One of the evils that most affect tourism and travelers are the travel scams. Ghost trips, non-existent holiday homes, inflated rates, hotel rooms that do not comply with the reservation, unjustified charges, missing services. Unfortunately, there are many problems that can ruin a holiday or even prevent it. Here we want to give you some suggestions on how to prevent travel scams and how to deal with them if you are a victim.
When you book a trip the risk of scam is around the corner. Even when you think that you have done everything in a workmanlike manner, unfortunately cheating is always possible, especially when you book a trip on the web. The net is the preferred medium for most people who decide to organize a trip, you save money by avoiding some intermediaries and you have all the information at your fingertips or clicks.
If you are not familiar with online reservations, however, you must be very careful, because the pitfalls are numerous and sometimes just an oversight to end up on the wrong website and scam, but very similar to the official website of the tour operator or airline on which to book the trip. Today, in fact, most of the travel scams take place on the web, although there are also ghost trips sold by agencies that close suddenly, but are less frequent than at one time.
Traveler scams are the order of the day. Tourists are the preferred targets of scammers because they do not know the area and ignore local customs. In addition to the fact, of course, that they have a lot of money. Even the most wise travelers can end up being the victims of a scam. It is therefore important to know what types of scams exist all over the world.
Here are our suggestions for avoiding travel scams:
Travelling tourists: beware of scams
Attention to currency exchanges
In many countries currency exchange firms are prey to tourists who do not know the local exchange rate. Many companies advertise that they do not take commissions. That might be true. But they hide the fact that their exchange rates are well above the norm. ATMs and banks generally offer better exchange rates than kiosks.
Taxi: Always insist on using a taximeter
In some countries, taxi drivers try to earn some extra money as soon as you show up as a tourist. You always try to negotiate a price before you start your journey. With the consequence that, of course, the price will be much higher than it would normally cost. You can avoid this scam by insisting with the driver who uses the taximeter. If a driver refuses to turn it on you will find another taxi.
Scammers always working with tourists
The taxi driver insists on taking us somewhere else.
Another taxi scam occurs quite often in Thailand and India. A taxi driver agrees to take us to our destination but makes an unexpected stop along the way. Whether it’s in a jewelry store, at a tailor’s or at another company the driver is in business with. It is therefore better to insist from the outset that there are no stops of any kind.
Do not accept gifts from strangers
A scam that occurs all over the world involves fake Buddhist monks who approach people and give away bracelets or beaded medallions. Once the tourist accepts the “gift”, the scammers aggressively ask for money. This can lead to an embarrassing confrontation. According to the New York Times, this scam takes place everywhere, from New York to Machu Picchu, and exploits people’s desire to be respectful of other religions.
Pickpockets and fake invalids among the most common scams
When people pretend to be deaf and ask for money
A popular scam in Europe involves one or more people pretending to be deaf or mute. Fraudsters, often children, approach tourists with a petition requesting donations to a charitable organisation. And they start asking aggressively to give them money. At best, you’re embarrassed. With the risk of being robbed by other members of the group.
The lost ring scam
A person approaches with a ring or other precious-looking object. Claiming that he saw him fall from our figure. Denying that it is not ours, the fraudster puts it in our hands saying that he found it and his religion can not allow him to take it. And he leaves it behind for us. Better, then, not to accept the ring and move away.
How to stay alert from mustard stains
From pickpockets to ketchup sprayers
When you go into busy places, pickpockets are always on the lookout. Watch out for pockets and bags, always. Just as we must pay attention to those who, accidentally, dirty our shirt. Maybe with ketchup or mustard. Ready to try to clean it up clumsily. All this to distract the tourist who, intent on cleaning himself up, does not look after the accomplice who steals his wallet. Similar versions with the use of files of cards that fall to the ground.
Travel too cheap
When a trip or a holiday package is offered at ridiculously low prices, then something is wrong, because no one gives trips. If it’s not a normal offer, with quite similar prices for the same type of trip, or a last minute of an unsold trip, which justifies the sharp drop, it’s better to stay away. All the more so if you are offered a holiday in a beautiful place or a dream structure at a derisory price. Because quality has a cost.
Never accept to purchase a travel package with untraceable payments, such as cash or money order. At least expect to pay by bank transfer. Payments on PostePay, a method often used by online fraudsters, are also not recommended, as they make it more difficult to recover the sums paid. The best and safest methods for tracking payments are credit cards and bank transfers. In the latter case, make sure that the IBAN is from the same country as the seller of the trip (the country is indicated by the first two letters of the code).
Advance payments without contract
Avoid paying for your trip in advance without signing a contract and without a receipt. Travel agencies, tour operators, travel websites and transport companies will always issue you with a travel contract to sign and a receipt. Be wary of a private individual asking you to pay in advance on parole, without giving you any proof of payment. You always demand in signed contract with all the data of the owner of the structure or agency.
Seller’s or property’s contact details
When you buy a travel package or rent a holiday home, don’t be satisfied with the owner’s mobile phone number alone, which can also be fake, registered to another person or easily hidden (a phone number that is only open for scams and then deleted). If you go, let’s say to a safari in Kenya, ask for all the contact details you need: a fixed number for the office or home of the person who sells you a trip or rents you a house; a physical address, even here of an office or a house. Mobile phones and e-mail alone are not enough. Be wary of anyone who doesn’t want to give any more information.
Verify the existence and location of the structure
Today we have an exceptional tool like Google street view to check if certain places or structures exist and especially in what conditions they are. Do not trust only the images published on the website of a hotel or the one in which a house or an apartment is rented. In a few minutes by going to Google Maps you can check if that address exists and with the street view mode (now present almost everywhere) check in what condition it is, at least externally (street view is quite up to date, because Google car regularly traces the areas already mapped to give updated information on places that change).
In places where there is no street view there are usually photos uploaded by users on Google (in case of holiday resorts there will certainly be). If you have booked in a remote farm, in the hills, in the mountains or in the woods, should be reported on Google Maps and still should be present on the web portals that indicate the farm or B&B. If it is a private house, always ask for additional information: photos, addresses and facilities nearby.
Keep all your travel documents: e-mails and booking receipts. For security reasons, print out everything or make screenshots of the web pages of the property where you have booked.
Portals or online booking circuits
Those who rent a house or an apartment, or rooms in a farmhouse usually offers its structure in special dedicated travel portals. Hardly anyone who has a house or a structure on Airbnb or Booking.com will sell you a scam, because advertisers are checked and if the stay was not in accordance with the offer for which you paid you can request a refund or compensation. Be wary of anyone who offers you accommodation privately or is not easily identifiable. If you consult the individual website of an accommodation facility, check that it really exists, by checking Google Maps, telephone directories, websites where all the facilities in the area are listed, etc.
Do not provide personal data other than those strictly necessary for the conclusion of the travel contract.
If you should fall into the trap of a scam even if they observe all these indications, do not hesitate to contact the police to file a complaint and a consumer association to assert your rights. In the event of online fraud, contact the postal police.