This Travel Scam Hacks Your Phone

December 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

File this under the category “Now We’ve Heard Everything.” According to an article in Smarter Travel, the latest scam to target travelers involves what’s called “juice-jacking.” Travelers desperate for a charge plug into a public charging station that, unbeknownst to them, is masquerading as a data port to steal their phone’s private and personal data.

Once a phone is connected to the station, everything on the device is downloadable: passwords, photos, emails, messages, bank account information. Worse yet, additional malware might also be infecting the device. How can you protect yourself against this new hacking method?

Using a battery pack instead of an almost-too-convenient charging station can help you avoid the juice-jacking travel scam.

Using a battery pack instead of an almost-too-convenient charging station can help you avoid the juice-jacking travel scam.

For one thing, be wary of public USB-friendly charging stations. There’s a chance that it’s a bogus charging station, and instead of just charging your batteries, you could give hackers access to your mobile device.

Instead, always travel with your own power pack. Some of our new Crew™ 11 Carry-on models feature a built-in battery pocket and external USB port. No more digging for your accessories or relying on potentially unsafe charging stations. Just plug your battery into the internal charging USB cord, and then plug your normal charging cord into the port on the back of your luggage.
Read more

3 Tourist Scams to Avoid: Extreme edition

October 23, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

For the last few blog posts, we’ve looked at different travel scams and petty crimes from Lifehack.org infographic on common travel scams. We’ve talked about scams, pickpockets, and even identity theft. But we’ve saved the most outrageous scams for last. Scam artists will go to almost any length to get your money, so be on the look out for these.

1. Thrown Baby

Using pretend children is a low blow, but it happens. A woman will throw a baby, which is usually a doll so that you catch it. The woman and her accomplices will rummage through your pockets taking all they can find while you try to save the “baby.”

2. Expensive Taxi Driver

English: A checker taxi cab. Deutsch: Ein Chec...

A checker taxi cab. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you don’t know where you’re going, taxi drivers may take more twists and turns than necessary to get you to your location in order to make your bill higher. I have had this happen to me. When I questioned their route they said they wanted to “avoid traffic.” Make sure you’re only taking licensed cabs from official taxi stands, and if possible, double-check your route on your smartphone.

3. Windshield Washers Scam

We actually see this more in the United States than in foreign countries. A homeless person, or seemingly homeless, will run up to your car at a stoplight and start washing your windows, hoping for a tip. If you don’t do it, they’ll yell and raise a fuss, hoping to embarrass you into paying them to stop.

We don’t want you to be afraid of traveling. Rather, we want to make sure you travel smart. So please look over these possible scams, and when you travel, move confidently, say no politely, and continue moving. Avoid the situations where you might be scammed and you’ll finish your vacation with everything — hopefully — still on budget and on schedule.

5 Tourist Scams to Avoid: Money Edition

October 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

For the last couple of blog posts, we’ve been discussing different travel scams and petty crimes found on a Lifehack.org infographic on common travel scams. In our last two posts, we’ve discussed pickpockets and con artists. Now let’s look at how people can take your money through general theft or even identity theft.

1. The Drop and Swap

This one happens when someone is returning your change. They will drop it, pick it up, but give you less than what you should be given. They might exchange the dropped money for coins or bills that are worth less. It’s important to know the currency in the places where you’re traveling. Know what each bill and coin is worth, how much you are giving, and how much you should get in return.

2. The Cashier on the Phone

Credit card

Credit card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a sneaky one. The cashier will act busy on their phone, but in reality, they are taking a picture of your credit card to get your card information, which they’ll use later.

3. Slow Counting

A cashier will count your money very slowly. While this may not seem like a big deal, they are doing this to see if you notice they are counting a bill twice. Count the money again yourself, once you’ve been given your change.

4. The Fake Takeout Menu

If a menu is slipped under your hotel door be warned! It may not be a real menu. You’ll call the restaurant to place an order, only to have your credit card number stolen, and no one will show up with your food either. So now you’re hungry, and significantly poorer.

5. The Fake Front Desk Call

If you ever get a call from the front desk saying there were problems with your credit card, always go down to sort out the problem. Scam artists have been known to call hotel rooms asking for credit card information, especially in the evening. Instead, they steal your credit card number and take your money. But if you go downstairs to deal with the problem, you can make sure you solve the right problem.

Have you ever been scammed on your travels? What happened? How did they do it? Leave a comment, or tell us on our Facebook page.

5 Tourist Scams to Avoid: Pickpocketing Edition

October 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve ever traveled, especially overseas, you may have run into a variety of scams and cons. In our last post, we talked about different, mostly harmless, scams you may encounter on a trip. This time, thanks to a Lifehack.org infographic on common travel scams, we’re going to discuss some of the scams that involved pickpocketing.

