Life

10 travel scams to watch out for

By Jim Byers, Special to Postmedia Network

Toronto Sun files

Toronto Sun files

Topics

Travellers have been scammed by con artists for centuries. With modern conveniences such as smart phones and ATM’s, it’s even more important to be aware when you travel. Here are 10 scams to watch out for.

THE NEWSPAPER WAVE: Beware of kids or adults coming up in front of you waving a newspaper (or a blot of cloth at a market). This is often meant to distract you and keep you from noticing that they or a friend are searching for your wallet or purse under the paper or cloth.

FAKE MONKS: This is pretty sad, but there are reports of criminals dressing up as monks in countries such as Thailand and accepting money, or asking for it. If you’re at a religious shrine, you’re almost certainly dealing with real monks. If you’re on the street, they could be anyone. Best to donate money at the shrine or send a donation by email to the shrine or religious order of your choice.

OFF-SITE RENTALS: The Daily Telegraph recently ran a story of a couple of visitors to Mexico who were hauled into a police station after jet ski operators claimed they had damaged the vehicles and had to pay hundreds of dollars. You could take photos with your phone to try to avoid claims of damage, but that’s hard when you’re talking about the bottom of a jet ski, or a car. My suggestion is book you’re your hotel or a business that’s suggested online by travellers.

THE BROKEN TAXI METER:
If a cab driver tells you the meter is broken, don’t let him or her start driving. Tourists in countries around the world have been known to get ripped off by cheating cabbies who demand exorbitant amounts of money from tired travellers.

THE SPILLER: Similar to the newspaper wave people, these are folks who deliberately spill coffee (or sometimes squirt ketchup or mustard) on you in a crowded market or a train station. As you deal with the mess, the squirt person’s accomplice makes off with your carry-on bags or swipes your wallet. Keep your bags close and keep your wits about you.

THE HOTEL SWITCHEROO:
Beware of a taxi driver who tell you your hotel or the attraction you wanted to see is closed or doesn’t exist. Cab drivers in some countries have been known to offer to take folks to a different hotel, or a two-bit attraction that pales in comparison to the real one. They then get a kickback from the attraction or second hotel owner.

THE TAKE-OUT FAKE OUT:
Some scammers have been known to slide fake menus under your hotel room. You see what looks like the menu for a local place that delivers pizza and you call the number and place your order using your credit card. Oops; now the criminals have your card number. Check the hotel front desk to make sure a place is legitimate before ordering. Or, here’s an idea: walk down the street yourself and pay cash.

CODE STEALERS: It’s not hard for folks to install cameras near ATM’s, which potentially allows them to find your PIN. Some are even mounted overhead, making it even easier to find your code. It’s a lot harder to install these cameras inside a bank or a grocery store, so those are usually better choices than ATM’s on a busy street. And always use something to block the view of your PIN.

STOLEN PASSWORDS: It’s not hard for folks at a crowded train or bus station, or an airport, to look over your shoulder as you type in a password when you’re doing your online banking or purchasing something over the Internet. Be very careful about how you use your phone or laptop in a crowded place. Change your passwords every now and then, too. It’s a pain, but it could be a huge money-saver.

THE “FRONT DESK IS CALLING” SCAM: You check into your hotel and everything’s fine. A couple minutes later you’re testing out the bed and the phone rings. It’s someone saying they’re at the front desk and didn’t get your credit card number written down or entered correctly. It could be someone who somehow knows you’ve checked in, so don’t give out your details on the phone. If this happens, go to the front desk and show them your card number again.

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