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When we explore somewhere new and don’t have a firm grasp of the area or its culture, we are vulnerable to thieves and scammers. As we fumble with unfamiliar money or get lost, some choose to take advantage. To help reduce the chance of falling victim, here are 10 common travel scams and how to avoid them.
Taxi drivers and locals hanging around a short distance from popular locations and hotels will sometimes say your destination is closed and then offer to take you to an alternative. Normally, this is because they either own the alternative or they receive a commission for bringing you.
How to avoid the scam: Politely thank them for the information and proceed anyway. Also, check online or call ahead to confirm opening times and availability of your desired destination.
A simple but effective scam, especially at popular tourist spots. The scammer offers to take a photo of you. By the time you turn back around to pose, they have run off with your camera.
How to avoid the scam: Only trust your camera to people you have approached. If they offer, politely decline.
Using a cash machine in a foreign country can be tricky if there are no English instructions. Scammers respond by working as a pair. One stands near a cash point and offers help their friend who is pretending to be a clueless tourist. Seeing the kind stranger helping, others then accept their help, too. The scammer uses a hidden device to secretly scan your card and then watches as you put your PIN into the machine.
How to avoid the scam: Prepare yourself how the cash machines work ahead of time. Only use a cash point in a public place where there are lots of other people around. And always cover up when inputting your PIN.
Someone will approach you in the street and place a bracelet, necklace, or some other hand-made jewellery on you and then badger you for money.
How to avoid the scam: Be wary of people approaching you, especially in busy places. If someone manages to get something on you and then refuses to leave you alone, stand your ground, move away from them, and, if possible, find local law enforcement to help you.
After renting a vehicle, it’s not uncommon to later find parts missing or damaged and the rental company demanding you cough up cash for replacements. Thing is, they are often the ones who caused the damage.
How to avoid the scam: Don’t tell the business where you will be staying (give a false address if they insist), so they cannot find the vehicle.
Scammers will frequently hang out near popular ticket offices and undercut prices. More often than not, the tickets or tours they sell are fake.
How to avoid the scam: Only purchase from reputable offices. There are exceptions to this rule, so do your research online or ask a travel agent before parting with your money.
The hotel desk calls you in the middle of the night claiming there is something wrong with your payment and that they need you to confirm your credit card details. In your half-asleep state, you might comply. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the front desk but someone external to the hotel.
How to avoid the scam: Put the phone down and call the front desk back. If they confirm the problem, insist on waiting until the morning and speak to someone face to face.
Some taxi drivers take advantage of tourists by telling them an attraction is further away than it really is. They then charge an extortionate amount for what amounts to a very short trip. This is especially common in Cairo, where many tourists believe the pyramids are in the middle of the desert. In actual fact, they are walking distance from the edge of the city.
How to avoid the scam: Once again, do you research before you go. Contact the tourist board or read travel reviews online for tips about the best ways to get to where you want to go.
Some night-time bus drivers work with local thieves to earn extra money by stealing your property. Either the thief will start on the bus, or, more likely, your driver makes an unexpected stop and lets this person on. The thief then proceeds to rifle through everyone’s belongings while you sleep, getting off at another unexpected stop before the end of the journey.
How to avoid the scam: Keep your valuables on you at all times. Ideally, travel with someone you trust and take it in turns sleeping or going to the toilet while the other keeps an eye on your bags.
Travel scams often rely on tourists not having a firm grasp of the local currency. In many cases, you might hand over a large bill, only to be given the wrong change or fake money in return. This is especially common in countries with two currencies of vastly different values, where you pay using the expensive currency and receive the low-value currency as change.
How to avoid the scam: Take a little time to become familiar with the local currency. Before handing over any money, try to anticipate what you expect to receive in return.
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