What to do to avoid being scammed on holiday

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Are you going away on holiday and visiting a new country in the process? How thrilling! But don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed – the excitement of visiting a foreign country often lulls people into a false sense of security. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, unsuspecting tourists are often targeted by thieves who are looking to take advantage of your blissful ignorance to make a quick buck.

But we don’t want that to happen to you! Here are four common travel scams, as well as what to do in order to avoid them.

1. Fake police or security guard

Photo credit Getty/Marc Volk

Nothing is worse than being scammed by someone who you think you can trust, but unfortunately it happens in big cities around the world all the time. The scam plays out like this: Someone will approach you with some goods – which often ends up being something illegal, like drugs – when suddenly a police officer walks up interrupting the interaction. This ‘police officer’ will then demand your wallet and passport to ‘write you up’. If you hand them over, they will either immediately flee, or write down your information and use it later.

How to avoid this scam:
Never give your wallet, but especially your passport, to anyone on the street as long as refusing is safe. You can try to trick them by saying your passport is back at the hotel and ask them to accompany you back. Ask to see the so-called officer’s identification or call the nearby authorities to confirm their position. If the officer is legitimate, they will not give you a hard time. If you’ve needed to give your passport over for safety reasons, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre (+61 2 6261 3305) to get help immediately.

2. Overly friendly locals

Getting some attention from the locals? It might be exciting to meet new people, but you should always have your guard up. There are a number of ways locals can take advantage of you. For one, they might try to slip something in your drink and take advantage of you. Other times they will try to put all the drinks on your tab and ditch you at the end of the night leaving you with a hefty bill. Turns out those locals aren’t so friendly after all.

How to avoid this scam:
If someone is being overly aggressive with you, walk away from them or tell the person in charge of the establishment that you aren’t comfortable. If you still don’t feel comfortable about the situation, contact the authorities.

3. “Free” Wi-Fi

Photo credit Getty/D3sign

How to avoid this scam:
Free Wi-Fi is offered in places like airports, cafes and hotel lobbies around the world, but you have to be careful. Knowing that you might be eager to give your provider’s data a break, hackers set up fake, but very official-looking networks and wait for you to join. Once you’re on, these cyber thieves have easy access to your apps, many of which likely have sensitive information on them. After they have that information, you can expect your bank to be calling with some massive fraudulent charges, forcing you to cancel your credit card while you’re on holiday.

If you have to jump on the free Wi-Fi, always avoid opening any apps that have your personal information on them, and even be proactive and close out of them all. It’s safe practice to ask the staff of the establishment you’re in for the official (and therefore, secure) network. If you want Wi-Fi no matter where you are, you can also purchase a portable Wi-Fi router.

4. Crooked taxi cabs

Photo credit Getty/John W Banagan

Be especially careful getting into a cab when visiting South American countries as many unsuspecting tourists have essentially become a hostage to a crooked cabbie. In this situation, tourists wind up in the back of a car that drives them to an ATM, and forces the victim to withdraw all the money from their account.This scam used to basically consist of taxi drivers taking unsuspecting tourists the long way to their destination (and yes, this does still happen to those who aren’t able to track the trip on a ride-sharing app), but it’s gotten a little more complex these days. Some cabbies will drive you to your destination and then claim their meter is broken and charge you a higher price than you should reasonably pay.

How to avoid this scam:
Before you leave for your trip assess your transport options. Check to see if the area you’re visiting has accessibility to a ride-sharing app (like Uber) that would allow you to track your ride or report an incident. If there isn’t any, be sure to look up reputable taxi services (your hotel should be able to help with this) and store the number in your phone so you have it ready at all times. It’s also best practice to avoid getting into a cab that has someone other than the driver in it, as this person might try to take advantage of you.


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.


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