Vacation time means travel and what can be more exciting than that? But with each vacation planning, we also try to look for bargains given the rising costs of hotel accommodations and flight tickets. Many times, we come across a bargain which can seem too good to be true. And very likely, it ends up being a scam. So how do we protect ourselves from fake travel agencies and other travel related scams around the world? Let us find out:
1. No such thing as free lunch
Often, we get a call from travel agents promising us free cruises, discounted flight tickets or cheap hotel stay. However, there is no such thing. These freebies often end up costing hundreds, even thousands of dollars. So never fall for such gimmicks. Do not sign up to send money to any company until you verify they are legitimate. Stay away from offers that sound too-good-to-be-true. These fake travel agencies often use high pressure tactics and deals that sound fantastic but are scams in reality. Remember: if something is truly free, you will not be asked to send money or put down a deposit for it.
Related: Easy Ways to Travel Solo for Women
2. Always make informed choices and decisions
If you are being pressurized into signing up for an offer that is going to expire soon, let it go. Be wary of postcards and telemarketer-calls stating you are a lucky winner with a limited time offer for free vacation. Good offers should not have a time limit.
3. Always use trusted sites or travel agencies
Seek advice of a travel agent, preferably one having a brick-mortar office that you can visit and check out before paying them for the tickets. Seek recommendations from friends and family members about trustworthy travel agencies. If you are unsure about the company you are buying from, see if they are a member of the following reputable groups:
- ASTA – American Society of Travel Agents
- Association of Retail Travel agents or
- Cruise Lines Association
You can also contact Better Business Bureau to check if a company has any complaints registered against them.
4. Buy travel insurance
Travel insurance does not cost much and it covers quite a lot of things. For example, if you aren’t able to make the trip, you can get back most of the money paid. Many travel insurances also protect against tourist scams.
5. Beware of travel club scams
Many people join travel clubs which offer great discounts on flight tickets and hotel accommodations. These clubs charge an annual membership fee. Always check with friends or colleagues about fees before signing up. These fees should lie within a reasonable rate. Avoid paying unreasonable fees to any travel club.
6. Get it down in writing
A scam artist will not give you anything down in writing. That should be one of the first red flags that ought to warn you. Always insist in receiving material in mail before you pay the deposit. Refuse to pay any money to a seller before you receive the details in writing. Ask the seller to send you: complete price, service charges and processing fees, components of the trip including hotels, airline flights, cruise ships, and other travel services.
7. Confirm bookings with final vendors
Confirm all travel arrangements by calling transportation/accommodation vendors included in the package. You can also ask your travel agent about ways to contact these vendors and confirm your bookings directly with them.
8. Souvenir scams
In many large cities, groups of scammers will force you to take some souvenirs like roses or postcards saying that they are giving them away for free because “they like you”. And once you accept their gift, they demand money from you. They are loud, pushy and can really harass tourists who then feel obliged to give them money. So whatever you do; do not accept anything you do not want. Simply say ‘no’, ‘no’. You can place the object on the ground and walk away. Always watch your belongings when groups of ‘locals’ start following you.
9. Even cops can be scammers
In many European and Asian countries, “cops” can come over to you asking for ‘drug’ money or make you show them your passport. Scare them away by asking them to show their ID. Stand your ground and offer to go to the police station with them. A scammer or fake cop will excuse your “error”.
10. Fake money scams
At large tourist spots, locals can come over with a large bill, asking to change into smaller denominations. Do not take their money; it might be a fake bill which can actually seem very real.
11. Gem or carpet deals
Steer clear of gem and carpet deals that sound too good to be true. The gems might be fake and the carpet probably won’t make it home at all. There are many genuine sellers of gems and carpets and they will not use such means t get customers.
12. ‘Bird poo/mess on your dress’ scam
A splash of white on your shirt and the next thing there is a stranger offering to wipe it away. Start walking away as these people will swiftly remove your belongings from your person before you can do anything about it. Move fast and even if your clothes have been ruined, refuse offer of help from strangers.
13. ‘What time is it’ scam
A friendly local will ask you what the time is in English. Then he will try to sell you trinkets or souvenirs. They might also lead you to a shop. Coincidentally they may have a relative or friend living in your city. Next thing you know: you are being coerced into buying something from them. The best way to avoid this travel scam is to walk away. Pretend like you don’t understand the question, or if possible, answer in the local language. Don’t be afraid to keep on walking; this will take away control from them.
14. ‘An attraction’ is closed-let me take you to another one!
A taxi driver might inform you that an attraction is closed but worry not, he can take you to another one. He will assure you that the attraction is nearby but in reality it might really set the meter running. So always verify the timings of each attraction you visit. Do not engage in conversation with the scammer; politely thank them and continue your way.
15. Ticket machine scams
A local may offer to buy tickets for you since the ticket vending machine ‘apparently does not accept foreign cards’. You, the innocent tourist, are left with tickets worthless to you, while the scammers leave with your chunk of money. Never trust anybody with your cash or cards. Always enter your PIN carefully and avoid being victim of pickpockets by placing your card safely on your person.
16. Camera scam
A local offers to take your picture in front of an attraction. You, being tired of selfies, let him, only to have him run away with your phone. Another take on this scam is that another ‘tourist’ asks you to take his picture and once you hand him back his camera he accuses you of having broken it and demands payment. In such a case, place the camera on the ground and walk away or demand to see a cop for getting the matter sorted.
There are many ways in which scammers and con artists can deceive or trick you into parting ways with your money. With a little awareness you can keep yourself safe from these tricksters.