There are people out there who want to take your hard-earned money.
Dodge their tricks and enjoy your trip instead by knowing how to avoid travel scams.
1. Taxi Overcharging
Some taxi drivers worldwide will do whatever they can to milk all the change from your pocket. The driver could have a broken meter, they could take the longest route possible, or the driver may not even turn on the meter.
While not every taxi driver in the world wants to scam you, many of them are dedicated workers. However, never let them have the opportunity to steal your money.
Implement these practical tips below to avoid losing money to taxi overcharging scams:
- Research how much taxis in your area charge.
- If your taxi doesn’t use meters, discuss the fare before getting in.
- Don’t get into a taxi with a broken meter.
- Save your receipt to file a claim in case you fall victim to one of these travel scams. Furthermore, note the driver’s information.
- Carry change and low-denomination bills to prevent a sudden lack of change on the driver’s side.
- Learn about the area’s licensing and payment methods. After this research, if your driver appears unlicensed, don’t get in.
- Opt for ride-sharing services like Uber instead.
2. Fake Cops
Imagine the following scenario. You’re out and about, and a police officer approaches you.
After they stop you, they’ll likely accuse you of something ridiculous and ask for your passport. You hand the cop your passport, then they run. As you can tell, that wasn’t a cop.
Travel scams like this can lead to more than the loss of your passport. It could lead to more extensive theft or even kidnapping.
When trying to identify a fake cop, make sure to remain respectful and maintain composure when making use of these tips:
- Contact your nearest embassy.
- Ask to see the officer’s ID card. They usually have the officer’s photo, the agency’s name, and the agency head’s name.
- Look for the name of the agency on their uniform.
- If they only identify themselves as someone with police authority, that’s an automatic red flag.
- Use your smartphone to record them and proceed to ask what station they’re working for. Afterward, call the station and ask about the officer.
3. Fake WiFi Hotspots
Hackers can craft fake WiFi hotspots for unsuspecting victims to join and leak their credentials and personal information afterward.
Afterward, the hackers will use the stolen information to log into whatever platform they want and have free reign over your finances, social media, and more.
If you trade crypto or access banking services on your phone, they could drain your tokens and funds, possibly without leaving a trace.
Some hackers have exceptional skills, making it difficult to identify fake WiFi hotspots.
Use the following tips to avoid leaking your information to hackers over fake WiFi networks:
- Assume all public networks aren’t secure. Notable businesses include Starbucks and McDonald’s WiFi.
- Is the network slow? A hacker could have deployed mobile hotspots to trap you.
- Make sure to use HTTPS versions of websites instead of HTTP. If you use the latter, your information isn’t safe.
- Proofread the login URLs. If something looks off, assume it’s not safe and run.
- If you’re using a laptop, ensure you update your software, disable file sharing, and enable your firewall.
- It’s difficult to identify a fake WiFi network since anyone can configure the service set identifier (SSID). You’re best off using a virtual private network (VPN) to stay safe in this case. However, keep in mind that a VPN can’t protect you from fake websites.
- If you connect to bad WiFi, disconnect, clear your saved WiFi connections, wipe your browser cache, change your passwords, and call your bank (if applicable).
- Use software-based (not text-based) two-factor authentication (2FA) when possible to further secure your accounts. I highly recommend hardware keys like YubiKey to give your accounts the best security and prevent a majority of unauthorized logins.
4. Free Bracelets (or Whatever Else Anyone Can Put On You)
The world’s full of friendly folks. Friendly enough to randomly wrap a bracelet around your wrist or give you other free stuff. However, it’s not free. They’ll ask you for a tip and harass you until you give them money.
Fortunately, avoiding people putting free stuff on you isn’t hard to prevent, especially if you don’t like dealing with people:
- Leave whatever they gave you and walk away.
- Ignore the scammer, and they’ll eventually leave you alone.
- Keep your valuables well-hidden. For instance, use a money belt.
- Don’t allow anyone to place any objects on your body.
5. Short Change Travel Scams
Another common scam. However, it usually happens more to cashiers. The opposite has the potential to happen as well. Their goal centers around getting more money from the customer (you) than spent initially on the transaction.
You’re going to need to pay more attention to avoid falling victim to short-change scams:
- Don’t bury the change into your pocket after the transaction. Keep it out and count.
- Understand the characteristics of counterfeit currency in your destination.
- If you use a larger bill, make sure to state the amount you’re using and follow to apologize that you don’t have anything smaller. Some shops will often say you gave them a smaller bill instead.
- If the establishment has cameras, use them as a witness.
- If you wear a GoPro everywhere you go, use it as video evidence.
- Simply explain that the cashier needs to recount the change. Remember to keep your cool.
6. ATM Skimmers
Automated teller machine (ATM) skimmers serve as attachments created by thieves disguised to act as a part of the ATM. In the background collects debit card numbers, credit card information, and PINs from unsuspecting victims who want to check their bank’s balance or withdraw cash.