1. Train Pickpockets

This is one of the most commonly known pickpocketing methods. Trains are often cramped and crowded. Locals will take advantage of tourists traveling with their duffels or backpacks, and rummage through them without your knowledge, or even the ability to get away from them.

2. The Punctured Tire

sketch "pickpocket" with George Appo...

Sketch “pickpocket” with George Appo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rental cars are usually obviously rentals. Locals will search for them and inconspicuously puncture the tire. They will then come over offering to help. While you are busy with the flat, their accomplice will go through your trunk taking valuables.

3. The Fake Policeman

A policeman (supposedly) approaches you explaining an issue with fake money circulating around. He will demand to inspect your wallet. Once returned, you will notice it quite a bit lighter. You’ve been scammed.

4. The Overly Helpful Local

Cash machines and ATMs can be confusing in a different country. We suggest you just try to figure it out on your own. If a local comes over offering to help while it may seem nice, they are probably memorizing your pin number for when they swipe your wallet later. Better yet, just use a credit card whenever possible, and get the most favorable exchange rate in the first place.

5. The Charity Petition

This scam involves a group of children who often have a disability such as being deaf. They will ask you to sign a petition to help them out. While shoving paper and clipboard in your face, they will touch and grab at you. If this happens to you, you’ve probably been pickpocketed.

Your best line of defense is to keep your money in a special traveler’s belt wallet, something that loops on your belt, but hangs inside your pants. Keep a small amount of money in your front pocket, and then pull more money out of your pouch in the restroom.

Have you ever been pickpocketed, or nearly so? What did you do? How did they do it? Leave a comment, or tell us on our Facebook page.

5 Tourist Scams to Avoid: Payment for Service Edition

October 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

People all around the world have come up with some clever ways to con tourists. Tourists are often a target due to having little knowledge of an area, the culture, and the currency. Because of this locals have created interesting ways to make you pay for something you did not want or even take.

We recently found a great infographic on Lifehack.com that showed several different tourist scams and how to avoid them. We wanted to share them with you here, over the next few days.

1. Friendship Bracelet

The friendship bracelet scam is when someone will come up to you and offer a friendship bracelet. They will try to put one on your wrist as if you’re their new best friend, and want you to share in their feelings of warmth. If they succeed, they will demand payment even if you had refused in the first place, and make a scene if you refuse.

2. The Shoe Shiner

Shoe shine

Shoe shine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Someone will drop their shoe shining brush in front of you and begin to shine your shoe. Afterward, they’ll demand payment for the big favor they did for you. This happened to me in Chicago during a visit — a shoe shiner started cleaning my shoe and then demanded I pay him. I gave him a dollar so there wasn’t a hassle, and I left with one shoe shinier than the other.

3. Woman Selling Rosemary

Rosemary is supposedly a sign of friendship, so an offer of rosemary is like the friendship bracelet scam we mentioned earlier. If a woman offers you rosemary, be aware that she might try to read your fortune. After that, she’ll expect to be paid for her services, and will loudly express her displeasure if you refuse.

4. A Rose for your Girlfriend

If someone were to sell you a rose in front of your girlfriend and you said no, you might have a very upset girlfriend later. Rose sellers are counting on this. The problem is that these roses are extremely overpriced. Once you touch the rose, the’ll demand payment for their single rose. This scam is common at restaurants especially ones with outside seating.

5. A Free Massage

You are laying at the beach when a man or woman comes over offering to give you a massage. They may start to rub your arm to give you a “sample.” No matter how long they did it, they’ll expect to be paid.

In all of these examples, the scam is not that these things they do or don’t have value, it’s the scene that the scammer will make if you refuse payment. While you might be able to argue that the masseuse or the fortune teller didn’t do anything, it’s the scene they’ll cause that creates the problem. It will attract unwanted attention, and may even bring in the police or anger the crowd. It’s best to just say “no thank you” when approached and keep moving.

But if you get caught, hand the person a few dollars — from a small roll of bills you keep separate from your “main stash” — and move on quickly.

Have you ever seen any of these scams or fallen prey to them? How did they turn out? Let us hear from you in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

Avoid These Common Travel Scams

June 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Benjamin Corey is an author, speaker, and blogger who frequently travels internationally, so he knows part of the travel game is for some locals to try to rip off unsuspecting tourists. He’s always on his guard and knows most travel scams. But after his flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo was delayed by a few hours, he found himself stranded outside the airport without his designated ride.

