How to Avoid Travel Scams

Sadly, travel scams are becoming more and more frequent throughout the world. Scammers can be incredibly brazen knowing that a friendly traveller can be a easy target. 

We have compiled this list of scams so you know what to look out for while traveling. We are adding to this list all the time, so if you know of any scams that have not been listed, please contact us.

Scam: Taxi Driver

Dealing with taxi drivers can be one of the challenges of travelling. Taxi travel scams can be as harmless as taking you the long way to your hotel, to taking you down a back street to be mugged, or worse. Be sure you know what to do!

How to Avoid

  • Using taxis associated with a reputable hotel will save you any trouble.
  • Never get in an unlicensed taxi unless you really know what you are doing (eg. shared taxis in Iran). Doing so is risking your life.
  • Always check to see if the meter is running. If there is no meter, be sure to negotiate a price before they start driving.
  • If you suspect the taxi driver is not taking you to your destination, insist on getting out on the nearest main road. Another taxi will pick you up. Having the local emergency numbers in your phone could save your life in this situation.
  • If a taxi driver tells you your hotel is closed/has burned down etc. do not believe them - insist to be taken to your destination.
  • Ask at your hotel where a good place to get a taxi is and how much a particular journey should cost.
scams: taxi driver india

Scam: New Friends

You're sitting alone in a cafe/pub having a quiet beer when two or three men come and start chatting to you in good English. They buy you a drink, and offer to take you on a your of the city. After the tour they suggest a nice bar where you could all share a few more drinks. You're taken in a taxi to a bar an unfamiliar part of town, where you have a few more drinks. You're then presented with a bill of $2000, and with several large bouncers around you, forced to pay. This scam often targets solo male travellers.

How to Avoid

Suggest to your new friends going to a pub near you hotel - if they are genuine, they won't object. If this is a travel scams, they will insist on taking you to their bar. If this is the case, do the Harold Holt (bolt - get out of there!) 

Scams: Alex meets new friends!

Scam: Pickpockets

One of the most common forms of travel scams. Wherever there are crowds, there are pickpockets. These crafty thieves have all sorts of techniques to remove your wallet from your person. Beware of people trying to get your attention by pretending to confuse you with someone else, dropping things (eg. their own wallet) or otherwise distracting you.

How to Avoid

  • Be aware of the people around you - carefully watch anyone who comes very close to your body.
  • Wear a money belt, or at least keep your wallet in your front pocket - see our page on pickpockets.
Travel Scams: watch out for pickpockets in crowded places

Scam: Lost Credit Card Number

Scam: Lost Credit Card Number

You're fast asleep in your hotel when the phone rings. It's the someone claiming to be from the front desk (the scammer), explaining that some forms were lost/unfinished and the hotel wants to confirm your credit card number. The scammer asks to confirm the last four digits, which are wrong. Explaining that there has been some mistake, the scammar asks for your whole credit card number. The next time you try to use your credit card, it is declined.

How to Avoid

When in a foreign country, never give your credit card number to anyone who has called you over the phone. To be safe, give all your details when you are physically at the front desk of the hotel. 

Scam: Changing Money??

It's in the evening after the banks have closed, and you realise you're running short of the local currency. There are plenty of dealers on the street offering to "change money?", and you approach one of them. After handing over your cash, you get back a wad of local notes. The dealer then quickly disappears and you discover you've been short-changed, or have even been given the wrong currency.

How to Avoid

Be wary of dealing with street currency dealers - they are often pull travel scams. While some can be fine, others will try to confuse you by miscounting the notes or giving you the wrong currency. It's best to only exchange small amounts of money on the street. Be aware of the exchange rate and always check the rate of exchange before you hand over your money. Always count your notes before you leave the dealer - even at a bank. 

Also beware of "so-called" undercover police (scammers) who may try to confiscate your recently exchanged money by claiming it is counterfeit. Be sure to ask to see their police badges, and if they continue, just walk away. If they are real cops (which is highly unlikely), you'll soon find out! 

travel scams: change money? Train stations are a the perfect location for this scam

Scam: You Broke it!

While walking in a crowded place, someone bumps into you and drops a pair of glasses or phone (previously broken). They then claim you broke the object and try to extort compensation from you. This can even go as far as someone walking into your car and faking a injury, claiming that you hurt them. These travel scams are most common in Africa

How to Avoid

The best thing to do is just walk away and ignore them - any claims of them going to the police are false. If need be, ask to go together to the police station - most scammars are going to give up at this point. 

Scam: Spiked Drink

One of the more dangerous travel scams. A friendly local offers to buy you a drink, or you go to the toilet and leave your drink on the table. You come back, finish it, and that's the last thing you remember. You wake up somewhere unfamiliar to find that everything you had on you was stolen, or worse.

How to Avoid

Don't leave your drink unattended - either finish it before you go to the toilet, or order a new one when you come back. If a stranger buys you a drink, be sure you see it poured by the bartender and that nothing happens to it before you drink any. 

Travel scam: Smoking Shisha and having a drink in Egypt

Scam: Airport Security

While going through security at the airport, you take your laptop out of your bag and place in on the conveyor belt. There are a few people in front of you to go through the metal detector. One of them takes a long time to go through, taking out coins, their phone, belt etc. By the time you get through the metal detector, they're long gone and so is your laptop.

How to Avoid

Always wait until the metal detector is clear before you put any belongings on the conveyor belt. 

Travel Scams: Airport Security

Scam: Damage Control

After a driving holiday, you return your hire care to the company office at the airport and rush off to catch your flight. When you return home, you discover the hire car company has charged your credit card for damage to the car that never happened. These travel scams are most common in Europe.

How to Avoid

Make sure you get signed paperwork to indicate that the car was returned in good condition before you leave the rental office.

Travel Scam: Highway Heist

You're driving along the highway when another driver indicates that your tyre is flat. You stop the car, and the friendly stranger stops behind you. As you examine the type, the scammer steals any valuables in the car, or if you left the keys in, drives off with the car.

How to Avoid

If there are strangers around, always lock your car. If you really do have a flat tyre (and you can feel it when you're driving) try to continue to the nearest service station. 

We hope this list of travel scams helps your trip to be safer. We hope to keep building on this list so that all travellers can be aware of what to look out while on the road. 

Travel Scams: Highway Hiest

Don't want to fall for a travel scam, you should learn how to haggle for your next adventure.

Do you know of any travel scams not listed here? Please let us know (via the contact us page or in the comments) and we will continue to add them to this list. 

› Travel Scams

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