avoiding travel scams

15 new travel scams to watch for (and how to avoid them)

Every week, our family travels on a trip.

And over the years, I have read about (or personally witnessed) hundreds of ways on getting scammed.

Even worse, there are new scams emerging every year.

The worst part is these scammers are getting smarter and more clever.

Here are my top 15 ways we can protect ourselves against most travel scams:

Avoid cash machines

Scammers place card readers over the insert slot that reads our bankcard numbers.

It also reads our PIN passwords.

This is awful as they drain our account.

And now we are broke far from home.

A much safer (and cheaper) way to get cash is to use a debit card at a department, grocery or drug store and ask for cash back.

Never, ever use a hotel safe

Believe it or not, the secret 4-digit pin number of most hotel safes is all ones or all zeros.

(And most on the hotel staff knows this.)

Avoid storing valuables in hotel safes – it is not safe at all:

Better option: If your hotel has a safe behind the front desk, you might consider exploiting that option.

Those are the safest… much like safe deposit boxes in banks.

They operate in the “your key + their key = open” standard. And if you lose the key, it must be replaced by a locksmith.

Avoid tourist traps

Yes, I know London’s Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower would be great places to visit…

But these tourist magnets are a scammer’s paradise.

I avoid these areas at all costs.

Read the comments at review sites

One of the greatest travel inventions ever created is the online review portal.

These feedback sites have saved my bacon countless times.

With that said, some reviews and comments are bogus.

For example, if someone has one post and they rip a travel site to shreds, I often ignore it (as it is probably a competitor).

I also ignore overly glowing reviews (as it is probably an insider).

I pay more attention to those who leave detailed travel experiences.

I really value feedback from those with a high number of past reviews.

Check out “Ambassador” sites

Another great source of intelligence can be found at embassy websites and online travel forums.

Even better, I visit a travel blogger’s site and use their search box for your travel destination.

I often find a lot of gold nuggets in the comment’s section.

If it is too good to be true, it probably is

Enough said.

Stranger danger

I am normally a social person…

But I never accept food or drink from strangers at a hotel, on buses or on trains.

Skip the map and skip the pics

Looking like a tourist in a touristy area is a guaranteed way to get targeted by scammers.

“This is closed”

This scam is devious:

We arrive at our destination, but the taxi driver tells us our chosen hotel, restaurant or shop is closed.

The cabbie claims good news! There is another, even better place we should try.

But this is probably a scam as the driver gets a recommendation commission.

Bottom line: if they say it is closed, I call their bluff and check it out for myself.

Avoid buying counterfeit merchandise

Sure, no one is going to get physically hurt buying a knockoff Louis Vuitton handbag…

But buying cheap knockoffs like electronics (with faulty wiring) is not worth the risk.

Of course, fake medications can be dangerous – even deadly.

Become the travel expert

I take full advantage of the internet and become familiar with my target location.

I especially get up to speed on their currency.

It is standard for my entire family to invest a few days online getting a feel for our ultimate destination.

Do not trust officials

Police and custom’s officials are corrupt.

Their honest is directly proportional to the wealth of their country.

Always be prepared with cash to payoff a bribe.

Get ready for deceptive hotel advertising

It is AMAZING how many hotels do not live up to what they advertise…

For example, beach hotels that are miles away from the sand is one common trick.

Even airport hotels use deception to lure in naive customers.

For example, the Ramada Inn Miami Airport North is actually 10 miles away from Miami International Airport.

Even worse, the Hampton Suites LAX Van Nuys is an hour’s drive away from the Los Angeles International Airport.

Bottom line: I check the comments at reputable review sites for the inside scoop.

Fake police

Here is the scam…

Fake police (or even real police) demand to see our passport.

They find something wrong, but suggest your troubles are going to end if you pay a fine – in cash… right now.

I would call their bluff and ask to be taken to the nearest police station.

Skip the valet parking

Hotel parking is a big problem for travelers.

It is especially tough in big cities.

So we fall for the trap of relying on expensive valet parking.

I understand the convenience, but having a stranger drive our car is beyond insane to me.

Because hotel parking valets notoriously steal valuables from our vehicles.

And they drive cars irresponsibly when we are not looking.

I used to hang out with valet parkers in my youth. They would brag about each day’s loot.

Even worse, some smaller hotels do not even have their own parking lots…

So our car could get parked on a public street.

And if the meter runs out or the car gets towed, we are stuck with the ticket (not the valet or hotel).

Bottom line: always self park.

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Markus Allen

Family man. Truth seeker. Life hacker... more about me here...


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