I’m in Toronto right now, where yesterday I was a guest on The Social, which is Canada’s version of The View. It was fun—even though it was freezing out! Can you believe the temperature went from 72F to 18F (and snow) in about 36 hours? Yikes! Here’s a link to the segment, in which I talked about travel scams and how avoid them. That link can only be viewed in Canada unless you have a VPN (Virtual Private Network), so below I’m including the questions and some of my answers and the rest I will save for my Daily Travel Tips newsletter! If you haven’t signed up for it (it’s FREE), here’s the link.
QUESTION 1: Ok so we don’t want to ruin our trip by being totally paranoid but there are certain things we should always be aware of right?
-I tell them one of the best things about traveling is the people—meeting new people and experiencing new cultures but you do have to be careful—in touristy places where there are people who might try to take advantage of you and your unfamiliarity.
QUESTION 2 (Wendy): My mother once went on a very misleading river cruise in Italy which in hindsight was false advertising targeting seniors—what other types of scams are out there?
-There are tons but since we were talking about Egypt before the show they have a very notorious photo scam at the Great Pyramids in Giza. When the camel owners tell you it’s free to pose on a camel with the pyramids in the background you better realize it’s not free to come down and if you have ever been on a camel before you know your high up. Here’s a good post by my buddy Detective Kevin Coffey on pickpockets and scams at the Great Pyramids.
QUESTION 3: What about getting around—do you have any advice for being smart with taxis?
-Always take a metered fare and clarify before you get in. In places in Southeast Asia like Thailand, cab drivers often won’t put the meter on and then will expect you to pay some seemingly inflated fare.
-When you’re staying at a hotel, it’s usually a good idea to use the concierge to get a cab rather than one off the street in a touristy area. They know who to call and the sketchy ones won’t show up where people know better.
-You should also pay attention to the transaction at the end. Cab drivers in Turkey have been known to swap bills (so you give them 50 lira note and they say you gave them a 5 lira note) to convince you to pay more than you should.
-I also now use UBER X when available. Here’s a link to $20 off your first ride.
QUESTION 4: What happens if you do get scammed? If you lose money, or have something stolen, what can you do?
-It depends on the situation but in many cases sadly there is nothing you can do. Immediately, you have to be smart. It’s not worth fighting a bill with huge scary bouncers around but if something valuable gets stolen or your mugged call the police. Remember not all emergency numbers are 911 so do a search for it before leaving and save it in your phone. Or you can download an app like Help Call.
-Guard your passport as it’s worth thousands of dollars on the black market (read this story). My wife once lost her passport in Estonia (here’s her crazy story) which was a nightmare for about three hours. But fortunately we got lucky.
QUESTION 5: A lot of us are doing everything online now—what advice do you have for avoiding scams on the web?
-If it seems to too-good-to-be-true travel offers than it usually is. For example, a few years back do you remember the fake offer floating around on Facebook for two free Southwest tickets? So many of my friends put their info in and shared it but it was nothing but a scam. There are also scams where a friend’s email gets hacked and the crooks send an email posing as your friend, asking you to send them money so they can get home from a trip where they got their wallet stolen (here’s what it looks like).
-In reality they never even knew their email was hacked and they didn’t go away. Call your friends first before sending money. Snopes.com for example, has a good record of confirming whether something is a scam or not.
-When I get emails from “companies” asking me to click a link to update my info I always go directly to their website instead of clicking a link that could have malware or be a scam.
-I hope these tips helped and please feel free to leave your own experiences with travel scams below! And don’t forget to sign up to my Daily Travel Tips newsletter—it’s FREE!