More travel scam tricks and tips to keep you safe: Internet Scambusters #707
In Part 2 of our roundup of 2016 travel scams, we have warnings for you about Olympic Games con tricks, planting of bullets and fake drugs in travelers' baggage, and phony Cuban cigars.
We'll also explain why you should never just toss your airplane boarding pass and we've got information on how to find emergency numbers for countries you're visiting.
Now, here we go...
Travel Scammers Out in Force for Olympics Fans and Other Tourists
Tens of millions of dollars will be spent in the next few weeks as the excitement builds for the Olympic Games in Rio -- but, sadly, a chunk of that money will end up in the pockets of travel scam artists.
Many bogus websites are offering non-existent tickets for the Games, including the opening ceremony, which sold out months ago.
Others offer packages that supposedly include flights, accommodation and admission tickets -- which don't exist, use substandard accommodation or are grossly overpriced.
In an online statement, the International Olympics Committee says:
"Fans are reminded that only tickets purchased from or obtained through authorized sources are genuine, valid and will enable entry to venues...
"Fans having purchased or obtained tickets from unofficial or unauthorized sources run the risk of a) having obtained fake tickets, b) having obtained invalidated tickets, c) having those tickets cancelled, d) being refused entry, and/or e) being asked to leave the venue, without receiving a refund or qualifying for an exchange of ticket."
In the U.S., CoSport is the authorized ticket and package seller for the Games, although, of course, many travel agents and other third parties may work through CoSport to supply legitimate tickets.
The key is to work with either CoSport or a reputable agent that you trust before you head south. Don't just buy online from others.
A Bullet In Your Baggage
For our second travel scam this week, we're taking you to a busy airport in the Philippines.
We've warned many times about corrupt airport officials -- you'll find them all over the world -- who delay travelers by questioning them or by planting contraband in their suitcases and demanding a "fine" (otherwise known as a bribe) for you to continue your journey.
A particularly nasty version of this tactic has popped up in Manila where airport workers have seemingly been dropping bullets into luggage passing through security.
When these are "discovered," the traveler is usually detained and fined anywhere between $10 to $600, according to their perceived ability to pay.
There's not a lot you can do about this sort of trick, whether it happens in Manila or anywhere else.
Certainly, it likely will not pay to get angry or refuse to pay. The best you can do is make clear that you were not carrying the offending items but that you will make a small payment as a gesture so you can continue your journey.
Pleading poverty might minimize the cost, as these crooks only want cash.
Once you're home, you can lodge a complaint with the airport authorities. This is what has happened in Manila where the issue has now been raised in the island's House of Representatives.
A similar type of scam has been seen on the streets of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, where scammers posing as "tourist police" stop solo travelers and demand to inspect their baggage, into which they drop a white powder.
Of course, the suggestion is that the victim is carrying drugs and so must pay an on-the-spot fine.
Again, the scope for action is limited but you may ask to compare the official ID they show you with their separate, national ID card.
But beware of getting into a conflict where you cannot rely on anyone else for support.
The main targets are solo, female travelers.
This is one of several new scams we've encountered in Malaysia.
Another popular one is the sale of fake tickets to visit the Petronas Towers, which were once the tallest buildings in the world.
If you plan to visit these landmark buildings, buy your tickets from the towers themselves.
Close -- But No Cigar
Now let's head back to Cuba where we wrote about another con trick in last week's travel scams special.
This time we're warning about one of the most prized of all tourist mementos -- the Cuban cigar, often claimed to be the best cigar in the world.
It's because of that reputation that there are plenty of shops and street vendors selling fake Cuban cigars that originated elsewhere in the Caribbean and Central America.
They're made to look like the real thing but your money will be going up in smoke if you buy! (We don't encourage smoking of any sort, by the way).
You can avoid this risk by only buying cigars from official stores known as La Casa de Habano. There are several dotted around the island, including Havana and Trinidad.
Don't Toss That Pass
Finally, a quick warning about a very important item to deal with when you get home -- your airplane boarding pass.
You should never throw these away while traveling and, when you get home, destroy them safely, preferably by shredding.
The reason? That document has lots of personal information about you, some of it -- like your frequent flyer number and even links to other travel plans -- concealed in bar codes that can be read by a cheap scanner.
Alert of the Week
Whether you're traveling abroad for business and pleasure, there's always the possibility that you might find yourself in a situation where you need to call out emergency services.
You'd think by now we'd all be dialing the same number worldwide -- 911, or whatever -- but that's not the case.
Before you travel, find out the emergency numbers for the countries you'll be visiting.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!