Traveling Scams – How To Avoid Them

Traveling Scams – You have saved up for the past year for your dream vacation of palm trees and the sun, the one thing that many travelers don’t plan for is being scammed during his/her holidays. 

We tend not to think about the common criminal while on holidays, but they are there to prey on the misguided tourists. 

Unfavorable people are around the most popular tourist destinations, and if you are not aware of your surroundings, it’s easy to fall prey to many of the scams that take place during a holiday. 

This post is dedicated to making the common traveler be aware of the most common scams around the world that happen to the everyday traveler. 

TRAVELING SCAMS – HOW TO AVOID THEM

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When we travel, we all have the mentality that we are smart enough to avoid being ripped off during our travelers.

I know I feel that every time I travel that I am one step ahead of the traveling scams, but sometimes these shady criminals are one step ahead of me.

There are many posts on this blog dedicated to tips and tricks to find the best hotels and accessories for your travels, but I wanted to come up with a post dedicated to the latest traveling scams from around the world. 

Everything from being overcharged on a cab ride to credit card theft will be examined to have you better prepared for your next holiday.

It’s tough to figure out knowing you have been scammed, but knowing ways to protect yourself is half the battle. 

It’s always about protecting yourself before you wreck yourself.

Overbooked Hotel / Closed Hotel

This has happened to me while vacationing in Thailand.

It’s quite common for taxi drivers in that country as well as many other countries around the world where that taxi drivers will tell you while you are heading to the hotel that it’s closed or overbooked.

Then they suggest a more expensive hotel in which the taxi driver gets a commission fee from the hotel if you end up staying there.

How not to fall prey to this scam:

Call your hotel at the airport or wherever you are before hailing a cab. This way you know that the hotel that you are on your way, and to expect you in a certain time frame.

Also, when you call the hotel, find out how long it will take to get from point A to point B to keep tabs on your cab driver.

Also, using a reputable hotel booking site like Booking.com and Tripadvisor will have reviews on your hotel before booking so you know if a particular hotel is actually opened and not overbooked.

Scammer Spiling Something On Your Clothes

This is one of the common traveling scams in Europe during the tourist season.

You are at a busy tourist attraction, waiting in line to buy tickets or go into the attraction, and someone spills something on your clothing. 

Most of the time its condiments that a traveling scammer will spill on you, what they will do is apologize and begin to wipe the mess off your clothing only to pickpocket you in the process.

I didn’t have this happen to me personally, but I saw it while in line for tickets at the Eiffel Tower, and I was able to step in before this poor victim was going to be robbed.

Ways To Stay Ahead Of The Scam:

I always like using the good old hockey saying of “Keep your head up kid” wherever you are. 

If this happens to you, excuse yourself from the scammer and head to the nearest restroom and clean yourself up instead.

Also, pay attention to anybody following you to wherever you end up cleaning yourself off.

They might follow you into the restroom and rob you there.

Faulty Taxi Meter

In foreign countries where Uber and Lyft are not yet available, this is one of the traveling scams that cab drivers near popular destination pickups where they claim the meter is broken.

What happens is you get into the cab and while you are being driven to the location of your choice, the driver mentions to you that the meter is broken and will give you a flat rate instead.

I have had this pulled on me once while I was in Mexico, and it sucks when it happens. You won’t know how much you are ripped off until someone asks you how much you paid for the ride later on.

How To Get Around This:

Check the meter before getting in, or if you are negotiating a flat rate price, do that before entering the vehicle. If you feel something isn’t right, at least you didn’t go anywhere, and you can get another driver.

Not every cab driver is out to get a tourist.

New to Uber? Sign up here to receive your first ride free.

Free Jewelry

This is one of the traveling scams that target the female traveler.

What happens is an individual to begin a conversation and try to make you put on a piece of jewelry to see how it looks on the traveler.

Once the piece of jewelry is worn, they will demand money from you, and if you decline, they will cause a scene.

I had this happen to me years ago in Paris. A little old lady tried to give me a bracelet to put on my wrist, and every time I kept pulling my arm away from her, she kept trying to put the bracelet on me.

