Five Scams to Avoid When Traveling Abroad

scams traveling overseas bewareOnline and other tech-based travel scams might get a lot of attention these days, but the Better Business Bureau is warning overseas tourists to watch out for certain low-tech, longtime ruses that play upon our learned behavior and lowered-guard while traveling for pleasure.

Consumer Ally recently reported on modern travel scams that work by parting would-be vacationers with "upfront" online payments to reserve a spot on a trip or email solicitations offering accommodations much nicer than what the traveler will actually get when he or she arrives.

Those are the kinds of dangers that can come up before you hit the streets of your chosen destination, no matter where that may be. The Connecticut Better Business Bureau, however, warns about the following five risks to vacationers, especially once they've set foot in a foreign country.
  1. Police Uniform Con: Obeying a person in police uniform is probably hardwired behavior in most people. In this con, crooks take advantage of vulnerable travelers by flashing an official-looking badge and requesting identification. The "police officer," according to the Bureau, then takes off with the wallet or passport.
  2. Flat-Tire Robbery: In some countries, the BBB warns, a "helpful" driver pulls alongside your clearly-stickered rental car -- that's how they mark you as a tourist -- to tell you that your tire has gone flat. Resist the urge to pull over and check, Bureau officials caution, victims of this ploy can find themselves robbed at gunpoint.
  3. Fellow-Traveler-in-Distress Con: A "fellow traveler" tells you that they need money for a ticket home, or to replace a lost passport or claims that they were robbed and haven't anywhere else to turn. Bureau statistics suggest that this is more often than not a scam.
  4. Redirected-Attention Scam: Keep your wits about you if someone spills a drink or food on you, or otherwise captures all your attention during an "accident." This is not isolated to overseas con artists, but it's possibly more effective when you're in an unfamiliar place. While you're dealing with the minor catastrophe, a second player in the con quickly scoops up your handbag, laptop or wallet.
  5. Credit Card Fraud: As a general rule, the BBB cautions card users to refrain from debit and credit purchases while overseas. Stick to travelers' checks when possible. Don't hand over your plastic.
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