As travelers, it is easy to think that we are smart enough to avoid falling into scams. But, the truth is, it happens to the best of us.
From getting ridiculously overcharged on cab rides to unknowingly revealing credit card information, travel scams exist the world over.
While it is nearly impossible to know when you will be scammed, it is important to know what kind of scams exist, and what to do should the situation arise.
Here are some five common travel scams and how to avoid them!
Free Bracelets Or Rosemary
This scam tends to prey on female travelers. A friendly man or woman will approach to chat, then place a “free” friendship bracelet on your wrist. Or hand you a sprig of Rosemary for good luck. Once you have it, they will demand money. When you refuse, they will begin to cause a scene.
How To Avoid It: Don’t allow anyone to put anything on your body, and be extremely wary of accepting anything for free unless there is a good reason for it. Especially in very touristy areas. Ignore them and keep walking.
Spills On Your Clothing
Common in Europe, a traveler will be walking down the street and feel something plop on their shoulder — often times bird poop or a fast-food condiment. Then, a friendly stranger approaches and begins to wipe off the offending mess while plucking your wallet from your pocket or purse.
How To Avoid It: The best thing to do in situations like this is to not allow someone to help you. Instead, go to a restroom and clean the mess off yourself.
Fake Police Officers
The fake police officer scam is a popular one in many large cities. Most often, a person will approach a tourist and offer illicit items, like drugs. While conversing one or two other people will approach, appearing to be police officers and flashing “badges.” They will then insist the unknowing traveler hand over their passport and wallet. However, they are not police officers.
How To Avoid It: Never hand over your wallet or passport. Request they show you their identification and then inform them you will call the police to confirm they are who they say they are. Or tell them your passport is locked up in the hotel safe, and they’ll need to accompany you to your hotel. If they don’t allow this, simply walk away.
Friendly ATM Helper
Someone approaches at an ATM cash machine to help you avoid local bank fees. What they really want to do is scan your ATM card with the card skimmer in their pocket and watch you enter your pin number so they can drain your account later.
How To Avoid It: Never let anyone near you while you’re making an ATM transaction, and ALWAYS cover the number pad with your other hand while entering your pin code. If someone approaches, take your card and find another ATM.
Fake WiFi Hubs
While you can find WiFi almost anywhere these days, some of those free unlocked connections might be dangerous. Hackers will set up tempting unsecured wifi hotspots in public locations that unsuspecting victims eagerly connect to — giving the thief access to your computer, passwords, online accounts, and more.
How To Avoid It: Always ask the hotel/coffee shop/airport staff which wifi connection is the official one. Especially when you see a tempting unlocked connection. To encrypt all your online activity, use a VPN, or virtual private network.