Saturday, July 25, 2015

From fake hotel wake up calls to the airport security trick to steal your valuables: The top 10 travel scams revealed (and how you can avoid them)

  • Peter John, author of Around the World in 80 Scams, explains top cons
  • From worthless gemstones to phony take away menus and corrupt cops
  • Scammers offer refundable airline tickets on gumtree.com
Travelling has never been easier or more popular. And like moths to a flame, scammers are drawn to people who are on holiday or 'just passing through' with money to burn, no local knowledge and all their valuables tucked neatly nearby.
Every year foreign visitors are tricked out of small change or, worse, find themselves in dangerous situations or the victims of crime.
While this is by no means a warning against travel, being prepared and on guard can go a long way to evading confidence tricksters, wily locals and credit card bandits.
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Scammers are drawn to holiday goers and travellers but if you know what to look out for you can avoid cons
Together with Peter John, author of Around the World in 80 Scams: An Essential Travel Guide, we run down some of the most well-worn ruses, and how to dodge them.

PETER JOHN'S 10 POINT PLAN TO BEING VIGILANT ABROAD 

1. If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. This applies anywhere, from advertisements in newspapers or online to offers from touts in bus stations.
2. Do not accept food or drink from strangers who you've just met in hotels or on buses or trains.
3. Before travelling, research whether the destination is notorious for any particular scams. Embassy websites and online travel forums are particular good sources.
4. Watch taxi drivers like a hawk. Many are honest, but many will cheat given the slightest chance
5. Find out the exchange rate before you arrive and familiarise yourself with notes and coins as soon as possible.
6. Keep as many of your possessions as possible in sight at all times.
7. Don't assume policemen or customs officials are honest, especially in poorer countries.
8. Carry a backup ATM or credit card in case you lose your main card.
9. Try not to arrive in foreign cities after dark. Thieves love darkness.
10. Don't buy expensive goods overseas unless you know exactly what you're doing.
1.) Fake wake up call  
Cheapflights.co.uk commissioned research into the most popular travel scams and found that hotel guests are often duped by fake wake up calls.
Late at night the phone rings with someone claiming to be from the front desk.
They explain that the internal computer system has crashed and that they need your credit card information again. In fact, they are a prisoner speaking to you on a smuggled mobile phone. 
In your sleep addled state you give them everything they need to empty your bank account. This scam was especially common in Georgia, in the US.
Avoid it by: Refusing to give any information and putting down the phone. Tell hotel staff and the police immediately. 
2.) Airline ticket refund ruse
Beware cheap tickets and refundable schemes. 
'Scammers advertise refundable airline tickets free on sites like gumtree.com,' says Peter John. 
'They sell them for cash (to you) and then get the money they paid for the tickets refunded to their credit cards.'
You wind up with no ticket and an airfare down; the scammer has your money as well as the cash they originally paid for the ticket refunded.
Avoid it by: Buying tickets direct from airlines or first-hand through trusted websites.
3.) Phony takeaway menu
No matter how hungry you are or late it is watch out for fake menus. After you've settled into your hotel room a takeaway menu might be surreptitiously slipped under your door. 
If you order from it there's a strong chance you won't see any food but the person on the other end of the phone now has your card details and will be making a large withdrawal.
Avoid it by: Eating in local restaurants or ordering room service.

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