After thieves steal this information, they replicate your information into counterfeit debit or credit cards that they either sell or waste on a consequence-free spending spree.
Rather than walking up to the machine and pulling out your cash in a hurry, you should make the following observations to pick apart this travel scam:
- Scan the machine to check for loose, crooked, or damaged parts.
- Is it a non-bank ATM? Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) reports 60% of skimming comes from privately-owned ATMs.
- Set up alerts on your bank account.
- Monitor your bank’s balance and activity if you feel something’s off.
- Use a hand to shield the keypad as you type your PIN. Cameras in the background might record your PIN.
7. Fake Child & Injured Beggars
There are a large number of people in poverty. However, many may fake poverty because they know that they could pull in some stupid simple cash if they tug at your heartstrings. Furthermore, some criminals may abduct children and force them into begging for profit.
The solutions to handling fake child and injured beggers differ from most scams:
- It doesn’t seem very empathetic but ignore them.
- If you can’t resist, only give small change denominations when you’re leaving a place, not arriving.
- To make a difference and deter fake beggars, offer to buy them some food.
8. Overbooked Hotels
Hotel overbooking—otherwise known as walking customers—is a scam where hotels overbook their rooms and walk their customers to comparable hotels. Afterward, they pocket the difference.
Here are some ways to avoid overbooked hotel scams:
- Complain to the highest manager you can find.
- If you reserved your spot, the hotel must pay for accommodations at another hotel.
- Call your hotel in advance to make sure they’re open.
- Be wary of booking through third-party websites
9. Someone Spilling Something on Your Clothing
One day you could be at a bar rail minding your own business, and all of a sudden, someone spills something on you. Substances can range from drinks to food, even possibly feces. Afterward, this clumsy person cleaned your clothes or shoes. However, there’s a twist.
They’re demanding a lot of money.
There’s also the potential for someone to pickpocket you while you’re distracted.
Push people away and clean up yourself, no matter how gross a substance they spilled on your clothing. Moreover, ensure you hide your valuables well so pickpockets can’t reach them.
10. Sorry, Your Attraction Is Closed
More friendly people. However, this time, they’re letting you know that where you want to go is closed for various reasons. Afterward, they’ll lead you to an alternative destination and pressure you to make some purchases.
To avoid falling victim to this scam, head to your original desired destination to see if they’re telling the truth. Don’t take the local’s word about attractions unless they’re someone you know very well.
11. Group Photo Offers
While hiking or exploring some tourist attraction, a friendly local might approach your group and offer to take a photo. Let’s say you accept their generous offer and hand off your camera. Wait, they’re running away. Hundreds of dollars gone.
If someone asks you to take a group photo for you, that’s a red flag. Don’t give them your camera. To practice further caution, if you do need a group photo, ask another tourist if any wander the area.
Here’s how to avoid falling victim to this scam
If someone asks you to take a group photo for you, that’s a red flag. Don’t give them your camera. To be extra safe, if you do need a group photo, ask another tourist if there are any around.
12. The Flirtatious Local Who Wants Your Stuff
The scam revolves around a friendly local who decides to get very friendly with you. While they could genuinely find you attractive, this could also be an opportunity to use your vulnerability to enter your accommodation and steal your stuff.
If they’re soliciting prostitution, don’t do it. Otherwise, you could face jail time.
If you’re in a country with legalized prostitution, go for it. However, if the government moderates it, ensure the worker’s following the government’s guidelines and has the correct documentation.
Remember the following. Keep your guard up if people aggressively flirt with you.
13. Fake Tickets
These tickets may revolve around allowed entry in an event for a sold-out event or a flight. Either way, this gives scammers a perfect opportunity to make a nickel off your desperation. Scammers can either approach you or build fake websites where you hand over the payment but receive nothing in return.
Or, you could receive something, but once you approach the ticket gate, an agent declines your entry because your ticket’s fake.
Only buy tickets from official offices or websites.
14. Fake Travel Agencies
Wow, a trip to Disneyland for only $1? What a stellar deal. We’ve never found such rock bottom prices.
Unfortunately, after we ordered our accommodation, they didn’t deliver anything and ran off with my money. By the time we could report the site, the scammers would run off and create another fake website.
How to avoid giving up your credit card information to scammers.
Make sure to pair common sense with a little bit of detective work to prevent yourself from falling for this travel scam:
- If someone says you’ve won an exclusive vacation to wonderland, you’ve likely won a trip to scam land.
- Ensure the company’s URL doesn’t read any unnecessary characters.
- Legitimate agents don’t ask for advance payments.
- Check if agencies have payment gateways such as PayPal, that way, they don’t have credentials to your bank account
- If vendors have obnoxiously low prices, it may be too good to be true.
Never Allow a Scammer to Ruin Your Trip
The post has covered several common travel scams, including taxi overcharging, fake cops, and WiFi scammers.
If you would like to read the other posts in this series, click below for more information on practical travel tips when roaming abroad. With these tips, you’ll unlikely find yourself fooled by these most commonly used scams.
I hope I’ve helped you find some helpful advice!