There is nothing worse than planning out the perfect vacation, arriving in destination and having your trip cut short or ruined because you’ve been scammed. There are millions of these travel scams that take place each year, and with the pandemic cutting off the tourist supply to many if not most of these travel scam hotspots, tourists are going to be vulnerable more than ever. Avoiding a travel scam takes more than keeping your carbon fiber wallethidden somewhere secret, you have to out-scam the scammer. So here are 7 travel scams you should watch out for in 2021.
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The seasoned traveler will tell you this scam can be found in all corner of the globe. You’re walking through a market, or down a busy street, and a seemingly harmless person will approach you, smile on their face, and place something on your body. It could be a bracelet, a necklace or a hat. In an instant, they go from friendly local to menacing stranger, demanding money for the item that you’ve ‘taken’ from them. The scammer will kick up a fuss and make a scene with the hope that you will just give them money to save yourself the hassle. If someone approaches you briskly, put both of your hands up, shake your head and say no thank you either in English (or better yet, the local language). And if they do manage to get something on your body, promptly remove it without discussion, hand it back and walk away.
This one is especially popular in south Asian countries, but don’t worry, we’ve got your back. When you rent a motorbike or scooter, the first thing you need to do, much like when you rent a car, is to conduct a ‘walk around’. Inspect the state of the tires, look for scratches or burn marks on the engine, and make sure there are no cracks. This is as much for your safety as it is to avoid being scammed! While you’re walking around, make sure whoever is renting it to you is taking notes, and if not, take your own notes. Also, make sure to take pictures. The way the scam works, naive tourists will rent the bike, bring it back and the renter will claim there is damage or engine repairs. In some extreme cases, renting companies will send out scammers to damage the bike when tourists leave the bike somewhere to go exploring. Bring your own lock, park the bike out of sight and away from main streets, and take photos of where you left it to cover your bases.
You know the saying imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? It’s not flattery when a shady shopkeeper is trying to rip you off by selling you fake designer goods, and at inflated prices to boot! Keep your carbon fiber wallet in your pocket and beware the double dealing con artist who might have actual name brain designer products on sale for bargain prices. The scam goes a little something like this; You eye up that designer watch, ask the price, the shopkeeper starts bargaining, and after a few more moments of haggling, you both settle on a price and the shopkeeper pretends to be irritated that he’s “not making any profit” on his sale. While you’re fishing around for your slim wallet, he swaps out the designer watch for a cheap knockoff. If that designer carbon fiber wallet is being advertised at some rock bottom price, be sure that it’s a deal that’s way too good to be true.
Finding good reliable Wi-Fi can be difficult, and when you do find it, it can cost you. And if you’re traveling on a backpacker’s budget, your financial situation is delicate. Which is why you really need to watch out for free Wi-Fi scams. So, how does it work? You pop into an internet café (yes, they exist), a coffee shop or café, or sometimes, it’s literally just a room with a router in it. The scammer gives you a free unlocked Wi-Fi hub you can log onto, and while you’re catching up your emails, message your friends or doing your online banking, they steal your data. Our advice? Never ever log into an unsecured network when travelling abroad, and always use a VPN (virtual private network). You went the extra mile to get an RFID wallet, so it wouldn't make sense to just hand over all of your information you're trying to protect online.
Look, we’re not going to tell you how to live your life when you’re travelling the world, but there’s nothing wrong with playing it safe when it comes to your health and money when you’re away from home. One of the oldest travel scams going involves a flirt local, lot’s of drinks at the bar, a disappearing act by said flirty local, and a rather large chaperone that she had waiting in the wings. Once your date runs out on the bill, you’re left not only to pay the bill, but to fork out a bunch of money to a rather intimidating bloke. We’re all for living dangerously, and for immersing yourself in local culture, but getting taken for everything your worth under threat of bodily harm is probably not something you included on your itinerary.
This is without a doubt the scam of all scams. It’s so common, it’s almost a rite of passage for the intrepid traveller. But let’s go over it again for the beginners. You arrive somewhere, or you hail a cab, you slide in, the driver asks you where you want to go, and this will go one of two ways. The cab driver will either tell you the meter is broken and attempt to charge you some absurd flat rate, or, their meter will be set to an absurd pick-up rate, and will subsequently go up in amounts that will make your carbon fiber wallet nervous. So how do you avoid this? If you’re staying at a hotel or hostel, ask the front desk what cab companies are reputable. This is also the age of Uber, so you may want to confirm whether or not the city or destination you’re visiting has Uber. Also, do some research on the costs of point-to-point trips so if you run into a scammer, you can either argue a better rate, or step out of the cab and find a driver who’s willing to give you a fair ride.
Some scams happen when you arrive in your destination, and others happen from the comfort and safety of your own home when you’re in the early planning stages of your trip. Vacation rentals are a super popular choice, like a bad tune, the scam goes a little something like this; You email a property owner through a property or owners website, the owner responds to you offering you an unbeatable discount on your booking if you are willing to pay for your rental with a wire payment. This is often sold as a great deal for you as you save an exchange rates on your credit card, and of course, you’re getting a discounted rate on your vacation rental. But before you know it, the “owner” pulls the listing, you never received a booking confirmation and you may as well kiss your money goodbye. How can you avoid this? Use a travel advisor, always book with your credit card, and purchase travel protection.
These are just a few travel scams to watch out for, unfortunately, being scammed can turn an epic vacation into the stuff of nightmares in a matter of minutes. Use your travel smarts, keep your valuables to a minimum, keep your eyes and ears open, and remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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