I knew what she was trying to do, and when I was able to get my arms free I high tailed it out of there.

Ways To Not Have This Happen:

Never allow someone to put anything on you unless you are in a store that deals with jewelry.

Also, nothing in life is free, so if they are trying to give a piece of jewelry to you as a gift, watch out.

Offering To Take Your Picture With Your Camera

Everyone wants that Instagram picture to share with his/her influencers of major landmarks around the world, and thieves know this.

What happens in this scam is, some friendly individuals will approach you and offer to take a group photo of you to capsulize your memories.

You hand the camera over the friendly person, and before you say cheese at the right moment, the scammer is gone. And, with your camera.

I have never had this happen to me as I don’t like giving personal possessions to people I don’t know, but it happens.

How To Protect Yourself From This Scam:

Most of the time if you ask a friendly passer-by to take your picture, they tend to do so without any troubles.

But the only time I hand my camera over to someone is if I can read the person well enough to do so. 

Look for other fellow tourists in your area that might be trying to do the same in grabbing a group photo. This way it’s a win/win for everybody.

Fake Wifi In Popular Areas

When it comes to Wifi, I pretty sure you can find free wifi wherever you go. Starbucks is everywhere, use their free wifi while enjoying a nice frappuccino.

But watch out for wifi connections that may pop on your phone that is unattached to a business at all.

Sometimes when you see locked connections that need passwords on your smartphone, but there is always one that is unlocked and ready to join. 

Those tend to hacker wifi connections, in which they try to sway you through a free connection only to access your computer, passwords, and so much more. I have heard this as being a problem at airports that charge for wifi access.

What a hacker will do is have a free wifi connection waiting in the gate area to possibly sucker in a person who didn’t want to pay for a connection and jumped onto the mysterious free connection that was available.

For me, I am pretty cautious when it comes to wifi security, and if I am trying to connect to wifi to check e-mail, I usually head to a reputable business to use their free connections. I haven’t fallen prey yet to this scam, but you never know.

What You Should Do:

If you need wifi, go to a place of business like a hotel or coffee shop and ask if there is a secured wifi connection. Otherwise, do you need to check Facebook to find out what the latest cat video is viral? I know I don’t.

Fake Hotel Front Desk Call

One of the new traveling scams making the rounds is suspicious phone calls from the front desk.

What this scam is, an hour later after checking into your hotel room, you may receive a call stating that it’s the front desk and their is problems with your credit card number, and to give the details over the phone. 

If you fall for this scam, the thief will take your credit card information and drain your account.

This has never happened to me because I know to not give my credit card information out to anybody unless I am buying a new Sports Illustrated football phone.

How Not To Be A Victim Of This:

The front desk would never ask for your credit card information over the phone if you are staying at the hotel. If there is a problem with the card, you will find out at check-in.

Or, the front desk will simply ask you to come to the front desk to verify your information.

Gemstone Deals

This is a new one for me, but I have heard it’s quite the popular scam overseas. 

How it works is a local individual will approach you at a market and bring up a lucrative side business of buying jewelry, gemstones, watches or carpets then selling them back in the United States (or some other country) for a huge profit. 

This individual will share with the traveler how the process works and where the best deals are in the area to buy these products to take home to sell, only to find out that the products mentioned are fake. 

And you will find this out when you are back home trying to sell these magical profit-making products.

I haven’t fallen victim to this, but I could see someone down on his/her luck being taken advantage of.

How To Avoid It:

Never buy anything of luxury on a trip, unless it comes from a reputable business.

No matter how good a deal is, the whole “My Friend, I have a deal for you” thing is a red flag.

Rental Damage (Auto or Motorbike)

You have rented a car or motorbike for 24 hours, and over the course of the night, the vehicle is either damaged or stolen. The rental company will demand compensation for the repairs or replacement. 

What you don’t know is the owner of the company has a friend or employee that will go out late at night and damage the vehicle or steal it from where you are staying.

