Safety While On The Go Tourists make tempting targets for thieves and hustlers because they often carry expensive cameras, jewelry, and large amounts of cash. Worse, travelers often find themselves in unfamiliar territory where they are frequently lost or confused or simply preoccupied with seeing the sights. Here are some popular scams- and how to avoid them (but remember that your best protection is to be prepared for anything).
Avoid hucksters who approach you near the airport baggage area and offer a cut-rate cab ride to your hotel. At best, you'll pay a wildly inflated price for a roundabout journey. Instead, head for the official taxi stand outside.
When you check in at a hotel and the front-desk clerk announced your room number within earshot of others, demand a different room. Otherwise you may find yourself prey to a thief or worse.
Watch out for "shoulder surfers," who hang around public telephones. They'll steal your calling-card number when you punch it into the keypad. Block their view, and cup your hand around the keypad. Be equally cautious about speaking the numbers out loud to an operator.
While walking, stay alert to diversionary tactics used by a pickpocket or thief. One popular routine involves a stranger's throwing garbage at you or squirting you with mustard. While a second person rushes to help you, a thief unnoticed, may relieve you of your belongings.
Beware of accidents used to collect insurance money. One or more cars may cut you off or stop suddenly in front of you and cause the accident. They other driver will blame you for injuring him and his car. Later his insurance will claim more injury or more serious vehicle damage than you observed. Keep detailed notes.
Avoiding Scams When Planning Your Trip When planning a trip, here are some additional tips:
Beware of unsolicited travel opportunities.
There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. If a travel opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Either they will take your money and run, or there are hidden charges. For example, many so-called "free vacations" or "vacation giveaways" require you to stay at a specific hotel-at exorbitant rates.
Beware of extremely low-priced offers, unsolicited offers involving Florida or Hawaii, and opportunities that try to pressure you into buying on the spot.
If you're elderly, be especially careful. Scam artists will try to confuse and manipulate you.
Ask detailed questions (e.g., what is covered by the price and what isn't, whether there are any additional charges, the names of the hotels, airlines, airports, and restaurants, exact dates and times, cancellation policies, and refund policies), and get it all in writing before you buy anything.
Never give personal information, including credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank account numbers, or similar information to an unsolicited telephone salesperson. If you must, ask for a telephone number and call them back the next day, after you've had time to check them out. Call the Better Business Bureau and use the telephone number to verify if they're a legitimate business, and if so, whether there have been any complaints. You can also checkout the company with the state attorney general's office and the local consumer protection agency.
Pay for purchases with a credit card, never with a check or money order. When you pay for purchases with a credit card, you're protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act against fraudulent charges.
Never give out your frequent flyer number over the phone, unless you initiated the call.
Don't assume that just because a company places advertisements in a newspaper or has a toll-free 800 number, it must be safe. It takes time for a company to generate enough complaints for the Federal Trade Commission to start an investigation. Moreover, not all 800 numbers are toll-free these days, and it's possible for an individual to get their own toll-free number.
Do not give your tickets to anyone other than an agent of the airline at the ticketing/check-in counter, the gate, or the airline's offices. A common scam is for someone wearing a uniform similar to that of the airline to provide some excuse for taking your tickets (e.g., claiming there is a problem with the tickets). If you're not sure that someone is an airline employee, check their ID with the airline.
If you've encountered a problem, or are suspicious of an offer, call the National Fraud Information Center, a hotline operated by the National Consumers League. The number is 800-876-7060 and can be reached from 9a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT during the week. You can also call the local Better Business Bureau, the state Bureau of Consumer Protection, and the Attorney General's office.