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Going for a vacation gives us an opportunity to explore new places, and experience different cultures. Vacationing also helps us to relax, unwind, and get in touch with ourselves, away from our busy lives. But as much as vacationing is such a rewarding experience, it can also turn out to be a frustrating experience if you fall victim to travel scams. Whether you are going for a vacation in Europe, Asia, Africa or wherever your heart leads you to, make sure you watch out for the following travel scams.
Taxi scams are present in almost all parts of the globe. In fact, it’s one of the oldest scams, and most vacationers tend to fall for them. The taxi scam comes in various forms. One of the most common ones is that the taxi driver will charge a flat fee, claiming the meter is broken. The amount they quote is always higher than what you would have normally paid. In fact, you might even end up paying double the normal rate. In another scam, the taxi driver will overcharge you by including shady extras like airport pickup fees, parking fees or toll bridge charges.
Another taxi driver might tell you that the place you intend to visit or the hotel you were planning to spend the night in is closed of fully booked, thus encouraging you to check out another location. The truth is, your preferred hotel or destination is not fully booked or closed. That scammer just wants to overcharge you by taking you to a different location or receive a commission to the alternative hotel they take you to spend the night. Also, if you are visiting a place that is far from the city, a taxi driver might propose to take you there and bring you back to the city, at a discounted fee. If you make the mistake of paying everything up front, the taxi driver might drop you off half the way and abandon you, which means you will need to pay for another cab to reach your destination. To avoid this scam, you should observe the following rules:
- Avoid hailing cabs or taxis from the streets as much as possible. Instead, use licensed taxi operators. If you have to hail a taxi from the street, only do it if it’s someone you trust or from an official point. When you hail a taxi from the street, you are exposing yourself to the risk of being scammed and losing your money.
- Don’t pay the full amount upfront, especially if you are visiting a destination that is far from the city. Instead, you should pay half the amount when you board the taxi and then the remaining amount when you reach your destination.
- Use Google maps to ensure that the cab driver is following the right route. If they deviate or take a longer route than you had planned, you should demand to alight from the taxi. In short, don’t let anything slide that looks suspicious. And before you leave your hotel, ensure you verify the opening and closing hours of the place that you intend to visit. Don’t accept to be lead anywhere else that you hadn’t planned to visit during your vacation.
If possible, you should avoid taxis completely and instead opt for services like Grab, Lyft or Uber, if they are available in that part of the world. Such companies are highly reputable, and most of their drivers are trustworthy. And since you will be paying for the ride using a credit card, chances of being scammed are slim.
You are walking down a busy street in a foreign country and suddenly a stranger points out that you have bird droppings on your shirt. In another situation, a stranger might accidentally mess your clothes with a liquid. In both cases, someone else – a good Samaritan – will offer to clean the mess. As the stranger cleans the mess, they will be distracting you from their accomplice, who is now stealing from you. If someone approaches you on the streets and points out a mess on your clothes, don’t pay them any attention. Just thank them politely and keep walking. Ensure you secure your bag or other valuables that you might have during this interaction.
Whether you are planning to go for a hiking trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro or you want to spend your summer holidays in the Bahamas, there is a high chance that you will purchase your tickets and do most of your booking online. As you search for affordable tickets, you might come across someone selling you extremely cheap tickets on Craigslist, claiming that they have canceled their trip or they cannot go on short notice. However, there is a high chance that the person is lying. Fake plane tickets or extremely cheap hotel accommodation in a great place are common online scams that some travelers fall victim to. For instance, if you were to spend your summer holidays in the Interlaken region in Switzerland, it will cost you approximately $190 per night to stay in a 3-star hotel. And if you opt to stay in a five-star hotel, then you will spend approximately $467 per night. Therefore, if someone offers you discount tickets at half the cost, you might be tempted to purchase them. But when you reach them, you will realize that the tickets are actually fake, which means you will be forced to spend more money to purchase legitimate tickets. To avoid this scam, you should only purchase tickets for events or visits through official websites. And if you are booking accommodation, you should only do it via trusted sources.
