Traveling to a new place can be exciting, and tourism around the world helps bridge the gap between cultures. However, travel isn't without its risks. There are plenty of shady characters around the world who target and take advantage of tourists.
Knowing how to avoid travel scams is not only a good idea - it can also add to your enjoyment while abroad. Learn a little something about the culture and languages of the places you're visiting, then follow these steps for a fun and relaxing vacation.
Arriving in a new city without a plan is never a good idea, especially when there are people waiting to take advantage of you. It might seem fun to hire the local who walks up and offers you a tour of their lovely city, but they may just take your money and leave you in an alley somewhere.
While there are certainly good people who offer tours right from the street, the bad guys have made it dangerous to trust anyone. And even if the offer is genuine, you don't know how much you could get for your money in a regulated environment.
It's best to set up a tour through your hotel or booking agent. Make sure it's a reputable company ahead of time and you'll have nothing to worry about.
When you use a credit card, the bank or credit card company keeps a record of the transaction. That's a level of protection you can't live without, especially when traveling overseas. Most companies will return fraudulent charges - but when it comes to wiring money or using a debit card? Money that's taken out of your account is hard, if not impossible, to recover.
Some banks do offer a level of protection with a debit card, but it's usually safer to use a credit card. Not only are you protected from fraud, you can also earn travel points or miles on purchases made for or during your vacation.
You know those announcements you hear in an airport telling you not to take items from other travelers? There's a good reason for that, and it's all about security. When you're out and about visiting a new place, watch for people who try to give you things. A free plush toy could have something nefarious hidden inside, and you don't want to get caught transporting anything unlawful. Politely decline freebies while traveling and you will remain safe and innocent of any legal or moral concerns.
Another concern involves accepting something that's "free," only for it to be followed by a demand for a donation. In this case, if a local makes a scene, it could be to compel you to give them money. It's also a great way to distract you while someone else picks your pocket.
In general, you should never give private information over the phone when you receive a call. Instead, you should make the call (to a known number) and verify before you provide anything.
A popular scam involves calling hotel rooms to "confirm" or "verify" a credit card number. If this happens to you, simply inform the caller that you aren't comfortable giving the number over the phone. Let them know you will head to the front desk to do it in person.
In most cases, the scammer will hang up, but they may try to continue the scam. They'll suggest the desk is unmanned or say they want to save you the trouble. Don't fall for it. Always go to the front desk for anything related to your personal financial information.