Fake friends, unexpected wake up calls and public Wi-Fi are just some of the ways you can be caught out by scammers overseas.
With the arrival of winter, many Kiwis are going on holiday to unwind and relax, but switching-off can leave you at risk of being scammed by some of the oldest, and newest, tricks in the book.
Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI), New Zealand’s largest online travel insurer, covers the travel plans of nearly 300,000 Kiwis each year, so there aren’t many scams SCTI CEO Craig Morrison hasn’t heard of.
“Unfortunately scammers exist wherever you are in the world,” says Morrison. “The best thing you can take with you on holiday is your common sense. When that fails is when it pays to have insurance.”
You’re enjoying the sights when a friendly local points out that you have bird poo on your shoulder. While you’re surveying the extent of the damage, they’ll help you clean off the mess - while helping themselves to your wallet.
An expensive dinner
No matter how hungry, tired or jet-lagged you are, never order food from a takeaway menu slipped under your door. You’ll probably never see any food, worse still the person on the other line now has your credit card details and can remove a large amount of money from your account. Dine in at local restaurants or order room service – it’s much safer.
It doesn’t take a genius to set up a Wi-Fi hub. While you’re browsing the net, someone can access your personal information and passwords - so be careful about connecting to generic networks with names like ‘Free Wi-Fi’, or ‘Free Coffee Shop Wi-Fi’. It you’re wanting secure Wi-Fi find a server that requires a password.
Beware of lovely locals outside attractions offering rosary beads, sticks of rosemary, friendship bracelets and rings. They’re not complimentary, and these friendly locals will soon be demanding money and making a scene so you’ll pay them to go away.
Front desk diligence
Preying on the tired is particularly immoral. This scam happens late at night, or early in the morning, with ‘reception’ apologising for the late call and asking you to verify your credit card details. Unwittingly you read them out and go back to sleep.
Not all policemen around the world are what they seem. If you’re ever stopped by someone in an official looking uniform who tells you you’ve broken the law and must pay an instant fine, see this for what it is – a bribe. Keep your temper, try to walk away or insist on settling things at the station.
The waiting game
This is common in countries with strong cash economies. You’ll buy something in cash and the cashier slowly, often painfully, counts your change. Impatiently you grab your change and walk off only to find the cashier has pocketed some.
This scam is not new and is ever-evolving with many travellers having lost their luggage to shady taxi drivers the minute they start their holiday. A few tips include keeping your baggage in sight at all times or watching it being loaded into the car, negotiating a fare before you get going, and knowing where your end destination is.
“These are only a handful of the pitfalls shady scammers try on with tourists,” says Morrison. “A good thing to remember is to keep the common sense you’d use at home with you on holiday. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
It also pays to research the country you’re going to and any problems other tourists have faced there recently.
“Being forewarned is forearmed, and can be the different between a dream holiday and a nightmare.”