The four most popular international travel scams: Internet ScamBusters #240
We've gotten so much positive feedback on our last article on travel scams, that it inspired us to do another issue today on four of the most "popular" travel scams. We call it: "How to Avoid Travel Scams When Vacationing Overseas."
How to Avoid Travel Scams When Vacationing Overseas
Overseas travelers have always enjoyed learning native customs, but travel scams are not part of the local color most tourists want to pick up.
Language barriers, unfamiliar surroundings and cultural differences mark tourists as easy prey for travel scams. Savvy international travelers can protect themselves by learning a few common travel scams before venturing abroad.
Most travel scams involve variations on four themes: begging, money changing "errors," pick pocketing or other diversion theft, and selling/finding "precious" items. Here are common examples of each:
The scams: A skinny child wearing ragged clothing asks you for money for food. Sometimes they tell you a heart-wrenching story about how they came to be starving.
One couple vacationing in France told of meeting a girl who began her scam by asking them if they spoke English. She handed them a letter from a "relative." It explained her father was dead and her mother was in the hospital -- could they spare some money to help?
Then the couple noticed the note was photocopied. They gave her no money. A day later they saw a different child carrying the same note.
The solution: In some countries, begging is run as an organized business. Children are used to collect cash for a ringleader. The child often receives very little benefit herself. If you feel softhearted towards a child that looks hungry, offer her food instead.
2. Money Changing "Errors"
The scams: Travel guides say the most common European travel scam is being overcharged by a taxi cab driver. Don't exempt American cab drivers either -- they have been known to take a $100 and then try to convince their customer it was only a $1.
Cashiers in high tourist districts flourish on a scam known as the "slow count." They count change in between long confusing pauses, hoping you'll just grab the (incorrect) stash and take off. Even bank tellers have been known to do this.
The solution: Familiarize yourself with the currency when traveling abroad and pay attention to ensure correct change. Be patient when accepting change.
3. Pick Pocketing and Other Diversion Theft
The scams: You're driving along when suddenly you get a flat tire. A stranger pulls up to help you. While you're working on the tire, a buddy of his secretly relieves your car of its luggage.
You're walking in a crowd when suddenly a disgusting substance -- like bird poop or ketchup -- splats onto your shirt. A scam artist helps you clean up and helps himself to your wallet at the same time.
The solution: These travel scams work by diverting your attention away from your valuables and onto something else. Treat any unusual diversion -- a crowd of beggars jostling you, an old woman or child falling down in front of you -- as a pickpocket attempt.
Check your wallet and other valuables before and during any time you offer help.
4. The "Valuable" Item Scam
The scams: A stranger asks for directions and then thanks you with a valuable gift, an expensive leather jacket or some other precious item. Before leaving, your new "friend" asks you if he can borrow $100. The gift turns out to be worthless.
A vendor makes a friendship bracelet right on your arm as part of a demonstration. When you can't remove it, you feel obligated to pay for it.
A stranger finds a valuable ring on the ground in front of you and offers to sell it to you. The ring is worthless.
The solution: These travel scams work by taking advantage of people's greed. Beware of precious item "deals." If something appears too good to be true, it probably is.
Getting More Travel Scam Information
Variations on these travel scams are numerous and ever changing. If you travel overseas frequently, informing yourself on some of the finer details about travel scams will pay off.
International travelers swap stories on such websites as Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum.
Use the search function and type in "scams" for messages that deal specifically with travel scams.
The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consumer Affairs also maintains a website that offers advice for overseas traveling, broken down by country.
Click on their "Travel Information by Country" link and select the country you will be traveling to. The site summarizes crimes and travel scams common in that country as part of the information listed.
Finally, check out these 10 travel scam tips to avoid being taken.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!