In a very dangerous area, he was very relieved when a taxi driver called his name and announced himself as the new ride. Turns out, this taxi driver was not his new designated ride at all, and Corey found himself in a life-or-death situation. Corey was able to draw on his years of experience and knowledge to escape the situation unharmed, frightened and embarrassed, but able to see where he went wrong. (It’s an interesting read.)

We were reminded of Benjamin’s story after seeing a Mental Floss article about several different travel scams flogged on unsuspecting tourists. Here are a few of our “favorites,” and how you can avoid them.

    Attention aux PickPockets (dans La Tour Eiffel...

    Attention aux PickPockets (dans La Tour Eiffel) @EiffelTower (Photo credit: dullhunk)

  • The Store Scam: A local starts up a conversation and mentions that his family owns a local store where you can get great deals on local goods. Deals that sound too good to be true (which should be your first clue). When you go to the store, you will be extorted and badgered for everything you have, and the deals aren’t that good to begin with.
  • The Change Scam: Merchants will often try to not give you exact change back, or give you change with incorrect exchange rates. To prevent this, carry small bills/coins or pay with your credit card. This helps you avoid getting shortchanged on the exchange rate as well.
  • The Taxi Scam: The very same scam that Benjamin Corey knew to avoid but still fell victim to. Before getting into cabs, ask if the driver knows the directions and for the ride fee. If he or she cannot answer, the ride is likely not legitimate. Try to only catch cabs in front of an airport or hotel, rather than just flagging one down that “looks like” a cab. If at all possible, arrange for a private driver to pick you up beforehand. Try to get a photo of your driver emailed to you, and ask him or her to confirm with you, even with a simple passphrase, like “John sent me.”
  • The Distraction Scam: You’re walking down the street. Someone bumps into you, spilling their drink or food on you in the process. They apologize and try to help clean you up, or so you think. You were actually just pickpocketed. Keep your money secured on your person, and don’t carry everything with you.
  • The Fake Cop scam: If a cop asks for you to pay a fine on the spot, he’s most likely looking for a bribe. Respond by politely saying you will only pay at a police station. Stick to this answer even if the cop becomes loud and aggressive.
  • The Dropped Ring Scam: A local will say he found a dropped gold ring, which likely isn’t even gold. He will give it to you, then demand a finder’s fee. He may even begin shouting to attract attention in the hopes of embarrassing you into paying. Don’t accept the ring in the first place, and just walk away. Drop it again, if necessary.

In all cases, it’s best to walk away from the situation as soon as you realize what’s going on. Never hand anyone your money, your camera, or any of your belongings. Keep your wallet and money in a secure place. And always take an official taxi; never accept a ride from a local.

How To Avoid Travel Scams

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Is there anything more exciting than the prospect of a sweet deal on an exotic travel package?

As you ponder the many indulgences available on such a dream vacation, who could blame you for losing focus on the more practical aspects of the trip. Scam artists certainly won’t … In fact, they’re counting on it.

Travel Guides

Image by Evil Yoda via Flickr

As with all consumer rip-offs, there are unsavory “travel package” operators out there willing to play on your emotions in order to get into your wallet.

One of the most common travel scams is the cruise or vacation package offer that doesn’t provide complete information until after your payment is secured. Predictably, the “details” include restrictions, exclusions and black-out dates that dramatically reduce the trip’s true value.

The ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) recommends the following precautions when considering travel package offers:

  • Retain a healthy dose of skepticism. Be extremely skeptical about unsolicited e-mail, postcard and phone solicitations saying you’ve been selected to receive a fabulous vacation or anything free. Be especially wary of firms requiring you to wait at least 60 days to take your trip.
  • Do your homework. Some offers might sound great on the surface, but be sure to read the fine-print. Certain offers impose so many restrictions that you will either never have the chance to take the trip or you will end up paying more than had you made the arrangements on your own.
  • Run a “background check.” You should vet the companies from which you purchase travel services. You can do this by checking to see if they are members of ASTA or by researching the company on the Better Business Bureau’s Web site, or at ComplaintsBoard.com or RipoffReport.com.
  • Get the facts. You should receive complete details in writing about any trip prior to payment. Once you have the complete details of your trip, contact the hotel and transportation companies on your own to make certain the reservations have been made.
  • Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. High-pressure sales presentations that don’t allow you time to evaluate the offer, or which require that you disclose your income are red flags to be heeded.
  • Protect yourself. Always pay with a credit card if possible. Even legitimate companies can go out of business. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, credit card customers have the right to refuse paying for charges for services not rendered.

Another proven technique for avoiding travel rip-offs is to use reputable guidebooks (the “Time Out” series is especially informative) to research the techniques commonly used by local scam artists. With a little reading, you’ll be able to quickly identify and avoid shady characters worldwide.