• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Top tourist scams to avoid abroad

Increasing scam alert points to need for safe, smart banking

Travelling is one of the most enriching and enjoyable experiences one can have, offering the chance to explore new cultures, meet new people, and create lasting memories. However, nothing can dampen the joy of travel faster than falling victim to a scam.

Tourists, often seen as easy targets by scammers, can find their dream trips turning into nightmares. Understanding how these scammers operate is key to disarming them and ensuring your travels remain safe and enjoyable.

Here are some of the top tourist scams to avoid abroad, helping you stay vigilant and informed.

Credit card fraud

Scams involving credit card fraud can cast a shadow over your travel experience, leaving you with the daunting task of resolving financial issues instead of enjoying your vacation. The fear of having your bank account drained by an unseen fraudster is a common concern for travellers, and with good reason.

To avoid falling victim to these scams, always check your transaction receipts to ensure you are being charged the correct amount, and regularly monitor your bank balance for any unauthorised charges. Additionally, consider informing your bank of your travel plans, including your destination and travel dates. This allows them to flag any suspicious transactions and provide you with additional protection while abroad.

The taxi overcharge

The “broken taxi metre” scam is a common trick drivers use to overcharge tourists, leading to unexpectedly high fares for short rides. Drivers count on travellers being unfamiliar with the area and the local currency to pull this scam. This scam is prevalent in many tourist hotspots, especially at airports.

To avoid falling victim, insist that the driver uses a metre, and if the taxi doesn’t have one, find another cab. Being proactive can also help: download local rideshare apps and use airport-sanctioned taxis whenever possible. Knowing the typical cost of a ride by asking an hostel staff for an estimate can also serve as a safeguard. If you notice the metre climbing too quickly, ask the driver to pull over and get out. Additionally, make a note of the driver’s ID number, as many tourism boards allow you to report dishonest drivers. And always avoid unlicensed cabs, no matter how tempting the deal sounds.

The spill scam

The Spill Scam involves a stranger purposefully spilling something on you, like food or a drink, typically in crowded or tourist areas. They then apologise profusely and offer to assist in cleaning up the mess they caused. While you are distracted, they take advantage of the situation to pickpocket you or steal your belongings. Another variation of this scam, known as the “poo shoe” , is particularly common in India. In this scenario, someone squirts animal poop on your shoe when you are not looking. When you notice and react, they either direct you to someone who offers to clean your shoe for an exorbitant fee, or they pickpocket you while you are distracted by the mess on your shoe. To avoid falling victim, it is crucial to stay vigilant and be cautious of strangers encroaching on your personal space, especially in crowded areas. If someone spills something on you, politely decline their help and handle the cleanup yourself to prevent them from getting close enough to steal from you. Additionally, secure your valuables by keeping them in zipped pockets or secure bags, making it more difficult for scammers to access them without your knowledge.

Fake train officials

Encountering fake officials on Indian trains is a common scam travellers face, where individuals posing as authorities exploit trust to separate passengers from their money and documents. These impostors, often appearing as official with badges and notebooks, approach passengers under the guise of ticket inspectors. They claim passengers are in the wrong class or compartment, offering to allow them to remain onboard if they pay an additional upgrade fee. Unfortunately, many travellers fall victim to this deception.

Avoiding this scam requires vigilance, especially given the complexity of India’s train system. Prior research is key: inquire about upgrade costs at the ticket desk and familiarise yourself with the full ticket price before boarding.

The “found” ring scam

Most common in Paris, this scam involves an innocent-looking person picking up a ring from the ground and asking if you dropped it. When you say no, the person examines it closely, shows you a mark proving it’s pure gold, and tries to sell it to you at a seemingly great price. They make some money, and you think you’ve acquired valuable gold to resell back home, only to later discover it’s fake.

Public WI-FI network scam

Free Wi-Fi in public places is incredibly useful for travellers with limited or no data roaming plans. However, it’s important to be cautious of connections that could steal personal information, such as bank details and medical records. Avoid accessing anything that displays this sensitive information while using public Wi-Fi. Better yet, use a VPN to protect your data on open or public networks, as it will encrypt your information and keep it secure.

Friendship bracelet

Another popular trick, particularly common in crowded tourist areas, involves a stranger taking your arm and tying a string or bracelet around your wrist. Even if you politely decline, the scammer will typically not release your wrist and will continue until the bracelet is complete. Once finished, they will demand payment for the bracelet. Although these vendors are unlikely to become violent, you may want to offer a small sum and insist they take the bracelet back. To avoid getting caught in this situation,walk with your hands in your pockets and remain aware of your surroundings.