Common Scams to Avoid While Traveling

When it comes to dodging scams while on the road, it’s all about channeling your inner detective and staying one step ahead of the game! Before you embark on your adventure, take some time to research common scams in your destination and familiarize yourself with local customs. Once you’re on the ground, keep an eye out for any red flags – whether it’s overly aggressive vendors, suspiciously good deals, or requests for personal information.

Remember to stay vigilant, especially in crowded tourist areas where scammers may try to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers. And don’t be afraid to ask for advice from locals or fellow travelers – they can often provide valuable insights and help you steer clear of trouble. By staying informed and trusting your gut, you can enjoy a safe and scam-free journey wherever your travels take you.

Hotel Room Phone Call Scam

This is a deceptive scheme, typically occurring in the middle of the night, where scammers call hotel guests posing as hotel staff, typically from the front desk or reception. They may claim there’s an issue with the guest’s credit card payment or reservation information and request sensitive personal or financial details to “resolve” the problem. They may offer a fake promotion or upgrade to entice the guest into providing their credit card information over the phone.

It is important to exercise caution when receiving any unexpected phone calls to your room, and verify the identity of the caller by contacting the hotel’s front desk directly using the phone number provided in the room or on the hotel’s official website. If it is them, go down to the hotel lobby and give them the information they need, in person. Never provide personal or financial information over the phone unless you are certain you are speaking to a legitimate hotel staff member.

The Shell/Card Game Scam

In either version of this game, scammers use a variation of the traditional shell game with cups or with playing cards instead of shells. In this scam, the scammer shuffles three playing cards, one of which has a high value or a winning symbol, and then rapidly moves them around, making it challenging for the victim to keep track of the winning card. The victim is then encouraged to place a bet on which card they believe is the winner.

The scammer employs sleight of hand techniques and misdirection to manipulate the outcome of the game, ensuring that the victim loses their bet regardless of which card they choose. In some cases, the scammer may work with accomplices who pretend to be enthusiastic participants, further adding to the illusion of legitimacy. These games are always rigged in the scammers favor.

The Photographer Scam

There are two common types of this scam:

  1. A scammer will hang out at popular sites (like the Hollywood sign, Eiffel Tower, Roman Colosseum, etc.) often blocking the view of what you’re trying to photograph posing as a professional photographer and offer to take a photo for you, for money of course. These people are not professional photographers and they typically have no right to block whatever monument they are blocking.
  2. A scammer posing as a friendly local will offer to take your photo in front of a popular location or monument and after they take it for you, they will demand you pay them. Often times, they will not give your camera back to you until you pay them. To avoid this, you can ask a friendly local yourself or use a selfie stick or tripod.

The Gold Ring Scam

The objective of this scam is to deceive unsuspecting individuals, often tourists, into buying fake or low-value jewelry at inflated prices. Here’s how it typically plays out: A scammer approaches the victim, claiming to have found a valuable gold ring on the ground. They may present it as a stroke of luck or a chance encounter. The scammer then offers to sell the ring to the victim at a fraction of its supposed value, claiming it’s worth much more than they’re asking.

The scam relies on the victim’s desire to get a bargain or own something valuable at a discounted price. However, the ring is usually fake or made of inexpensive materials plated with gold. Sometimes, the scammer may switch the ring for a different, lower-quality one during the transaction, making it difficult for the victim to realize they’ve been swindled until it’s too late. By the time the victim discovers the true value of the ring, the scammer is long gone.

NOTE: This scam is not always implemented with a gold ring. Sometimes, it’s a fake diamond, pearl or some type of fake stone.

The Rose Scam

This scam typically occurs in tourist-heavy areas, particularly in cities like Paris, Rome, or Barcelona. In this scam, a person (often, but not always, a child or young woman) approaches a tourist and offers them a rose as a gift. These scammers can be quite persistent and aggressive, and may even try throwing the flower at you so that you will catch it and they can say you accepted it. Once the tourist accepts the rose, the scammer demands payment for it, often at an exorbitant price. If the tourist refuses to pay, the scammer may cause a scene, become aggressive or intimidating, putting pressure on the tourist to hand over money to avoid confrontation.

If approached by someone offering a rose or any other item for free, it’s best to politely decline and walk away to avoid falling victim to this common tourist scam.

The Bracelet Scam

A seller, often a young child or a woman, approaches a tourist and offers to give them a handmade bracelet as a “gift” or a “token of friendship.” Once the tourist accepts the bracelet, the seller quickly ties it onto their wrist (sometimes, they don’t even ask – they quickly tie it onto your wrist. Then, the seller demands payment for the bracelet, often at a significantly inflated price. They may use guilt or intimidation tactics to pressure the tourist into paying. Even if the tourist refuses to pay or tries to return the bracelet, the seller may follow them, continuing to demand payment or harassing them until they give up. In some cases, the seller may work in teams, with one person distracting the tourist while another ties the bracelet onto their wrist without their consent.

Politely decline the bracelet and firmly refuse to accept it if you’re not interested in making a purchase. If a seller insists on tying the bracelet onto your wrist, firmly refuse and walk away. Additionally, it’s a good idea to avoid engaging with aggressive or persistent sellers and to be wary of distractions that may be used to facilitate the scam.

