Scammers and swindlers are targeting summer vacationers. From unscrupulous taxi drivers to credit card thieves posing as hotel receptionists, here are a few things to carefully avoid while traveling this summer.
The Bait and Switch
When we recently asked readers about their experiences using third-party booking sites, many complained about bait and switch — thinking they were paying for one type of hotel or flight, but finding the details dramatically different when they checked in. Before booking, travelers should carefully read hotel and booking site reviews at a site like SiteJabber, and check out Oyster’s Photo Fake-out, a hilarious collection of visitor-generated photos of hotels, compared to the hotel’s publicity stills.
You Didn’t Win a Free Trip
This spring, more than 300 people in Australia received calls reportedly from Virgin Australia and Qantas airlines, informing them that they’d won a credit toward their next vacation or other loyalty items, but they had to secure the prize with a credit card. Those who handed over the information then had money stolen from their accounts. The lesson? The good things in life aren’t free, even if the voice on the other end of the line has an awesome Aussie accent.
That’s Really Not a Fendi Handbag
In any major city around the world, you’ll see street vendors hawking luxury items for a steal. But look closer, and you’ll see that they’re a little off — crooked stitching, a misspelled logo or dye that’s faded in spots. Even if the deal seems good, there are many reasons to avoid buying counterfeit products, not the least of which is the continued connection to criminal organizations, drugs and human trafficking. So if a Fendi logo’s really that important, skip the knock-offs and buy the real thing.
It’s Not the ‘Scenic’ Route
First time in town? That taxi driver may just be helpful by pointing out sites of interest, or he or she could be taking the long route and running up the fare. Even locals have been subjected to this practice in cities across the U.S.
Another scam involves drivers helping travelers unload their bags at their hotel, then driving away with one last piece still in the trunk. When entering a taxi in a strange town, write down the driver number and cab company. A quick online search from the safety of the hotel will identify the name of the local taxi commission to file a complaint, if you’ve been the victim of an overcharge or theft. And it never hurts to mention the incident to your hotel staff — you might not have been this driver’s first victim.
The Wake-up Call
Jet-lagged? Half-asleep? Haven’t had your first coffee of the day? Thieves are preying on groggy travelers to get credit card and other personal information. The call usually comes in the middle of the night from someone who politely identifies him or herself as the hotel receptionist.
Blaming a computer crash, he or she apologizes for the inconvenience, but says the credit card that was used to book the hotel has been entered improperly. He or she then asks the traveler to verify credit card information, home address and other personal details — with an offer to discount the room rate for the inconvenience. Of course the caller isn’t hotel staff, but a scammer who dialed into the main hotel phone number and asked for a room at random.
If you receive one of these calls, hang up. Any legitimate billing issues can be sorted out at check-out. Or go one step further and ask reception to institute a “do not disturb” on your room phone during certain hours.