How to Avoid Travel Scams this Summer

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travel scamsOne of the things I love about summer (or any time of the year) is all the travel. I love going new places and seeing new things. However, whenever you travel, whether it’s for a summer vacation, or for some other purpose, you have to be on the alert.

Scammers can be found almost anywhere. They prey on the unsuspecting, hoping to get some of your hard-earned cash. Watch out for the following travel scams — especially when you go abroad:

Valuable Items for a “Great Deal”

We all like to feel like we are getting a bargain. One of the oldest scams in the book is one where you pay for a valuable item — something that is a great deal — only to discover later that the item is practically worthless. This scam can take different forms, but you need to be on your guard. Some of the common incarnations of the valuable item scam include:

  • A new “friend” gives you a “thank you” gift. Maybe you’ve had an evening of drinking, and you’ve bought a few rounds. Or maybe you’ve provided good directions. You receive the “gift” and then the friend says he or she needs $50 or $100. Your friend is short on cash, but has just given you something expensive, so you go for it, figuring you can sell the valuable item later. Too bad the “expensive” gift isn’t really expensive.
  • A vendor at the bazaar or street market makes a bracelet or some other item for you, demonstrating how it’s done. Once it’s right on your finger or arm, you can’t take it off; now you feel you have to pay.
  • Someone offers you a great deal on a gemstone ring. It’s too good to pass up, so you agree. Later, you find out that the “gemstone” is no such thing.

Watch out for deals that seem too good to be true; they probably are.

Money Changing Errors

I ran into this one once while traveling. I was low on the local currency, and someone offered to accept my US dollars and give me the change in the local currency for something I wanted to buy. After doing a quick calculation (before money changed hands), I realized that the offered change was less than it should have been, even accounting for the exchange rate. No deal.

Sometimes, when receiving change, whether it’s a cab driver or a bank teller or anyone else, it might be counted out slowly. The hope is that you become impatient and just take what’s there — which might be less than you are actually owed.

Also, watch out for those who claim you only gave a $20 instead of a $50, or some other “mix up” that could result in you losing out. Be very sure of how much you are giving, and be aware of the currency conversions in the countries you are visiting.

Credit Card Fraud

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for credit card fraud. Your credit card might be stolen or lost. In some cases, a mobile swiper might actually be storing your information for use later, either in direct fraud or by selling the number on the black market. You need to be careful. Limit your credit card use to one card when possible so that if it’s compromised, it’s easier to take care of the problem.

What are your best tips for avoid travel scams?

(Photo: Kenneth Lu)

{ 6 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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6 Responses to “How to Avoid Travel Scams this Summer”

  1. Huskervball says:

    Divide your cash and cards. If you are robbed the show can still go on.

    Had my wallet picked in SFO and was able to continue family trip.

  2. Brian Beltz says:

    Sometimes overseas there is not much you can do to avoid scams. I was in Bangkok a few years ago and was looking for a longtail boat tour. I ended up being “guided” to the end of an alley where a tour operator was charging easily triple what the tour was supposed to be. I didn’t feel like declining was an option, so I just went with it.

  3. admiral58 says:

    interesting article

  4. 2am says:

    Be careful when renting a car in foreign countries, even from internationally well-known car companies. Be sure to inspect the car and photograph any damage BEFORE you sign the contract, and make sure damage is described accurately on the contract. Your credit card can be billed for alleged damage after you’ve already returned home, so the documentation will help you assist your credit card company when you dispute the charge.

  5. I think the best way to avoid these scams is to make sure you are not an easy target. Monitor your credit cards, be aware of your surroundings, and trust your instinct when something is too good to be true.

  6. Shafi says:

    I use my credit card when I go outside the States. You get better currency exchange. In addition, travelers checks are best as well.

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