Travel Scams — Here, There and Everywhere

3 big travel scams you may well not have heard about: Internet ScamBusters #140


Internet ScamBusters™

The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud

By Audri and Jim Lanford

Copyright © Audri and Jim Lanford

All rights reserved.

Issue #140


Hi Everyone,

Today’s issue answers the question: what are the biggest travel scams that occur

while you’re actually traveling? We’ll explain three of these most popular travel

scams.

Let’s get right to it…


Travel Scams — Here, There and Everywhere


What do you think of when you hear the words "travel scam"? Maybe you

think of the faxes advertising amazingly low fares for a vacation that expires

that evening. (If you call, you’d find out that your travel is free but your hotel

stay is charged at an incredibly high rate.)

Or maybe you think about the mail that comes in express mail-looking envelopes

announcing you won a fabulous free cruise in a lottery you don’t remember entering.

(If you call, you’d find out that in order to collect your prize, you’d have to

attend seminars at your expense, or make purchases for things at highly inflated

prices.)

We’ve written in detail about these travel

scams and cruise

scams before – click here.

But what about travel scams that happen once you arrive at your destination?

Thieves and tricksters are forever coming up with new ways to scam travelers,

so it’s important to find out about these scams before you travel.

We’ll discuss three of the most common — and sneaky — travel scams today; these

scams can absolutely ruin an otherwise delightful travel experience.

1. Front Desk Credit Card Confusion Scam

Anyone who has tried to see a city in a day and a half or cram 2 days of work

into a 12-hour business trip knows what that kind of marathon activity can entail.

Imagine that it’s the end of your long day of frenzy, and you’re settling in for

the evening in your hotel room. You’re drifting off to sleep when the phone rings.

It’s the front desk clerk asking for your help in verifying some information.

The "front desk clerk" (aka scammer) apologizes for the late hour, but

explains that at shift change some forms were left unfinished. She needs to confirm

that the form she has is yours, and that the information is correct.

She asks if the last four digits of your credit card are 5678. You groggily reach

for your wallet and pull out the card. No, you say, those aren’t the last four

digits.

Hmmm, she responds, seeming perplexed. She then asks if you could just read the

card number to her. You’re sleepy so you don’t pause before responding when she

asks for the expiration date as well.

With a joyous Aha, she tells you that she has found your form. She thanks you

profusely, apologizes again and assures you that all the information is now straightened

out.

You hang up and drift back to sleep, not realizing that you have just been scammed

by a con artist.

It might only be when your credit card is declined the next time you use it that

you realize you’ve been scammed.

Action: Never give your card number out over the phone at a hotel. Ask for the

name of someone to speak to and tell the caller that you’ll come down in the morning

to straighten it out. Don’t offer to call the desk from your room and then feel

safe giving the card number. For all you know, the thief is calling from a temporarily

abandoned front-desk station.

2. Taxi Cabs or Scam Mobiles?

Once when leaving the main train station in Rome, Italy, a friend was heading

for the Taxi Stand when she looked up to see an incredible line. She estimated

that it would be at least a 30-minute wait. Our friend probably sighed, visibly.

She was immediately approached by a nicely dressed man who offered her a ride

and a bypass of the line by saying, "taxi?"

She could have taken the offer. But fortunately, we had told her about this scam

beforehand.

Never take a taxi ride from someone who is not in an official, metered taxi cab.

Doing so risks not just your wallet — but your safety.

Scam artists have been known to pose as taxi drivers and take off with your luggage.

They have also taken unsuspecting tourists to a deserted area and then robbed

and/or assaulted them.

At the very least, even if you’re lucky and avoid violence or theft, you’ll still

be charged at least 4 or 5 times what the rate should be for the taxi ride.

Any taxi cab should have the car number and company marked on the outside, a registration

and driver information card displayed on or near the dashboard, and should either

have on display or offer on request a list of charges.

Make yourself familiar with the rate list when you first get into the cab. If

possible, make your examination of the rate list obvious. Both these actions will

help prevent the driver from getting any "bright" ideas.

If you’re not sure about where to catch a taxi or whether or not you were properly

charged, ask at your hotel. If you think you were scammed, try to record identifying

information about the driver and/or the vehicle so you can report it to the police.

Action: Never accept rides from individuals who don’t have licensed, metered taxis.

3. Hotel "Representatives"

This scam is similar to the Taxi scam.

The voices will start as soon as you disembark from the plane, train, boat or

bus: "Hotel?" or "Room? You need a room?" will begin floating

towards you any time you arrive in a major tourist destination transportation

hub.

Much like the taxi cab scam above, be wary of those who approach you offering

hotel rooms. These scammers may wear a laminated badge, carry a notebook or even

have brochures about their hotels. (Very likely, they made these on their home

computer.)

They’ll offer you a great rate, showing you the colorful pictures in the brochures,

and then offer to take you to the hotel.

Once again, you’re in danger of losing your luggage or your wallet, and violence

can occur with this scam as well.

Alternatively, once you arrive at the hotel (tired and ready to go to sleep),

the hotel clerk will apologetically inform you that the rate promised is magically

all filled for the evening — but they have rooms ready for you at twice the promised

rate.

Once you wearily agree and head to the room, your "representative" will

be handed a hefty tip by the clerk.

You’re best off making your own reservations by phone and confirming rates with

a credit card. Make sure you get a confirmation number that you can show upon

checking in.

Action: If you arrive in a city without a reservation, avoid these lone representatives.

Look for the nearest tourist information office or hit the nearest phone booth

with your travel guidebook in hand.

Now that you know about them, you can avoid these three destination travel scams.

Have a great — and safe — week.