This happened to a friend of mine when I was in Thailand, where his rental motorbike was stolen during the night, only to see it hiding in the alley behind the rental shop.

How To Protect Yourself:

If it’s not a real company like Avis or Hertz, then don’t rent anything.

If you plan on renting a scooter or motorbike to get around in countries like Thailand, take photographs of the rental the minute you do the inspection at the start to avoid damage claims later on.

Also, if you have to lock the bike up, use your own lock and never tell the rental company where you are staying.

Fake Police Officers

This is one of the popular traveling scams that happens anywhere around the world that is a huge travel destination.

How this one works is, a random person from off the street will approach a passerby and try to sell drugs to you.

While this conversation is going on, individuals looking like police officials will swoop in and demand your passport and identification.

In a state of panic, you hand over the documents to them, and the minute they have your documents, they runoff.

This has happened to a friend of mine in Mexico City. The only reason he didn’t get robbed was there were actual police officers just around the corner grabbing lunch. The minute they saw this happen, they pursued the criminals on foot and arrested them.

How To Avoid This Type Of Traveling Scams:

Never hand your wallet or passport over to anybody. If you are asked to do so, it is your right to ask for identification from officials and let the individuals know you are calling the police to confirm his/her identification.

Or keep your passport in a hotel safe. This way, if someone asks for your passport, then you can ask them to follow you to your hotel to get it. That’s too much hassle for these criminals, and they will walk away.

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The Gypsy Baby Toss

This is quite the popular traveling scam in Europe, and it scared the hell out of me the first time it happened to me.

How this traveling scam works is, a gypsy woman will approach you holding a baby in a blanket. From out of nowhere, the woman will throw the baby in a blanket right at you.

While you make an amazing catch to save the baby in a blanket, the gypsy woman‘s accomplices will come in from out of nowhere, and grab any belongings you may have dropped on the ground and runoff.

Little do you know, the baby in the blanket is a fake doll. Probably a recycled cabbage patch kid. 

This happened to me in Rome last year, but I had the upper hand. I was walking around the Coliseum in the morning with only my hotel key at the bottom of my shoe. I wasn’t carrying any money or personal belongings for anyone to steal.

When the baby was tossed at me, I made an amazing catch that Tom Brady would be impressed with. The minute I noticed it was a doll, I almost wanted to spike the doll and scream “Touchdown!

How To Not Fall Prey To This One:

While you may feel sorry for beggars on the street in the tourist towns, be very cautious about them. No matter how destitute they may look, some of them are seasoned criminals looking for his/her next victim.

hate being blunt about this, but for me, anybody that may ask for money, I always suggest buying them food and clothing. If they accept, then I know they needed it. If they don’t, then you know something isn’t right.

I Hate Traveling Scams!

No matter how prepared you are to avoid being scammed while on vacation, there will always be someone out there that is one step ahead of the game.

If you fall victim to a particular vacation scam, don’t be too hard on yourself as you are not the only one. Many travelers from around the world have been scammed on vacation. 

Look at me; I have been scammed a few times in my life while on holidays, and now I am able to share my experiences with other travelers so they won’t experience what I did.

Is there some Traveling Scams out there that you have experienced, that are not mentioned here? If so, leave a comment below to share your experience.

Side Note:

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8 thoughts on “Traveling Scams – How To Avoid Them

  1. Great post and scary how many scams are going on in the world! You have to be so cautious about everything you do anymore. Thank you for sharing all these tips to help keep us safer on our next trip or vaction!

    1. Thanks for reading this post. The one that still is in the back of my mind was the baby being tossed at me. That’s why I wanted readers to be mindful of that one.

  2. Good advice on ways to avoid these scams! I hadn’t heard of or thought of the one about accidentally spilling something on a person and then pickpocketing. And of course the scammer has paper towels conveniently on hand!

    1. I just hate seeing or hearing bad things happening to good people. I am glad that there was something there for you.

  3. It is always important to be made aware before you go anywhere. Thank you for the tips! I have heard of many of those, but there were a few surprises on your list.

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