No one likes to get scammed. Unfortunately, there are crooks out there trying to scam people out of their hard earned money every day. The travelers are not immune to this, and often they get taken because they do not posess the knowledge a resident of the destination might have. Here is a list of 10 scams that you might encounter, and how to avoid them.
- The “You have won a free vacation” call, mail or email. These come in all sorts of different ways. Perhaps it is a free cruise, free air tickets. Sometimes you get a travel product for free but have to listen to a hard sell timeshare presentation for hours. Or maybe you are told just give them your credit card in advance for incidentals or processing fees and find out there never was a trip. Or perhaps you need to call a long distance number where you are on hold until the caller has racked up commission from your long distance call. Bottom line is …. if it sounds too good to be true, 9999 out of 10000 times it is a scam and you should avoid it.
- The “pizza delivery” scam. You just got into your hotel room. Slipped under the door is an offer for pizza with an attractive price, delivered to your door. You call and give them your credit card number and details, only to find out that the ad was fake, and now the crook is ordering things using your credit card. If the offer looks attractive, check them out on the Internet, or ask the front desk.
- The “fake hotel desk clerk” scam. You get into your room. The phone rings and it is someone claiming to be the front desk person who says your CC did not go through and that he needs to reverify CC details. Again, the call is not from the desk. Offer to come down in person to see the front desk clerk instead. Don’t break the rule of giving out sensitive financial information over the phone to someone you do not know. Ever.
- The “timeshare scam”. A person comes up to you at a travel destination and offers you an attractive freebie. Perhaps it is a tour, or tickets to a show. All you have to do is attend a short 1 hour presentation about a timeshare. The presentation is a high pressure sales pitch that can last for hours. These sales people are paid high commissions and will do everything possible to get you to sign up. And it is never one hour long!
- The fake review scam. Trip Advisor, Yelp and similar sites have reviews by the public. Very outrageous ones are usually reported by the visitors and the site will take them down. But sometimes the review is more subtle. Sometimes the owner will paint a very flattering picture of a trip and sometimes a disgruntled traveler will leave a very negative review that is not truthful. That’s not to say that these sites are worthless, its just that you cannot expect all reviews to be truthful.
- The taxi dispatcher scam. In some airports, you will be greeted by someone who will offer you a taxi ride or a cheap ride to your hotel. They usually stand right at the exit door, and get to you before you see the real taxi and ground transportation booths. They are usually illegal unlicensed drivers who will charge you more than the regular ground transportation, In some cases, travelers have been robbed. Always look for the permanent ground transporation desks, kiosks. Do not fall for someone who just comes up to you and offers transportation, especially before you get to the ground transport outside.
- The corporate fax discount travel scam. We get this on our fax machine about once a week. The fax indicates that our HR department is offering discounts on travel at many different locations for $99 or $149 per person. Often with a second free trip thrown it. These are similar to the scams mentioned in number 1 above. We do not have an HR department and it certainly did not come from anyone in our company.
- The $299 cruise to the Bahamas scam. If you bite on one of these, you will get a cruise over to a low cost hotel in the Bahamas where you will stay for 2-3 nights. You will be transported on a very old ship, where almost nothing is free, and returned the same way. Again, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam.
- Crooked Taxi driver. This is one that occurs in almost any city. The meter is broken, the route you want to take is blocked, or some other excuse, taking you for a longer ride than necessary. Or they tell you that your hotel is closed. Here knowledge is power. Find out what it should cost to travel to your destination. The taxi starters, or information boards at the airport may help here. Also, check traffic on your phone if you have that option. Check the status of your hotel by phone as well.
- Fake WiFi. We all love to get our free WiFi whenever we travel, but criminals love to get signals from travelers, especially ones who send their ID and password for mobile banking, email, etc. First of all, don’t use public WiFi for anything sensitive. And just avoid free in the open WiFi in general. When visiting, look for a restaurant or similar place with WIFI that is protected by passwords.
These are the top SCAMs that travelers are being hit with this year. They do change from time to time, so you need to be on your best guard. Another great source of specific information on traveler scams comes from the US Government. Check out travel.state.gov and select the country you are traveling to. There will be excellent information on what to be aware of. Armed with good information, you can minimize the potential of being scammed by a criminal and putting a damper on your trip.
What scams have you run into? Let us know in the comments below.