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Travel Scams To Look Out For, Part I


You've probably heard the stories about a tourist waking up in a bathtub filled with ice with a note telling them to call 911. There's also the ones about people being robbed after being sprayed with 'perfume' that turns out to be ether. Luckily these aren't true, but that doesn't mean that there aren't still plenty of scammers out there looking to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers. If you're going on vacation or even considering going on vacation, here are some common scams you should be aware of. Some of them seem obvious; others, not so much.

Front Desk Credit Card Confusion. In the middle of the night, you get a call from someone who says they are from the front desk of your hotel. She's sorry it's so late, but there's been a mix-up with your credit card and they need to make sure they have the right number. Either that, or someone from the previous shift lost a form or typed something in wrong. She'll read off some random numbers and ask you to 'confirm' them. Since you're still half-asleep and just want to go back to bed, you'll 'correct' her without realizing that you've just given your credit card number and expiration date to some random person who is probably calling from their basement or from some long-dead 'front desk' number. You won't know you've been scammed until you either have your card declined or you see weird charges on your credit card bill. That is, unless you really did pay $1500 for a purple leather bustier!

Solution-The truth of the matter is that most hotels won't even give you the room key without checking and double-checking your credit card information, so there is no real reason for this kind of 'mix-up'. This is especially true if you booked your hotel ahead of time, since they require this information to put your room on hold. They may not charge you yet, but they will verify everything. If you get a call like this, ask the person's name and say you'll be at the front desk to straighten everything out in the morning.

'Taxi' Drivers. You've just touched down and are greeted by sharply-dressed man offering you a ride in his taxi for a really low rate. His car doesn't look like a taxi, but you see that the line at the counter at the airport is rather long take him up on the offer. You put your bags in the trunk and set off. There are a number of ways this could go:

-The driver could drive around aimlessly to build up the fare and charge you much more than you planned, or
-The driver could take you to an out-of-the-way location and rob and/or assault you, or
-He could take you to your hotel, take out your bags in a hurry and then leave before you've realized that one of them is still in the trunk.

Solution-Never accept a ride from a driver unless they have a licensed, metered taxi.

Since we are at a time in the year when vacations and vacation scams are at their height, I'll continue with more warnings in another post. I just don't want you to fall victim to something that could ruin your vacation and/or your life.

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