission and don’t necessarily want to help you in any way.
Solution – Say no in a respectful way and if they have already put in time and effort, give them a tip and let them know you no longer want to proceed.
4.) BROKEN METER TAXI
This scam is one that’s so common, it almost feels normal. Some taxi drivers in foreign countries have many tricks up their sleeves and one of them is pretending to have a broken meter once you get into the taxi. This is their opportunity to charge you exorbitant prices. They are mostly positioned at the airport – which is typically the place where you are most vulnerable because you are tired from a possibly long flight and just want to get to your hotel as soon as possible.
Solution – Use authorized airport taxis or taxi companies and always ensure the metered taxis are working before entering the vehicle. If it isn’t, make sure to confirm the price of the ride before starting the trip. Alternatively, just use Uber if available.
5.) THE FREE BRACELETS/HATS/CLOTHING OR ACCESSORIES SCAM
This scam is mostly done to female travelers in local markets. A local comes up to you and wears a necklace on your neck or a bracelet on your wrist – or a hat on your head. You get the point. They promise you that it is free for you as a gift but as soon as you get comfortable with it, they ask you for money and when you don’t pay them, they cause an embarrassing scene.
Solution – NEVER, EVER allow anyone wear anything on you. Don’t do it – ever. No matter how friendly they appear to be.
6.) THE ‘YOU-DROPPED-SOMETHING’ SCAM
Pickpockets abound everywhere and this is one of their precious scams. They try to make you believe you dropped something and that catches you unaware and lets you put your guards down and then boom – they strike!
Solution – Now that you know, clutch tight to your belongings while checking to see if you actually dropped something.
7.) THE FAKE POLICE OFFICER SCAM
In parts of Europe, you may be approached by men in uniform for inspection. This scam is a tricky one because it’s hard to tell if they are real ones or fake ones and this isn’t a risk you want to take. Many times they’ll ask for your passport and try to find a fault in it and make you pay a fee.
Solution – Try to confirm their authenticity by requesting an ID and letting them know you’ll call the police department to verify. Never be too quick to hand over your passport to anyone.
8.) THE WIFI SCAM
Not all wifi abroad is legitimate. Locals know that travelers love their wifi (for good reason) and some of them take advantage of it. Hackers set up unsecured wifi hotspots in public locations to tempt travelers and this gives them access to your personal information, passwords and so on.
Solution – Be careful what wifi you connect to. Always ask the hotel or restaurant for the official wifi name and password. Better yet, get yourself a portable data device like the one I use – TEP.