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Wednesday, 12 March 2014 12:03

Common Travel Scams To Be Aware Of

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Common travel scams

Image by Michael Kooiman

As a tourist with your bum bag, straw hat, tropical shirt and milk bottle white patches on show, you will stick out to locals like a Ford Focus in an episode of Downton Abbey. In the vast majority of cases this won't matter. However, there will always be those locals with dishonest intent, and to those you will become a target, if you're not careful. For this reason it pays to be aware of common travel scams. So if you're among those that need enlightening, read on…


Fake taxis

In many tourist traps, where the draw of countless naïve tourists proves too tempting, fake taxis are rife. If you are unfortunate enough to fall victim to a fake taxi, grossly inflated fares and being taken along 'the scenic route' pale in comparison to some of the worst things that could happen to you.

Before jumping in a taxi whilst on holiday, always enquire about the cost of a fare before setting out on your journey, to avoid getting ripped-off. Also, where possible, consult a map beforehand to familiarise yourself with the journey, this way you'll be one step ahead if your driver attempts to take you along a longer route.

Many tourists opt to dispense with the use of taxis altogether for these very reasons, which poses the question: is there a better advert for driving your own rental car while on holiday?

Car trouble

Driving your own rental car in a foreign country eliminates the risk of being conned by a fake taxi, but that's not to say you won't be the target of scammers. For those looking for someone to rob, a tourist in a broken down rental car all too often represents an easy target, so it pays to always be on your guard.

Puncturing the tyres of a rental car is a favourite trick of scammers, who will then wait for them to become fully deflated before offering 'help' a few miles down the road. So when setting out upon a journey, either on your way out of the hotel or on your way back, always inspect your car's tyres for damage or suspicious slashes.

Inflated food and drink prices

Unfortunately some restaurants and cafes within tourist hotspots develop their entire business model around attempting to overcharge unsuspecting travellers.

As a rule, the restaurants and cafes which are the nearest to major attractions are usually the most expensive. The reason being that lazy and hungry tourists are presumed to be the most likely to walk into an establishment and pay through the nose without thinking.

In most cases, offending establishments choose not to have a clearly priced menu. Instead, they'll ask you to pay an exorbitant sum once the refreshments have been consumed and you've asked for the bill.

Sometimes, however, the scam will be deployed as a honey trap targeting impressionable male travellers. Here a pretty female local will attempt to engage you in conversation, encouraging you to buy a drink before disappearing just in time for you to stump up for the large bill.

For these reasons it’s advisable to always be aware of 'overly friendly' locals, only buy food from places with a clearly priced menu and visit restaurants a reasonable distance from tourist hot-spots, wherever possible.

"Sorry, it's closed"

Having done some research and chosen the restaurant, museum or hotel you want to go to, as you start to make your way there a 'helpful local' tells you that "sorry, it's closed". The next part of the scam will then involve the helpful local informing you of a similar but 'better' establishment just a little further away.

Usually the helpful local in this scam is a taxi driver or tout who has struck a deal with the owner of a local attraction to help encourage more visitors for a cut of the profits. Once you have been successfully led there, you will then be placed under enormous pressure from the vendor to buy something before leaving. To avoid being put in this uncomfortable position, always check whether your favoured establishment is closed for yourself.

Distract and grab techniques

This is the most common traveling scam and the one that has the most variations. Almost every tourist hotspot in the world will have scammers attempting to use a variation of this scam, so be wary!

The simplest form of the scam is where one person will engage a victim in conversation, whilst another person picks their pockets. However some scammers like to be more elaborate in their choice of methods. Spilt drinks, strategically sprayed mustard, posing for photos, dropped coins and even child stooges have all been used as weapons of mass distraction in the past.

To avoid being a victim you must remember to be vigilant at all times, and especially when in crowded and popular tourist destinations. Money pouches that can be concealed under your clothes are therefore a great idea, as is a 'mock' wallet containing just a small amount of money, should a mugger decide to confront you.

Offers that are too good to be true as soon as you get off the plane

Once you get off your plane, train or bus you may be confronted by a local offering you an amazing deal on transportation to your hotel or even an alternative night's accommodation. It's an old adage, but if the offer sounds too good to be true, it's probably because it is.

Scammers like to take advantage of people when they are at their most vulnerable, and for tourists that moment is when they are feeling tired and groggy after hours of travel. If you do take a scammer up on their offer, you will probably be presented with a service that is either substandard or more expensive than advertised, or probably even both.

To avoid being ripped off in this way is extremely easy. Simply ensure that all your transportation and accommodation is sorted beforehand and you will never be seduced by offers that are too good to be true.

What to do if you fall for a scam

Evaluate your loss – What have you had stolen? Was it your camera, wallet, or worse still your passport. Naturally the severity of the loss will have a significant impact on what you do next.

Contact the appropriate authorities – Call the police, whether you had any belongings stolen or not as they may be able to clamp down on repeat offenses. If it was your passport that was stolen, you will need to contact the embassy immediately in order to get a replacement.

Make a claim with your travel insurance company – Firstly, if you don't report stolen items to the police you will not be able to make a claim on your travel insurance. Secondly, after reporting the crime to the police, make the claim as soon as possible because it can take a while for you to be reimbursed. For more information on what to do should you foul of a scam that affects your car hire, download this helpful guide. This needs amending as the guide doesn’t reference what to do in such circumstances. Perhaps word it “To avoid being stung by inflated and often avoidable car hire expenses, download this useful guide.”

If you feel this advice has left you better prepared for your next holiday, please take the time to share this content on your favoured social network. If you have any further advice to offer fellow travellers on the subject, please do so in the comments section below (we don’t have a comment section – please remove).

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