Whether we like it or not, travel scams exist all over the world, and they can happen to the best of us. Fear of travel scams can easily hold us back from those carefree, adventurous, and impulsive experiences that make overseas travel great. While these scams can be quite clever and inconspicuous, knowing how they work and how to avoid or minimise the damage is a great way to protect your right to comfortably switching to ‘holiday mode’.
Here are a few of the most common travel scams to look out for.
The scam: You’ve just captured the perfect shot and want to share it ASAP. You see an unlocked Wi-Fi connection and think ‘what luck!’ While it might be convenient, it pays to be wary. Internet fraudsters often set up free, but unencrypted, Wi-Fi connections in tourist hotspots that when connected, could allow the scammers access to your device, online accounts and passwords.
How to avoid it:
- Instead of caving in and using that tempting free Wi-Fi connection, verify the official Wi-Fi network of the establishment you’re in by asking a staff member for help. This way, you can be sure you’re using a secure connection.
- Use a virtual private network (or VPN) whenever you connect to a public Wi-Fi network in order to protect any data or passwords sent or received while connected.
- This one’s a biggie (and good for protecting yourself for more than just travel fraud): Never use the same password across multiple personal accounts.
The scam: You’ve just found the perfect souvenir at the marketplace, but the catch is they only take cash. Not to worry – there’s an ATM over there. You withdraw your cash and all seems well, but a few days later, you notice some mysterious transactions that you didn’t make appear on your online banking statement. Looks like your PIN has been skimmed and a scammer is using your card.
How to avoid it:
- Cover your PIN when you enter it – scammers can sometimes put pinhole cameras in the ATMs to watch you as you enter your code.
- Use ATMs alongside a travel companion if possible to deter potential thieves.
- When possible, withdraw money from within a financial institution such as a bank. Don’t be deterred by potential ATM fees though.
The scam: You’re walking along the cobblestone streets of your newest travel locale when all of a sudden you feel something drop onto your clothing. Before you can frantically search for the spot, a friendly stranger offers to help wipe it off for you. As they walk away, you realise they’ve just plucked your wallet from your pocket or bag.
How to avoid it:
- Before you travel, consider using security alert notifications. You can set up and manage your notifications in your online banking. That way, if a purchase or withdrawal occurs above an amount you set (which could be fraudulent), you’ll know about it and will be ready to minimise the damage.
- As much as possible, keep your cards on your person and not in a bag. Using pants and jacket pockets that have zippers is one great way to help keep your cards safe while travelling.
- Don’t carry all your cards in the same place and only take the cards you intend to use. If you’re travelling with a companion, split cards and cash between you, in the event you are separated or one of you is pick-pocketed.