How to Avoid Travel Scams - Amazing Journeys
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How to Avoid Travel Scams

Nov 21, 2008

Wanderers of all types are susceptible to stings and swindles as anyone else. This tour leader was once scammed out of 50 euros by a streetwise sidewalk entertainer. Silly me, thinking I could find the pebble under the slow moving rotation of cups. When I discovered that the missing link wasn’t my own stupidity but rather the trick of a magician, I screamed bloody loud…only to have the “entertainer” pack up and ship out into the crowd faster than a bee into the swarm.

The ubiquity of instant communication has made it easier for con artists and dubious travel agents to prey upon those of us who like to move around. The California Department of Justice recently announced the arrest of an Orange County travel agent for allegedly ripping off dozens of senior citizens who wanted to travel to Cuba for religious and cultural purposes. The scam targeted Jewish and Greek Orthodox seniors trying to congregate with people of their own faith on the Caribbean island. After the 34 victims forked out five-figure deposits he announced their trips were being blocked by the Treasury Department and refused to refund their money.

Selling counterfeit merchandise is another huge travel scam, especially for anyone visiting Asia, the source of so many bogus goods. There was a day in the not-too-distant past when a fake Rolex was the height of Third World travel chic. But nowadays the knockoffs can be downright deadly. Sunglasses, handbags, DVDs—every product in every industry is liable to be knocked off these days. If your product isn’t being counterfeited, then you probably have a brand that isn’t worth much. Nobody’s going to get killed by a counterfeit handbag, but consumers are at risk of buying counterfeit products that pose a real danger such as bogus electronics with faulty wiring or potentially hazardous batteries, knockoff pharmaceuticals (its obvious what danger this possesses) , as well as shampoo and perfumes that contain harmful amounts of bacteria.

There are also all kinds of money scams, from hotels that charge exorbitant commissions to change currency to money changers passing you bills or coins that are no longer in circulation. Obviously, its best to change in kiosks and banks.

Another scam is the hotel that isn’t quite what it advertised—and sometimes nowhere close. Its so easy to get lazy in your booking process and not ‘read between the lines’ or ask the right questions…ending up booking rooms at beach hotels that were nowhere near the beach and airport hotels that were miles away from the terminals. The best advice is to do your research. The more educated you are about a given hotel, the better off you’re going to be.

And finally, despite the phenomenal growth of airport security over the last several years, getting scammed at the TSA checkpoint is still a distinct possibility. Often it’s just a crime of opportunity—somebody who decides on the spur of the moment to snatch your iPod or cellphone from one of those ubiquitous plastic bins. But there are thieves, working solo or in tandem, who make a living off airports. They stand behind you in the TSA line and snatch items from your carry-on as you’re passing through the metal detector. Or, they may be in front—one member of the team takes forever passing through the scanner while his or her partner walks away with your laptop that’s already gone through the X-ray machine.
The best suggestion keep from getting ripped off at airports is to keep an eye on your handbags and carry-ons at all times. Don’t go through the metal detector before your bag does. If you require secondary screening, always ask a TSA agent to get your bag from the belt and bring it with you to the screening area. Be vigilant and avoid distraction. And before you leave the TSA screening area, always double-check that your valuables are in place.

In the end, the best piece of advice is to USE A TRAVEL PROFESSIONAL to help you in your planning. They are your best resource to ensuring that you get what you paid for and a safety net for those particulars that may be unfamiliar to you. You go to a CPA to get your taxes done….a repair man to get your car fixed and a plumber to fix your pipes. Being a trained professional in that area, a trustworthy travel pro is just as important to your sanity on vacation as a warm blanket can be on a cold winter’s night.

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