Below are some of the sneakiest swindles that criminals around the world use to take advantage of innocent travellers. Pickpockets, dodgy taxi drivers and dangerous areas are all things that our family and friends have probably warned us about when going on holiday somewhere abroad. I must admit, I've been caught out by a dodgy taxi driver in my time.
Therefore, for those of you travelling this holiday season, I want to help you prevent anything that could ruin your holiday, lose you money or simply make you wish you hadn’t gone away in the first place. You never know who’s scheming against you, but armed with these tips you'll certainly give yourself a better chance of avoiding being ripped off.
The very unlucky don’t even get a chance to savour their destination upon arrival because they are targeted in the airport. Here are some of the most conniving tricks out there and how you can avoid them.
“The easiest targets for scammers are travellers who look confused. So when you are planning your trip, work out a few key things like how you’re going to get from the airport to your accommodation, how much that should cost and how you’re going to pay,” says Angus Mackenzie, Acting head of Consular and Crisis Management for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Not common in our country, but in smaller airports and less monitored countries, airport baggage staff have been known to tamper with the scales so they can pocket the excess baggage weight charges. Try to know how much your bag weighs before you travel.
It’s your turn to walk through the metal detecting machine, but somebody jumps in front of you and the detector alarm goes off. This will hold you up from walking through and meanwhile the line-jumpers buddy is making a quick exit with your valuables.
Don’t let Uniforms Fool You
In Bali, I’ve heard stories where men have met travellers at customs dressed in uniforms and said they were officers. They have then asked for the traveller’s baggage and carried it to the exit only to stop, put down the luggage and to hold their hands out for a tip for carrying it. Don’t be fooled by a uniform and always keep hold of your luggage where possible.
Credit Card and ATM Fraud
Card skimming is big business and whilst you are busy soaking up the culture of the local town, someone could be draining your bank account with multiple transactions, leaving you penniless abroad. It’s always advisable to check Smartraveller.gov.au before you travel to a new destination to see what to be wary of.
The Australian Commonwealth Bank recommends the following steps to avoid fraud abroad.
- Check that your contact details are up to date before you travel so your bank can contact you about any suspicious activity.
- If you have to use a public computer, ensure nobody can see the screen, don’t leave the computer unattended, delete your browsing history, don’t save login details and make sure you log out of every website you visit.
- Hold several forms of money for all scenarios and store different amounts in different places e.g. socks, pocket and bags.
One of the most common scams is where a local taxi driver takes you the long route home charging more than he should for your trip, but this is child’s play compared to some stories out there.
This one has happened to me. I’ve paid the taxi driver, jumped out the car to put my wallet back in my pocket before picking up my many bags and whoosh, the taxi driver has sped off with the door still open.
Foreign currency can be confusing, be very wary of what you hand out, taxi drivers can take advantage by swapping the note you’ve handed to them and insisting that the 50 you did give them was actually a 5.
“Better Place across town”
You want to go somewhere, but the taxi driver tells you he knows a better place somewhere else, which is probably owned by his family. He pockets the commission and you end up at a terrible establishment and all at your on expense. Whatever you do, don’t listen to the next taxi driver if he knows somewhere better too.
“Not what I said”
A cab driver may give you one price to entice you into his vehicle, but when you arrive he may say a much higher number and insist his initial price was not what he said. Be very clear on the price to not get caught out. Taxi drivers may also try to quote you one price and then when you try to exit the vehicle, they demand that the price they initially said was a per passenger rate.
Avoiding Taxi Scammers
- Websites such as WorldTaximeter.com and TaxiFareFinder.com can help you learn how much you should be paying for a taxi journey. Plus, airport and hotel staff can also give a rough guide.
- If a fare conversation gets heated and the taxi driver tries to inflate the price, simply leave a reasonable amount on the seat and walk away. A good tip is to have plenty of small notes, because even honest taxi drivers might not have the correct change for you.
- If your taxi doesn’t have a meter, a great tip is to negotiate the price before you travel anywhere, this way you will never get caught out.
- If you don’t like confrontation, why not see if Uber is in the destination country to save you all the above hassle.
Scenarios in which wallets are stolen vary around the world. In Rome, for example, I’ve heard stories where a woman will pretend to drop her baby, whilst her 'compadre’s' steal your wallet as you rush to help the fake child.
I’ve even heard that when a bird relieves itself on your head or shoulders, miraculously a woman with a towel appears to wipe it off - although little did you know that she was actually helping herself to your wallet at the same time.
How to Avoid falling Victim to Pickpockets
- Do not keep your wallet in your back pocket; it’s a great advert to thieves.
- Always carry valuables within your bag and try to keep your hand on the zip when in crowded areas.
- Jewellery, watches, phones, cameras and passports are all very desirable targets for pickpockets. Keep them out of sight and do not flash them around.
One final piece of very important advice, never ever give your passport away as a form of deposit, the likes of a police officer or a bouncer at a club is not allowed to hold it. If they do, you can call the police and claim identity theft. A hotel may require a scan but they should always return it.
So there you have it. If you are planning on getting away this holiday season, potentially to Captainjacks mega Bali deal, avoid getting caught out by keeping your wits about you, striking a healthy balance between caution and paranoia and don’t be overly suspicious of everyone you meet. Luckily there are still some good people out there.