The Fake Petition

This is a deceptive tactic used by fraudsters to trick individuals into giving away personal information, money, or support under false pretenses. Scammers may approach individuals on the street, at public events, or even door-to-door, claiming to be collecting signatures for a petition on a relevant or emotional issue, such as environmental conservation, human rights, or social justice. After obtaining signatures, scammers may then ask for donations or financial contributions to support the cause. They may claim that the donations will go towards funding initiatives or supporting the petition’s goals.

The donations collected are pocketed by the scammers without ever being used for the stated purpose. Additionally, signing the petition may unwittingly provide scammers with personal information that can be used for identity theft or other fraudulent activities.

The Fake Wifi Hub

This deceptive tactic is used by cyber criminals to trick travelers into connecting to fake WiFi networks in public places, such as airports, hotels, or cafes. Here’s how it typically works:

Scammers set up fake WiFi networks with names similar to legitimate networks in the area, often using generic names like “Free WiFi” or the name of the establishment followed by “Free WiFi” to lure unsuspecting users. When users attempt to connect to these fake networks, they are redirected to spoofed login pages that mimic the login portals of legitimate networks. These fake login pages often prompt users to enter personal information, such as usernames, passwords, or credit card details, under the guise of gaining access to the network. Once users enter their information on the fake login pages, the scammers capture and store this sensitive data. They can then use it for identity theft, financial fraud, or other malicious purposes.

Dynamic Currency Conversion Scam

This one is more of a rip off or bad business practice. When using credit/debit cards at ATM’s, restaurants, shoppe’s, etc., it will detect that the travelers card is not from the country you are in. Either the ATM or attendant will give you the option to convert the transaction to your local currency to avoid international travel/ATM fee’s. The fee for dynamic currency conversion ranges from 10-50% and is never a cheaper or more convenient option. The people who benefit from this know that travelers aren’t doing the math and realizing that it is much more expensive than just paying international bank fee’s, so they can get away with it these really bad deals.

The ATM Scheme

In this scam, a “friendly” local will approach an individual(s) and offer to help them use the ATM, or help them avoid an ATM fee. The scammer will get close to their victim and steal their card information with a card skimmer. Often times, the scammers will work in pairs or groups to pretend to be other customers who will give validity to what the main scammer is saying to their victim.

Note: When using any ATM, remember to cover the keypad when typing in your PIN number in case of scammers placing camera’s and a card skimmer on the actual ATM itself.

Rental Damage Scam

Dishonest rental companies or individuals attempt to charge renters for pre-existing damages to rental vehicles or properties that they did not cause. This can happen with rental vehicles, watersports equipment, Airbnb’s, or any rental property.

Upon return of the vehicle/property, the renter is falsely accused of causing damage that was actually present before they rented it. This damage could include scratches, dents, or other forms of wear and tear. They may exaggerate the extent of the damage or inflate repair costs to charge the renter an excessive amount for repairs. They may also claim that the damage was not documented in the rental agreement or inspection report, making it difficult for the renter to dispute the charges.

To convince the renter into paying for the alleged damages, the rental company or individual may use aggressive or intimidating tactics, such as threatening legal action or withholding the renter’s security deposit.

Before accepting the rental, carefully inspect the vehicle or property for any existing damages or defects. Take photos or videos of any pre-existing damage and make sure it is documented in the rental agreement or inspection report.

To avoid this scam:

  1. 1.Before accepting the rental, carefully inspect the vehicle or property for any existing damages or defects. Take photos or videos of any pre-existing damage and make sure it is documented in the rental agreement or inspection report.
  2. Review the rental agreement carefully, paying close attention to clauses related to damage liability, insurance coverage, and repair costs. Understand your rights and responsibilities as a renter before signing any contracts.
  3. If you notice any discrepancies or concerns regarding the condition of the rental, discuss them with the rental company or individual before finalizing the agreement. Document any agreements or assurances in writing to protect yourself in case of disputes later on.

Taxi Scams

Taxi scams encompass a variety of deceptive tactics employed by dishonest taxi drivers to exploit passengers for financial gain. Here are some common taxi scams to be aware of:

  1. Overcharging: Some taxi drivers may manipulate meters or take longer routes to inflate fares and overcharge passengers, especially tourists who are unfamiliar with local routes and fare structures.
  2. Broken Meter: In some cases, taxi drivers claim that their meters are broken and negotiate a fixed price for the journey instead. However, the fixed price may be much higher than the fare would be with a functioning meter.
  3. Resetting The Meter: Taxi drivers may quickly reset the meter as soon as they stop at your destination, in hopes that you didn’t see the actual amount, so that they can charge you a higher amount than the meter showed.
  4. Fake Taxis: Scammers may operate vehicles that resemble legitimate taxis but are not licensed or regulated. They may approach travelers at airports, train stations, or tourist attractions, offering rides at inflated prices or even engaging in criminal activities.
  5. Long-Hauling: Long-hauling occurs when taxi drivers take unnecessarily long routes to drive up the fare. This often happens when drivers take advantage of tourists or passengers who are unfamiliar with local geography.

    To avoid falling victim to taxi scams, it’s essential to use reputable taxi companies or ride-sharing services whenever possible. Research local taxi regulations and fare structures in advance, and always insist on using the meter or agreeing on a price before starting the journey. Additionally, be cautious when approached by taxi drivers offering unsolicited rides, and never accept rides from unlicensed or suspicious vehicles