Travel Trouble


World’s 5 sneakiest travel scams and how to avoid them

World’s 5 sneakiest travel scams and how to avoid them

Travelling is both a thrilling and rewarding experience. As you explore the globe encountering new sights and sounds, you’ll learn more about the way people live and the incredible places they call home. Unfortunately, sometimes the enjoyment of travel can be interrupted by crafty scammers looking to take advantage of tourists.

From the daringly creative to the downright stupid, their cunning schemes can catch even the most experienced traveller off guard. Thanks to recent research from Webjet, we’ve highlighted these 20 travel scams that are by far the most creative – and financially damaging – to travellers around the world. Here’s how to steer clear of trouble.

1. The one with the taxi

One of the most popular tricks in the travel scamming business. There are a variety of ways to be scammed in a taxi. It will most likely involve the driver insisting their meter is broken and a price can be agreed upon arrival at the destination. Another trick to be mindful of is being informed that the hotel you booked is surprisingly closed and they “know a better place”. This better place is probably owned by one of their mates, and they’ll receive a hefty commission from the deal.

How to avoid:

Have a basic understanding of the travel costs, distance and official companies that run the taxi services in your particular destination. If the driver insists the meter is broken, then simply walk away.

After some slight begrudgement they will most likely agree to a set fee or miraculously revive the meter in order to avoid losing the sale. Be sure to only get in official taxis from the airport, and, finally, take advantage of the digital age: use your smartphone to tap into driving apps, or if you don’t have access to mobile data, you can pre-download an area on Google Maps prior to your arrival.

Where it happens: 

The taxi scam is one of the most widely used hacks, and happens all around the world. More common in developing countries such as Thailand or Buenos Aires.
2. Did you lose your ring?

In this scenario, you are approached by a caring stranger who asks, “Did you lose your ring?” You inform them that it is in fact not your ring, yet out of the goodness of their heart they insist you must keep this expensive piece of jewellery.

The moment you accept this wonderful gift, they demand payment for it. What they don’t tell you is that the ring is actually worthless, yet the money you hand over to them most certainly isn’t.

How to avoid:

Flatly refuse the ring. They’ll insist you take it, but inform them you have no intention of keeping the ring. Also be wary of this situation being used as a distraction for the scammer’s accomplices to pickpocket you.

Where it happens: 

Almost entirely located in Paris, France.

3. The one with the ‘free’ bracelet

One moment you’re minding your own business admiring the architectural beauty of Notre Dame or the Sagrada Familia, the next you find an overly friendly man or woman aggressively strapping a cheap ‘friendship’ bracelet around your wrist.

The scammer then asks for a payment for their services, even though you didn’t ask for them and, as the bracelet is strapped so tightly, there’s little opportunity for you to refuse the offer. Be mindful as this tactic may also be used as a distraction while you are pickpocketed.

How to avoid:

Be aware of those around you when in tourist hotspots. Kindly inform the individuals that you already have enough friends, or that you can be friends without the need of a cheap bracelet. If a stranger approaches you with an item, don’t accept it; there’s almost always an ulterior motive.

Where it happens:

This travel scam occurs mostly in Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Cairo.

4. The one with the fake WiFi

Travelling for modern tourists is now a continual search for paradise; a Wi-Fi hotspot. Finding one provides an opportunity to post that perfect selfie or capture a Boomerang video at the Trevi Fountain.

The search for WiFi in a foreign land can be a long and infuriating experience, so scammers sometimes set up an unsecure hotspot in an attempt to access passwords and account details.
How to avoid: 

Always use a secure network, or one owned by the restaurant, hotel or venue you are visiting. If you are unsure about which networks are secure, ask a member of staff for all the details you need.Where it happens: 

This one is also played out in many different locations. Be careful of this travel scam particularly in Italy and India.

5. The one with the Trojan Horse

Those familiar with the ancient Greek story might be able to piece this one together. Essentially, thieves hide in a suitcase pretending to be a ventriloquist dummy!

As the suitcase is placed in the baggage compartment, the thief emerges from the suitcase to then begin to steal items of value from neighbouring bags. The thief then reseals themself back into the case. This laughable scam is relatively new, however reports (especially in Spain) of the act are steadily increasing.
How to avoid: 

Keep all items of significant worth on you when in transit (e.g. passports, cameras, laptops etc). Be sure to be aware of the items in your bag before travelling, and keep an eye out for anything suspiciously missing after your journey. Another method could be to travel with your suitcase.

Where it happens: 

Mostly seen in Spain. However, there are also reports of the Trojan Horse scam occurring in other parts of Western Europe.

Written by Daniel Chatterton. This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here's our best subscription offer.