Avoid Common Travel Scams Abroad
Avoid Travel Scams by Being Informed, Alert
Vacations abroad provide a way to discover new places and explore interesting cultures. But they can also expose tourists to some nasty frauds. Here are some of the most common travel scams, and how to protect yourself from them.
Travel and currency
An official-looking individual says he’s selling train tickets, but when you buy one, it turns out to be useless. Or, someone with a cart at the airport or depot offers to carry your bags for a small fee, then runs away with your cash and luggage.
Another common trick involves a person offering to exchange currency at a much cheaper rate than banks. After taking your money, he gives you counterfeit bills or two real bills wrapped around cut-up newspaper and takes off fast.
To sidestep these scams, buy tickets and exchange currency only at official locations. If possible, travel light enough to manage your own luggage.
Individuals posing as police officers may ask for your passport and demand a fine for an “infraction.” Or, pretending to be investigating counterfeit bills, they ask to search your wallet and then help themselves to the contents. Familiarize yourself with local police uniforms to spot imposters, and never open your wallet or hand over cash. Offering to walk with them to the nearest police station to resolve the issue should scare scammers off.
Crooked cabbies and cashiers may count out change so slowly — or so quickly — that you get confused, or they insist they were given a smaller bill than you actually gave them. Avoid being victimized by learning local currency, using the smallest bills possible and calculating/counting change for each purchase. Better yet, use a credit card or a reloadable prepaid Visa TravelMoney card available from financial institutions like Abri Credit Union.
Diversion is one of the oldest ways to trick tourists:
- A scammer informs you that a bird messed on your shirt. As she distracts you by wiping off the supposed droppings, your wallet is taken.
- Staged arguments, singing children and people falling down are other common diversions used to mask theft.
Hang onto your possessions by staying focused on them at all times. Carry money and travel documents under your clothing. Also, make sure no one is nearby when using an ATM, and request assistance only from a bank employee or your hotel concierge.
Staying alert and knowing what to watch for helps foil scammers. If you find yourself a victim despite precautions, salvage your trip by getting to a safe location immediately, canceling stolen cards and notifying local police, hotel security and the U.S. embassy or a nearby consulate.
Roberta Pescow, NerdWalletTags: abroad, scams, travel