close up of a hand holding a smartphone
Not only are there scams you need to watch for when you're in your destination of choice, but you should also be wary while making bookings online.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / megaflopp

Travel Scams to Be on the Lookout For

Don’t Fall into One of These Traps

You’ve worked hard for that much-needed vacation. The last thing you want is to have it get ruined by a scam.

Not only are there scams you need to watch for when you’re in your destination of choice, but you should also be wary while making bookings online. The ability to do so much planning online, comparing prices and scouring deals and reviews, means you can often save a lot of money and reduce stress while on your trip, but it does come with some risks.

While there are common travel mistakes all travelers need to avoid that will ensure your trip goes smoothly, sometimes the biggest mistake is simply being too trustful of others.

Be on the lookout for these travel scams from the time you start booking until you’re headed home.

You’ve Prepaid, but Your Bookings Are Nowhere to Be Found

You’ve booked your flight and hotel room with an online third party site. You prepaid and are now joyously ready to go.

But when you get to the airport, the airline says they have no seat booked for you. When you call the hotel, they have no reservation for you either.

While it’s rare, and generally illegal, this type of scam is said to be on the increase.

Don’t let it happen to you — while it’s not always avoidable, most of the time there are big warning signs that were overlooked. First, before booking anything, you should look into the company involved.

Try to only book with well-known, reputable companies. Even then, you should do a search on that company that includes its name and the word “scam.”

If you see a lot of negative reviews, proceed very cautiously. You should also look them up on the Better Business Bureau — a good company will have at least a B+ rating.

If It’s Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is

As always, remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be very skeptical if you get a phone call or letter in the mail stating that you’ve been selected to receive an amazing vacation.

Always receive all details about your trip in writing prior to making payment — that should include your total cost including all cancellation and change penalties, administrative fees and service charges, and specific information about each component in the travel package.

Airport Taxi Caution

You’ve finally landed at your destination and now you need to catch a cab. Here’s where the problems can begin, because taxi drivers can be ruthless.

Some will try every trick in the book with tourists, from charging a higher than usual fare, to taking a longer route than is needed. You have no idea where you are, or where you’re going, which means just a five-block trip could easily turn into an hour-long ride.

To avoid getting ripped off if you’re overseas, settle on a price before you go and only use official, licensed taxis. In North America there is less of an issue as taxis are all metered.

However, you should always make sure the driver’s meter is on and that it matches the rate shown. Taxi drivers have been known to “forget” to turn the meter on and then provide you with an estimate of how much the trip cost.

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Don’t Lose Your Cell Phone

If someone you don’t know asks if they can use your cell phone, pay attention to your gut feelings. Unless it’s a mom with a baby in distress, it’s usually not a good idea to do this.

It’s been known to happen that the minute you give it up, it quickly disappears for good.

Fake Bus or Train Tickets

This common scam happens most frequently in India. Foreigners are targeted at bus and train stations.

There is a big line, and an official asks you if you want to bypass the long wait. You follow him to his office and buy your ticket there.

It looks official, but when you go to use it, you find out that it’s fake, and the office you purchased it in is locked up. Lesson? It’s worth waiting in line.

The Mustard Scam

This common scam happens around the world at large airports in the United States and overseas, as well as big malls and shopping areas in Europe and the United States. You’re standing there waiting for your flight, or gazing at a beautiful jewel, when suddenly a man walks by eating a hot dog.

He accidentally squirts mustard all over you and you immediately drop your bags so you can clean yourself up. The apologetic man helps you clean yourself up, while you continually repeat that “accidents happen” and that there’s “no harm done.”

It’s only after he’s left that you realize you’ve been robbed. The mustard incident was no accident: more than likely he had a tube of mustard in that bun instead of a hot dog, and purposefully squirted mustard all over you.

Then while you were distractedly cleaning yourself up, another man was going through your purse, luggage, briefcase or shopping bags. If this happens to you, immediately, but calmly, walk away with all of your items and head somewhere else, like a bathroom, to clean up.

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