10 Most Common Travel Scams

10 Most Common Travel Scams

Published: September 9, 2022 | Last Updated: May 30, 2023

Whether you're embarking on the trip of a lifetime as a gap year student, or travelling abroad for work purposes, you need to be fully aware of all travel safety and security risks you could be faced with. As travel safety training providers, we think it's crucial that you familiarise yourself with some of the most common travel scams that you could face. Travel scams can be extremely hard to spot, so it's best to know which scams can happen abroad in the country you’re travelling to, and how to avoid falling for one.

1. Timeshare and holiday club scams

Scammers will often sell you a dream and deliver a nightmare when it comes down to purchasing a timeshare. You should always properly research the developer you’re purchasing from and the laws that apply in the country where it's located. Once tied to timeshare payments, it's difficult to remove yourself. Scammers will often promise a pain-free re-sell of your share for an upfront fee, then take your money and run.

2. Multi-Level marketing scams

Whilst you may have heard of Multi-level marketing schemes (or MLMs) before, some scammers are using a clever and despicable take on this by incorporating holidays. They will continue taking ongoing payments from customers in exchange for ‘upgrades’ or even just to cover the cost of the holiday itself, regardless of whether the full payment has already been made. More times than not, this is for a holiday which doesn’t exist at all. Scammers will also encourage victims to invite their friends and families to join through the promise of added bonuses.

3. Internet search scams

Those looking to catch people out online will do this through the use of their phone number being published on what seems to be a legitimate site. Customers then call what they believe to be the correct number and are directed to unofficial call centres, then charged extortionate prices for non-refundable tickets/goods, and often delivered false promises with little course of action to reverse their mistakes. If you’re looking to purchase a holiday package online, you should make sure that you’re doing so through a reputable retailer.

4. Taxi Scams

Taxi scams are the most efficient way for scammers to take money subtly, especially from those who don't know the area well. They take a less direct route to your desired destination to increase the fee, measured by the distance travelled during the journey. Google maps and other developments. However, have begun to make it easier for a gap year or corporate business traveller to find the most direct route, avoiding this form of subtle taxi scam.

5. ‘Incorrect Change’ and Currency Exchange Scams

Scammers in countries with unfamiliar currency will tend to use this form of scam the most. Scammers will often attempt to trick travellers into believing they are paying with the wrong bill or short-change them when buying goods. It’s a good idea to properly research the currency before you visit a country, in order to understand the bills and coins in use properly. 

Those looking to scam people when it comes to currency exchange will do so by convincing them that investing with them will gain them a higher profit in the trading of foreign exchange. It's best to go with a trustworthy currency exchange retailer when purchasing foreign currency. You could also consider converting currency with your bank before travelling, as these scam currency exchanges are commonplace throughout Central Europe.

6. Ticket scams

These scams often take place outside major tourist attractions and venues. Scammers will offer a discounted price on tickets to allow people to jump the line. However, these tickets are either fake or expired when you go to use them. In order to prevent this, you should always ensure you are purchasing directly from the venue rather than from a scalper or ticket reseller, as because of how easy it is, this will always come with a chance of being scammed.

7. ‘Attraction closed’ scams

Scammers looking to profit from these scams will alert you that the attraction is closed and direct you to another venue where you will be pressured into spending more money. The best way to avoid falling victim to this scam is to check official websites, or at an official ticket booth, especially if you have pre-booked tickets through a legitimate website. It’s never a good idea to trust a stranger, especially if they are trying to get you to do something, no matter how innocuous it may seem at the time.

8. ‘Free item’ scams

Many see the positives in any situation and fall for ‘free item’ scams. Scammers frequently approach travellers with promises of free items. This could include food, drink, souvenirs or even something as simple as having your photo taken! They are offered as a free service, but you will be hassled and threatened into paying for it after the fact. If you refuse to pay for it, the scammers could potentially attack you or put you in a dangerous situation. It’s never easy to ascertain exactly what someone might do, so the best plan of action is to use Situational Awareness to avoid these kinds of circumstances.

9. Credit card-skimming scams

This is a scam that can take place with absolutely zero interaction with the traveller. Machines and handheld devices are becoming a more popular way to clone cards and steal information from individuals. These devices also appear on Cash Points and in petrol stations. Scammers will place an almost invisible, high-tech cloning device onto the front of an ATM or cash point, which will copy the details from your card, allowing scammers to duplicate it later. It’s important to educate yourself on the types of devices and locations scammers will use to achieve this before using cash machines whilst travelling.

10. Public Wi-Fi network scams

Free wifi in public places is absolutely brilliant for those travelling with a restricted or non-existent data roaming plan. But it is important to be wary of connections that could steal personal information such as bank details and medical information. Avoid logging onto anything that would display this information whilst using public Wi-Fi, or better yet, use a VPN to protect your data whilst using open or public networks as this will shield your data by encrypting it.

The Importance of Situational Awareness

The single most important weapon you can hope to have in your arsenal isn’t anything physical, but rather it’s the principles and skills of situational awareness, which is being aware of all that’s going on around you at any given time. We incorporate these themes into all of our training courses, whether you’re a journalist heading into hostile environments, travelling with your family or travelling for business and in need of first aid or self-defence training to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Situational Awareness Training From the Experts

ATR are specialist travel awareness and safety training providers. We provide a mixture of scenario-based training exercises to help you prepare for a trip. We help all types of individuals embarking on trips abroad for leisure or work, from gap year students to lone workers and journalists heading to hostile environments. 

It’s important to prepare yourself for your trip properly, by understanding any threats and risks to keep yourself safe and make sure your holiday stays fun. To find out how to prepare for an upcoming trip, read our handy guide here.