Travel scams come and go and it’s a full-time job keeping up-to-date on the newest and most devious travel con-tricks. If you are aware of recent scams, you are less likely to fall prey to the con-artist ploys. Here are the latest travel scams we’ve learned.
The taxi driver tells you your hotel no longer exists
He says it has closed. He knows a good one and will take you to it. Don’t believe it. They probably receive a commission from the hotel or hostel they recommend. Make them take you to your hotel, phone your hotel directly or use the hotel shuttle service.
This scam can also be applied to local attractions.
The driver tells you the attraction is closed or he takes you to the back entrance which is closed. He tells you he knows another not-to-be-missed locale and may stop at local shopping spots along the way – where he receives a commission from your purchases.
Another variation is when the driver makes several stops en route to your hotel. The stops are at shops that want to get you to buy. If this happens, insist the driver take you directly to your destination.
And one final taxi tip: don’t ride with a driver who says his meter isn’t working. If this happens, either negotiate the rate up-front (if you know the fair rate) or take another cab.
Offers to take your photo
Someone offers to take a photo of you or your group and you say yes. This puts your camera or phone directly into the hands of potential thieves, risking that they run off with it. It’s safer to take a selfie or to approach another tourist and ask them to snap your shot.
People stand in busy tourist areas and warn that the area is crawling with pickpockets
Well, you think ‘that’s nice’ but when you hear it, a natural inclination is to pat or check the area where you keep your valuables. This action is observed and now the pickpocket can follow you with the goal of pulling money or credit cards from that spot. Don’t fall for it. Keep your hands and eyes away from your wallet…at least until you’re out of sight.
It’s sad, but be wary of locals trying to help you do or find something
For instance, someone offers to help you find a landmark or a store or help you to buy a bus ticket or find your way on the subway. These people may help, but they may then demand a fee for the information they provided. Another variation is that they lead you to their store with the intent you spend money there.
It’s best to find locals who work for the transit company or the tourist attraction and ask them for the information you need. Or thoroughly research your route ahead of time.
Do you want to pay in your home currency or the local currency?
It is the question a retailer may ask. In this case, opt for the local currency and pay by credit card. With credit, the exchange is set by Visa or Mastercard at a reasonable rate. If you pay with your home currency, the rate is decided by the retailer.
When paying a cashier, say out loud how much you’re giving in cash
This is a good tip whether traveling or at home. For instance, say ‘Here’s a $50’. Then if the cashier claims you only gave a $20, they just heard you speak the number and those nearby may have also heard you say it.
Someone intentionally spills on you
Then in the chaos that ensues, either that person or an accomplice slips away with your purse or backpack. If something is spilled on you, immediately reach for your bag.
Don’t accept ‘gifts’
This is not new, but it’s so common, it’s worth repeating. A stranger approaches and asks you to accept his/her gift. It might be a handmade necklace or another trinket. If you say no, they keep hounding. Finally, you take the gift so you can get away from that person, but then they demand you pay for it…and they refuse to take the gift back. Lesson learned!
Spotting fake travel reviews
There are a few indicators that will help ID fake online reviews. Be wary of over-the-top, too-good-to-be-true recommendations. The review is more likely legitimate if there are photos included. Check out or Google the reviewer and their previous reviews. Ask to pay by credit card not e-transfer. And if it seems too good to be true, it likely is.
Travel scams are similar worldwide. The scam that works in Italy or Thailand is also successfully used in Mexico, the U.S. or Canada. Your best protection is to learn about new ones so you are wise to the tricks.
Stay safe out there.
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