Travel

Travel In Depth

United States Travel Scam Statistics 2020


$175 million lost
73k fraud reports

53% of total losses

Source: 2019-20 Consumer Sentinel Report

We all love getting away from the grind and spoiling ourselves with some well-deserved rest and relaxation. You get to meet many wonderful people whilst travelling, however you have to be vigilant to stay safe and avoid scammers. When you leave your familiar home environment scammers try to take advantage of the fact that you are out of your comfort zone. Some of the scams to watch out for include:

Taxi Scams

Nearly everyone that has been overseas has probably been witness to a taxi driver that tried to overcharge them or claim that their meter is broken or drive them “the long way” to their destination. It is a particularly common scam at airports catching out new arrivals. This scam can often be avoided with a little bit of preparation. If you are staying in a reputable hotel, it is a good idea to contact them before you arrive and ask them about the best way to get to them and what is the approximate cost. Check the route using Google maps so you can gauge the length of the trip and approximate travel time. Use licensed taxis and if they tell you their meter is broken politely decline and find another driver. Always be courteous but firm and speak up if you feel like something is not right.

Motorbike or Jetski scam

This scam is most commonly reported in parts of southeast Asia. Operators rent out equipment like jet skis or motorbikes to tourists. In some cases, scammers take passports or drivers licenses as part of the deposit. When you return the rental, the operator claims that you have damaged the equipment and they pressure you into paying for the repairs. This is a tricky one to avoid and if you get caught up in it you may have to pay you way out particularly if the scammers start getting aggressive. The most important thing is never ever hand over personal items like your passport, credit card, keys or driver’s license to someone that you don’t know.

Credit Card Skimming

Scammers use a "card skimmer" to steal your credit card information from the magnetic strip on that back of your card. Skimmers can be attached to any credit card reading device including ATM's to harvest the data and use it to commit fraud. In the case of ATM's scammers will hide a camera to record people entering their pin numbers. Most credit cards now have a chip so the magnetic strip is just a back up. The chip  allows contactless payment "tap and go" instead of inserting your card into a machine. If you have a phone or smartwatch with NFC you can pay via Apple Pay or Google Pay which have additional security so your data is not exposed. If you notice unusual transactions on your credit card report it to your bank of financial institution immediately. 

Free WiFi

Many of us need to be connected at all times, and many of the services that we use rely on an internet connection. When you are travelling your cell phone service provider may allow international roaming, or you buy a SIM plan from a local provider. Many of these plans have will have restrictions on data and/or the cost of data is much higher.  This means you might become more reliant on WiFi services. Many public places like airports, cafes, and grocery stores offer free WiFi internet connections. While it is tempting to quickly login to check social media, read the news, check your bank account or send a few messages to friends, it is not worth the risk. Scammers use a number of tactics including hacking into the networks or creating similar named networks to trick you into logging in, to steal your personal data. The best advice is don't use public WiFi but if you have to you should always use a VPN service which will encrypt your data. 

Holiday Rental Listing Scam

We all want to find that dream holiday rental, booking can be competitive and when you find a place you like, you want to lock it in before anyone else does. Scammers use a few tactics including creating fake listings, hijacking a real listing and posting them on other rental websites with their contact details or hijacking the email account fo the listing agent or property owner. If they ask you to wire money  for any kind of upfront payment like a security deposit it is probably a scam. There are a few things you can do to check that the listing is legitimate. Search other rental websites to see if the same property is available and cross check the contact details. Find the details of the agent on the web and call their office direct to verify the listing. book through established travel booking sites and use their credit card facilities for payment.

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