Travel scams to look out for when travelling overseas

As travellers, it is easy to think that we are smart enough to avoid getting ripped off. But the truth is, it happens to the best of us. From getting ridiculously overcharged on cab rides to unknowingly revealing credit card information, travel scams are commonplace the world over.

Anthony Grant, CEO of FNB Foreign Exchange, says: “While it is nearly impossible to know when you will be scammed, it is important to know what kinds of scams exist, and what to do should the situation arise.”

Falling victim to a scam while travelling overseas can potentially ruin your travel experience and is likely to cost you money even if you have travel insurance – for example, if your luggage is stolen along with your passport, bank cards and cash.

“When you travel overseas as a tourist, you are seen as an easy target by potential scammers, so before travelling, take some time to do some research on common travel scams around the world and familiarise yourself with scams in the country you are visiting to be aware of the typical tactics used by scammers,” says Grant.

Here are some of the most common international travel scams:

Bogus travel agents

The convenience of booking an entire travel itinerary online can be appealing, but prospective travellers are warned about rogue travel agencies that look like legitimate entities. To avoid being scammed and losing thousands of rands, take note of the ways in which you can identify bogus travel agents. The first thing that should raise your suspicions is a travel package that seems too good to be true.

Never pay for anything unless you are really certain you are dealing with a reputable firm. Fake agents create sites that look real and ask customers to fill in their details, including credit card details. Once you have given them your details, they can simply deduct money in exchange for a non-existent overseas trip. Upon enquiring, you will discover that the website was set up to cheat unsuspecting travellers.

Currency short-change

Familiarise yourself with the currency of the country you are visiting to ensure that when you make cash purchases, you get the right change. Some unscrupulous vendors take advantage of foreign travellers by claiming you have underpaid them. This is a ploy to confuse and get more money out of you, simply because you are not familiar with the local currency. Make sure you understand the currency so that you are able to count the change that’s handed to you.

Counterfeit entertainment tickets

When travelling for leisure, entertainment is top of mind, but be warned! Never buy tickets to an event such as a music show or soccer match from a stranger on the streets. The deal may seem too good to ignore, but it’s probably a scam. The aim is to dupe you into believing you are getting a bargain when, in fact, you are being scammed. If there’s an event you would like to attend, purchase your tickets from a reputable outlet.

Fake guides

Do not accept help from a random stranger who introduces themselves as a tourist guide, as they could be part of a criminal syndicate. Their modus operandi is to lure travellers into spending money on expensive items or excursions for which they get a commission. No matter how friendly they appear, always be cautious before accepting help from anyone offering to take you around sightseeing. To safeguard against scams, always use a guide allocated to you by the travel agency.

Card fraud

If someone calls you from the hotel you have booked into to verify your bank card details over the phone, decline politely and proceed to the front desk to check if this call is legitimate. Scammers can get hold of your information from pedlars and you will receive a call at an odd hour from someone claiming to be from the hotel booking desk purporting to be calling to verify your payment details. This is usually a scam. Once you have given your card details, you will notice transactions coming off your account that are not related to your trip.

“Do some research about the country you will be visiting and look at reputable payment providers such as PayPal as an additional payment option before you travel. The first thing to take note of is that scammers are not easy to spot. The biggest lesson is to never let your guard down when travelling overseas. It’s important to always exercise caution before and during your trip, regardless of which destination you visit,” concludes Grant.


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