Nothing can spoil a trip quite like falling victim to a scam.
They’re nothing new to traveling, and the experienced among us probably believe that we know many of the main ones, but it always pays to stay up to speed with the most common scams of the present moment.
Insurance company InsureandGo recently put together a list of the most common travel scams by analyzing the data of millions of users on the social media site Reddit.
The data, which was correct as of September 2023, shows a wide range of scams that are in operation around the world that could really spoil a trip you’ve been so looking forward to.
So, here are the top trending scams and how to avoid them:
Taxi Driver Scams
These scams are some of the most commonplace all over the world.
Tricks such as not having a meter and then overcharging you massively for a journey, taking an unnecessarily long route in order to increase the fare, and even driving away with your luggage were all found in the data that InsureandGo put together.
I think almost everyone who has done any serious traveling will have had a taxi or tuk-tuk driver attempt some sort of scam on them; it’s just part of the game sadly.
How to avoid:
Where possible, try to get official taxis that are licensed correctly – if something seems a bit ‘off’ about the taxi you’re considering getting into, then it probably is.
Always make sure the driver has a working meter. If not, it’s a good idea to agree a fee for your journey before it begins.
Using ride apps such as Uber with good built-in safety features can help you avoid scams. However, they are not totally immune to them.
I’m ashamed to say that in my younger years, I once fell for this kind of scam myself.
The premise is simple: a friendly stranger approaches you and either offers to show you around or wants to speak with you to practice their English.
It appears that they don’t immediately want anything from you, so it’s easy to not feel threatened.
Eventually, they might see if you’d like to grab a coffee or some food at a nearby restaurant – however the scam is the fact that this ‘kind stranger’ is working on commission for the establishment and will leave before you get grossly overcharged for whatever was ordered.
I was lucky that I managed to haggle the high price down a little when I was stung by this one, but the scam is still out there.
How to avoid:
It’s best to be vigilant when being approached by strangers in places that are unfamiliar to you.
It may seem a harsh outlook to disregard anyone who seems to want to befriend you, as meeting new people is one of the joys of traveling. However, try to have your wits about you.
If you are invited into an unfamiliar establishment in this way, it’s best to politely decline and say you have other plans.
The temptation to try authentic restaurants that offer a more genuine experience is real when traveling, and it’s no bad thing.
However, be careful of restaurants pulling commonly experienced scams in this research, such as extortionate mandatory tips, charging for appetizers you never asked for, or simply overcharging for basic items.
Of course, you expect to spend a certain amount of money when dining abroad, especially in touristy areas, but always have a concept of what things should cost by doing some research beforehand.
How to avoid:
I like to heavily research dining options on the fly while traveling.
I usually compare their reviews on multiple sources (Google, Tripadvisor and more) and read a few of them to get a general feel of what the place is like.
Just spending five minutes doing this before deciding can help you avoid such scams.
Another great method is to get recommendations from fellow travelers who have already visited the place you are headed.
This one is probably less of a scam and more a general rule of street performers – if you take a photo of a street performer or have your photo taken with one, don’t expect it to be free.
It seems the users of Reddit have been caught out by choosing to do this and then being surprised when the performer tries to force you to pay.
Remember that anyone in the street providing entertainment is not doing it for fun; they’re doing it to try and earn a living.
How to avoid:
Don’t take photos of street performers is the obvious answer, unless of course you are happy to throw them a few dollars so you can enjoy their show.
Don’t expect anything for free from people who are out there trying to earn money for themselves.
If anyone offers you any kind of gift while you’re traveling, then be cautious, as this is a common scam.
It can involve small and insignificant items like flowers or bracelets, but it’s very rare that these free gifts are actually free.
More often than not, you may be pressured into giving the person money or donating to them because of the ‘free’ gift.
How to avoid:
Quite simply, don’t accept any gifts from anyone you don’t know while traveling.
Always remain polite and give people a smile, but there’s nothing wrong with refusing an offer of any kind from a stranger.
It sometimes really helps to make an effort to learn a few words of the language of where you are visiting too, to make your refusal clearer.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com