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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

10 Travel Scams to Avoid This Summer

 By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay

Now that COVID-19 has backed off a bit, this has many families longing to take a summer vacation this year.  While you and yours may be champing at the bit to stretch your legs and tour foreign lands, before you wind up being taken for a ride on your next trip there are some underhanded schemes that thieves who prey on tourists are apt to use.  Knowing these tactics will not only save you money, depending on where you visit, it could save you a lot of time by keeping you from trying to explain to the local gendarme the petty crime that befell you.  While the list below isn't all-encompassing, it will introduce you to the top 10 cons that are likely to be pulled on you wherever you happen to visit.

#1: Pickpockets in Paradise - What's the quickest way to ruin a trip to paradise?  Have your pocket picked as soon as you step ashore.  Whether they take your wallet, your passport, or both, chances are you won't even know you've been robbed until you try to pay cab fare or check into your hotel.  As soon as you go to claim your luggage at the airport or take a shuttle to your hotel, chances are you'll have to deal with one of these light-fingered Louie's.  That's because pickpockets love crowds.  Whether they work solo or with a partner, they do their thing by either distracting you or bumping you to cover their shenanigans.  No matter how careful you are, if you carry your valuables in your pockets, a pickpocket can get to them.  That's why savvy travelers stash their passports and cash somewhere that a pickpocket will never think of looking.  Some tourists wear a money belt, while others stash the bulk of their cash and their passport in their socks or their shoes.  Just make sure you carry enough folding green to be able to pay for items without having to do a strip tease to get at your cash.  

#2: The Taxi Ride from Hell - Another way to get ripped off as soon as you land is to get picked up by a taxi driver from hell.  Some of these underhanded drivers will take you all the way around the city when all you need to go is two blocks.  These hacks from hell expect tourists to be unfamiliar with the locale to which they've traveled.  The way around this is to make sure you run Google Maps, Waze, or some other GPS app on a connected device any time you jump in a cab.  

#3: Rental Car, Scooter, or Boat Ripoffs - Here's how the scam works: You rent a vehicle or vessel only to get zapped for damages done to it by the operator even though you didn't so much as scratch the paint.  The way around this scam is to thoroughly inspect and photograph the rental before you take possession of it.  If you spot any damage, make sure you note and show it to the rental operator so you can't be held liable after the fact.

#4: Shortchanged at the Money Changers - If you visit a country that doesn't accept US dollars you may need to exchange currencies.  This is another danger zone that can see you get taken to the cleaners by either being shortchanged by the money changer or mugged as soon as you depart the premises.  The way to avoid both these perils is to not only know the exchange rate before you make the trade, but familiarize yourself with the currency before you wind up getting shortchanged.  As for the muggers, make sure you tuck the majority of your cash away someplace safe before you hit the street.

#5: Hotel Hot Spot Hassles - Even if a hotel offers free Wi-Fi, you'll be much safer online if you use your smartphone to spawn a secure hot spot.  Hotel routers are like candy stores for hackers, as are free hot spots in stores and restaurants. No matter how secure a hotel happens to be, a skilled hacker can either takeover an existing hot spot or spawn one that you will assume is operated by the hotel.  Don't be fooled or you could wind up making a cyber-criminal's day.

#6: The Trouble with Tours - Almost everyone who goes abroad looks forward to taking a tour of a scenic or historic spot that they may have read or heard about.  While most tour operators are on the up and up, there are some slippery Sam's who are out to take tourists for the kind of ride they'd rather do without.  Before you get ripped off or worse, make sure you not only research available tours, but take the time to read reviews of both the tour and the operator.  

#7: The Bar Blitz - The way this con works is you're having a few at the bar when a friendly and knowledgeable local takes you under his or her wing to help you get the lay of the land.  You offer to buy this friend a drink or two.  The conversation is so engrossing that you and your new found friend spend the next hour or so swapping stories and having a few more drinks.  Then the friend tells you they need to hit the restroom.  Problem is, they fail to return.  The bigger problem is when you get hit with a huge bar tab or return to your room to find that it was burglarized while you stayed at the bar.  Either way you've been had.

#8: Phony Officials - This con works by convincing you that either the police or the border guards you're approached by are legitimate, while these phony officials are nothing of the kind.  The way the con works is you'll be asked to see your ID, then you'll be pressured to pay a fine or a bribe rather than being taken to the station for some slight infraction.  The bogus officials may even attempt to withhold your passport until the matter is resolved only to make off with it as son as your back is turned.  The trick to staying out of trouble with bogus officials is to never pay on the spot and let them look at but never retain your passport.

#9: The Anything but Good Samaritan - This scam works by someone offering you some kind of trinket, seashell, cheap bracelet or hat.  As soon as you accept it, the gift giver will demand payment.  If you refuse, he or she will insist quite loudly that you're trying to pull a ripoff.  Sometimes this will attract a crowd (usually composed of their friends) or even a fake cop.  In the end you'll be pressured to pay up or face the consequences.  The bottom line is you should never accept anything from anyone you don't know when you travel.  This is the kind of gift that only gives you grief.

#10: The Finder's Keepers Scam - You're walking down the street when someone nearby spots a gold ring, bracelet or watch lying practically at your feet.  The con artist asks you if you dropped it.  You say you didn't.  Before you can walk away, they offer to sell you the item for a steal.  If you fall for the scam you'll soon find that you've bought a cheap knockoff.  The moral is if someone tells you they want to share or sell a windfall with you, tell them finder's keepers and keep on walking.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at

1 comment:

  1. Nothing ruins a vacation faster than being ripped off.


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