Travel scams and solutions to avoid them

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The globe is becoming a smaller place as mankind traverse across countries and continents. Poker players are now travelling to get their share of a global poker tournament. Be it work or leisure, when you are a traveller you are on foreign ground and let’s just say unfamiliar with local customs and traditions. You often let your guard down and become susceptible to deceptions. These are universal problems faced by most travellers, though not violent, they can leave a bruise on your vacation and your ego. Here’s a look at the booby traps you can avoid while travelling; be it because you don’t want to offend local traditions, or perhaps make a bad decision because you are jet lagged.

Cab drivers out to make a quick buck

The cabdriver (or tuk-tuk driver) claims the meter is broken and quotes an outrageously inflated price. The cabbie informs you that your destination – a hotel, temple, museum or coffee shop – is overbooked or closed and takes you to an alternate option for which he receives some kind of kickback.

Solution:

  • Never hail a cab from the street.
  • Ask a reputable establishment to call you a cab, or hire a licensed taxi via applications like Uber.
  • Be aware of the cost of the ride, ask the hotel concierge or check on an online fare calculator and confirm that the meter works.
  • Know the address and hours of operation of your destination.
  • Use Google Maps!

The sympathy seeking staged accidents

A passerby spills a liquid, food or a faux bird dropping. While you are busy dealing with the splash, an accomplice pickpockets you. The actor might further offer his assistance to clean the spot, another diversion tactic. Other distractions include an elderly person falling, a woman seeking help with her bags or a baby. The same occurs on roads when someone in a scooter or car intentionally crash into your vehicle.

Solution:

  • Ensure you valuables are secure before you head out for the day.
  • In the vehicular accident scenario, wait for the police to arrive, assuming you can trust the law enforcement and they aren’t hand-in-glove with the culprits.

‘Free’bees

A woman offers you flowers or henna, a Buddhist monk offers to tie you a luck charm or a “disabled” person hands you a pack of tissues and you assume it’s a kind gesture for which a thank you will suffice? Wrong! The gift-giver expects money in return after and if you don’t accept, they create a scene that gathers the local crowd.

Solution:

Never accept unsolicited gifts, keep it simple.

Damaged goods

Rentals are common when you travel, be it a motorbike, a car or even a jetski!  Rental firms often accuse travellers or damaging their machines and often claim compensation for it. Often, it’s an old damage that wasn’t fixed, or their employees are trained to cause the damage when you’ve left the vehicle out of eyeshot. They often duplicate keys and take your values, staging it to look like a robbery.

Solution:

  • Rent through a reputable company.
  • Take photos of the vehicle before you leave the premises and make a note of the existing damages
  • Keep an eye on your rental at all times
  • Avoid leaving any valuables in the rented vehicle.

Counterfeit currency

The currency exchange counter gives you counterfeit money or obsolete notes. A cabdriver, restaurant or retailer claims you paid with fake money, switching your real notes for fake ones.

Solution:

  • Exchange money only through authorized sources, such as banks and hotels.
  • Pay with smaller denominations and never be in a hurry to settle a bill, take your time.
  • Count out the money as you pay and double-check the change.
  • Use prepaid currency cards or ATMs to avoid these situations.

Deceptive information

A driver signals for you to pull over, indicating you have trouble with your car. You abide and get robbed! A cabdriver or pedestrian directs you to a train or bus ticket office that sells fake tickets. Someone posing as a hotel employee calls your room and says the front desk has an issue with your credit card and needs your digits again.

Solution:

  • Don’t pull over!
  • Stop in a commercial area busy with cars and people.
  • Rely on Google maps!
  • Ask for credentials and know the local laws.

Stay safe and alert, happy holidays!

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