It’s winter here in the U.S. — high time to escape the bitter cold. You’re gearing up for vacation, or thinking about vacation, or someone you know is planning to travel. Odds are you’ll be fine. But, scammers have gotten very crafty in recent years. Here are the most clever travel scams you’re likely to fall for at home or abroad.
The “Broken” Taxi Meter
This happens throughout the world in almost every country where taxi service isn’t heavily regulated. The gist is that you climb into a cab and, a few minutes into the ride, the driver informs you the meter is broken. You shrug it off, but balk at the bill when it turns out to be ten times what it should actually cost, and you have no recourse.
How to Avoid It: Agree on a fare before your cabbie starts driving or, better yet, before you climb into the car at all. Stand your ground and don’t budge from your agreed upon price.
The “Overbooked” Hotel or “Closed” Attraction
On the way to your already-booked hotel or a popular tourist attraction, your cabbie informs you that said destination is closed. He then proceeds to take you to a different — and far more expensive — hotel/attraction where he gets a fat commission for delivering tourists like you.
How to Avoid It: Never take someone else’s word for it, particularly in cases where they’re likely wrong or lying. Demand the cabbie take you to the hotel entrance or the ticket counter and see for yourself.
The Snap and Grab
This should go without saying, but tourists still fall for it everywhere. Thieves line up around popular tourist attractions and offer to take your photo. All you need to do is hand over your digital camera … seconds before they run off with it.
How to Avoid It: The absolute best way to prevent this, of course, is to never give your camera to a stranger even for a second. If you just must have that picture, find another tourist and ask them to take the pic for you.
The “Accidental” Spill on Your Clothing
This is common in busy tourist areas because of how quick and easy it is to pull off. It’s essentially a more artful pickpocketing. You’ll feel something spill on your shirt — bird droppings or a condiment like ketchup — and a “kind” stranger will quickly approach to help. While they’re tending to your potentially ruined clothing, they’re also relieving you of your wallet or watch.
How to Avoid It: Even though said person may just be trying to help, you’re better off finding the nearest restroom and taking care of the mess yourself.
It’s all too easy to get complacent while on vacation. But, now that the vast majority of tourists are traveling with hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in mobile gear on them at all times, it’s never been more important to keep your wits about you and a watchful eye on your belongings.