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7 practical ways to avoid travel scams this summer


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Falling victim to a scam can make or break your holiday - but unfortunatelu it's often difficult to detect and avoid scams that vary from destination to destination.

As money-tight students are often hit the hardest by travel scams, we have teamed up with StudentUniverse to round up some of the most common scams, so that you're prepared for your next trip overseas.

Image credit: Freddy Marschall on Unsplash

Taxi scams

One of the most common scams known to travellers is the taxi scam, whereby some taxi drivers will use any excuse to overcharge you. If you end up catching a taxi on a whim, be sure to keep your wits about you and select a taxi with a metre which is functioning correctly. If you must take an unmetered taxi, agree on a fixed price before you embark on your journey.

For a frame of reference, it may be useful to ask hotel staff how much your taxi journey should roughly cost. Only ride in licensed taxis, preferably pre-booked, so that if you are faced with a taxi scam, you can note down the ID number of the taxi driver to report them later.

The vehicle rental scam

You rent a bike, car or buggy for the day and upon your return, the rental firm demands an additional payment for damage that you have caused. Of course, the damage was already there.

Though this is unlikely to happen with reputable rental firms, when renting a vehicle, check it thoroughly before you leave the company's premises and report any previous damage. You may also take photographs of the damage, ensuring that the time and date is recorded on the photograph.

Additionally, travellers are often unaware that they need to have the correct license for the class of vehicle they are intending to hire. Thousands of tourists each year rent motorbikes unlicensed and hence illegally. Even if you have the correct licensing, make sure that you purchase valid travel insurance covering the use of a rented vehicle.

Fake police officers

More common in large cities, travellers are sometimes faced with fake officials posing as police officers or security officers. More often than not, the aim is to make money out of unsuspecting tourists. For example, a fake police officer may ask for your identification documents but they will only return it to you once you pay them a bribe.

Image credit: Alex Martinez on Unsplash

To avoid this scam, never hand over any of personal belongings or identification, especially your passport, wallet or mobile phone. Always request to see their identification to confirm whether they are officials and, as a last resort, you may request for them to take you to the police station where you can hand over your identification safely. 

"The attraction is closed"

In this pesky scam, a local will approach and inform you that the attraction you want to visit is closed for any number of reasons, such as a religious ceremony, holiday or construction. They will then offer to guide you around a different attraction and, later, they will pressurise you to pay them for their service or an additional ticket entrance fee.

Instead, head to the ticket office and see for yourself.

Likewise, scammers posing as staff at famous landmarks and tourist attractions will try to sell you fake entry tickets that are invalid. The easiest way to avoid this is to pre-book tickets for attractions online or at an official ticket office.

Over-booked or closed hotel

While en route to your hotel, your taxi driver may inform you your hotel is either overbooked or closed. They will then kindly take you to another hotel that turns out to be more expensive. Even worse, the driver receives a commission and you are left empty pocketed. To avoid this scam, contact your hotel in advance to confirm whether it is open and book a taxi service via your hotel.

ATM scams 

ATM scammers apply different methods to steal your banking information from your card. Skimmers, for example, are devices that can be attached to the card reader on an ATM, and will take your card information secretly. Similarly, scammers place a plastic slip inside the card slot, causing your card to get jammed.

Always use ATMs at reputable banks and if your card is taken, lost, or if you are suspicious that your banking information has been stolen, cancel your credit/debit card immediately.  

The transport ticket hoax

In this scam, swindlers pose as commuters and prey on confused tourists. The scam can be pretty elaborate. Scammers will offer to help you navigate the ticket machine, pretending that your card has been rejected because it is foreign. They will offer to pay for your ticket themselves with their own credit card, except the scammer will select the most expensive ticket on the screen, show you the cost, and ask you to pay them in cash.

Meanwhile, the scammer will slyly cancel the transaction on the screen without you knowing and pull out a fake or significantly cheaper ticket that they already had in their pocket. In lots of countries, you can get heavily fined for travelling with invalid tickets so it really does pay to be wary of these types of tricks. If you are in doubt, find an official staff member or help desk.

Lead image credit: Freddy Marschall on Unsplash

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