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How to avoid common travel scams


SINGAPORE, 27 April 2023: Travel experts from Panache Cruises, the UK’s leading provider of luxury cruises, have outlined eight prolific travel scams and have provided tips on how tourists can protect themselves.

Travelling is a great way to explore new places and experience different cultures, but it can also make unprepared tourists vulnerable to scams and fraud.

Photo credit: Pexels

It’s important to keep valuables secure, be cautious with strangers, use official transportation and not fall for “too good to be true” offers to stay safe in a new country.

Before the trip, it’s helpful to research common scams in the area, as knowing what to expect is the best way to avoid getting duped.

Panache Cruises founder and managing director James Cole said: “Some people believe that only naive tourists are taken advantage of when travelling, but as con artists get more cunning, even the most experienced travellers can become victims of their schemes.

“It’s important to familiarise yourself with some of the most universal travel scams to learn from other people’s mistakes and recognise when you’re being conned.

“Besides researching before the trip, you should always keep your valuables close to your body and be cautious with overly-friendly locals trying to gain your trust to lure you into a scam.

“If anything seems suspicious and too good to be true, trust your instincts because it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Here are Panache Cruises’ eight common travel scams that holidaymakers should look out for:

Taxi overcharging

Never agree to start a ride if the driver tells you that the metre is broken, as you’ll end up getting wildly overcharged. Also, keep an eye on the metre while you’re driving, and if you suspect it is going up faster than usual, then just ask them to pull over and get out.

It’s useful to ask about the average taxi fares from the hotel, use an official taxi provider, and agree on a fare before hiring the driver if they’re not using a metre.

Bump and grab

The easiest way to steal someone’s valuables is to create a diversion so they can be caught off guard. One of the most common pickpocketing tactics is the ‘bump and go’ method, where one of the thieves pretends to accidentally bump into you while the accomplice picks your pocket when you’re distracted.

This is especially likely to happen in busy, bustling areas like tourist attractions and train stations, so be mindful of those locations. Try not to carry all your valuables with you, make sure you have copies of important travel documents and opt for a discreet money belt worn underneath your clothes.

Vehicle hire scams

Be careful when renting a car, motorcycle or jet ski, as the owners can blame you for damage you didn’t cause. They may even take your passport for guarantee and threaten to keep it if you don’t pay for expensive repairs.

Before driving the vehicle, take photos and videos to document its condition to avoid being blamed for something you didn’t do.

Wrong change

If you’re in a country where you’re not familiar with the currency, then watch out for vendors who try to trick their customers by returning less change than they were due.

Before any transaction, calculate how much money you should get back and take the time to count the change.

Closed hotel or attraction

Some untrustworthy taxi drivers make their money by earning commissions from bringing customers to local businesses. They’ll tell you the hotel, tourist attraction or restaurant you’re heading to is temporarily closed for a local holiday or fully booked and recommend taking you to a better alternative that is usually overpriced and low in quality.

If this happens, then insist on going to the place you had originally booked because if it were closed or at capacity, then you wouldn’t have been able to book it in the first place.

Free bracelets

When you visit big European cities, you can expect to encounter scammers who offer to braid you a free friendship bracelet. They’re very quick; before you can say no, they’ve already tied the bracelet around your wrist. They’ll cause a scene if you refuse to pay, which makes polite tourists feel forced to pay to avoid embarrassment.

Don’t get fooled by ‘free’ offers, and don’t let anyone put anything on your body and be firm about it.

ATM scams

Local con artists frequently use credit card skimming to target tourists. Always be careful when someone approaches you by the ATM.

They usually pretend they’re helping you to avoid local bank fees. But, in reality, they want to use a card skimmer device to get your card details and often have an accomplice in the ATM queue who encourages you to do what the scammer says.

Tipping scams

Some restaurants, especially in the US, offer customers suggested tip options on their bills. Make sure to do your own maths and check if the percentage is calculated correctly. Some businesses try to scam tourists, hoping they won’t notice they’ve been overcharged on the tip.

In some places, including the service charge on the bill is expected. They usually don’t mention it, which leaves room for double tipping for tourists who fail to check their bills.

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(Source: Panachecruises)

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