We’ve seen it all over social media: people detailing times they were the victim of a travel scam or moments they were nearly scammed abroad. It’s enough to scare us all, and with so many ways to dupe travelers, it’s hard to always be aware of a potential travel scam, especially if you’re in another country.
So, what are the top travel scams to look out for? And how can you be at your safest when traveling?
According to a recent study by InsureandGo, there are certain travel scams that are seemingly more prevalent this year. The travel insurance company analyzed hundreds of Reddit posts from forums dedicated to travel to unveil the most-discussed scams.
The study found the most common travel scams worldwide are:
Taxi Driver Scams
According to Reddit users, this scam spans the world, from cabs driving away with your luggage in Miami to a driver pretending streets are closed to prolong the ride (and fare) in Athens, Greece. Multiple Reddit threads include Hungary as the key country in which to be mindful when traveling in cabs. Scams include charging different amounts to locals and tourists, asking visitors if it’s their first time in the country to increase the price (never admit it’s your first time in the country) and informing visitors an attraction is closed for the day and offering to take them to a different attraction or drive them around on a tour instead.
This scam is most often found in two forms: the friendship bracelet and struggling musician. The friendship bracelet scam entails strangers approaching travelers offering a bracelet or some sort of charm, only to them demand payment. Reddit users note this scam across New York City; Paris; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and even New Orleans. The struggling musician scam is most prevalent in the United States, especially on Hollywood Boulevard, in San Francisco and the Las Vegas Strip. Travelers are most likely to encounter struggling musicians playing on streets who then insist on offering tourists their CD before guilting them to donate for the “free” gift.
Locations, particularly in Europe, with high numbers of restaurants and bars teeming with visitors have a higher likelihood of this scam, often seen on social media. Italy and Greece in particular are notorious for these scams, which involve mandatory high tips, overpriced appetizers delivered without even being ordered and overcharging for simple items like a glass of orange juice. In some locations, menu prices are even stated as per 100g rather than per portion, so when the final bill comes, it’s much higher than expected.
Tourists are most likely to find this scam in New York City and Rome, Italy. Costumed people wait near attractions for tourists to take photos with them. This is often a ruse, however, for these costumed people then ask travelers to pay for the photo taken.
The “Kind” Stranger
Especially in China, Türkiye and Japan, Reddit travelers reported the “drink and chat” scam, which involves a local befriending solo travelers often under the guise of practicing their English. This stranger encourages travelers to try a bar or tea house away from main streets and, after chatting and eating, the “friendly” local excuses him or herself, never to return, leaving the tourist with an extremely high bill. Reddit users also warn travelers of some restauranteurs who intimidate travelers to foot the bill under threat of calling the police.
What are some ways to avoid these travel scams?
- Look for official areas
- Settle on a fee before you take a taxi ride
- Do your own research before traveling
- Try to politely decline offers of gifts and walk away
- Always report any stolen items or money to the police
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