During your vacation, a friendly, English-speaking stranger might approach you, and start a conversation. After some time, that person might ask you to have a drink with them, at a great place where they know. If you’ve never encountered this situation before, you will eventually find yourself having drinks with a stranger in a place that seems to be quite lively. At some point, the stranger might excuse themselves to pick a call or visit a washroom, and that is probably the last time you will see them. And as you wait for them, a large bill comes your way, and you will have to part with hundreds of dollars for the few drinks you had. Considering that you don’t even know this place well, you will have no other option but to pay the exorbitant bill. In fact, you will not be allowed to leave until you settle that bill.
Another variation of this scam is where a girl approaches you if you are a man, you start having a conversation and she takes you to a night club, where you have some drinks. There is a high chance that you will not turn down this request, especially if you have traveled alone. If you are not vigilant, that friendly girl might drug you and steal all your valuables, including your cellphone and your credit cards. Basically, you are stranded in a foreign country, with no money or any means to communicate with the people at home.
If you have traveled alone, avoid conversations with strangers. And if a stranger wants to have a conversation with you, ensure you choose the place. Be vigilant if your newly-found friend wants to take you to an unfamiliar place. After all, you might not be sure whether their intentions are genuine or not. Make a point of informing your friends, or family about your whereabouts or the places that you intend to visit during your vacation. That way, it will be easier to locate you if anything goes wrong.
When you’ve gone for a vacation in another country, you might end up renting a motorcycle or a car, which you will use to visit the different places. But when it’s time to return the rented car or motorbike, the rental company or the person you rented it from points out some dent, ding, scratch or just any imaginary damage. They will then insist that you will have to pay for it since you are the one who caused it. Sometimes, the rental company or the renter might send someone to steal it or damage it. This scam is quite common in Asia. As much as you might have done nothing wrong, you will be forced to part with large amounts of money to repair the damage. So, how can you protect yourself against this scam?
First, if you have to rent a car or a motorcycle, make sure you are renting it from a reputable or trustworthy rental company. You can check for such companies on online platforms like TripAdvisor, where you will also see user reviews. And once you rent the vehicle, make sure you capture a video of all the sides. In case the vehicle has dings, dents, scratches or any form of damage, make sure you highlight them in the video. Don’t leave out anything, regardless of how insignificant it might appear. If possible, record this video in the presence of the renter.
Also, if you have to rent a vehicle overseas, you should never leave your ID, passport or any of your personal effects as collateral. If the renter needs that information, let them photocopy the documents and return them to you immediately. If they have any of your personal effects as collateral, they can demand any amount of money that they wish. And if you cannot manage to raise the amount of money requested, then you may find yourself in serious trouble when you are supposed to be enjoying your vacation.
The money switch or currency traps are also quite common. Scammers usually target visitors or tourists. And since you may not be familiar with local currencies or denominations, it’s easy to be tricked. Currency traps come in different forms, and it’s advisable to be conversant with each trick so that you can avoid losing your money during your vacation. For example, if you are a U.S citizen, you might want to convert your dollars into local currencies, through street dealers. If you are not careful, the dealer might switch your genuine dollars and hand you fake cash. You will only realize the money is fake when it’s time to buy something.
In another example, you might hand a gas station attendant, a shopkeeper, or even a taxi driver local currency in a certain denomination. That individual will then take that money and claim that the money you paid is not enough. If you are not paying attention or if you are not conversant with the local currency, you might be tricked to hand over a larger amount of money and the scammer may even give you change. As a result, you will end up losing a significant amount of money, which might throw your vacation plans into disarray. To avoid this trap, make sure you spend some time familiarizing yourself with the local currency and the various denominations when you arrive. Also, always check your change when you receive it and ensure the amount is correct and the notes are not fake. And if you have to convert your dollars into the local currency, only use a bank or an official exchange bureau.
Travel scams are present in almost all parts of the world. However, don’t make it easy for these scammers to steal from you. Trusting your gut and common sense are always the best methods of avoiding most of these scams. And if you happen to be a victim of any of the above scams, ensure you remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible and avoid any confrontations. After that, file a police report, contact the embassy and then call your credit card company to cancel it. And most importantly, always have a backup plan if you are traveling to a foreign country. After all, you can never know when misfortune will strike. Happy travels!