Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Worst Travel Scams (and How to Avoid Them)

Every season is scam season and the upcoming holiday vacation season is THE prime time for vacationers to let down their guard and become victims of travel scams. The Getaway Girl®, Casey Wohl, shares some of the worst travel scams out there (and how you can avoid them).

Vacation rental scams

Many people rent vacation homes online through various legitimate websites. Unfortunately, there
are many phony ads on legitimate websites. Scam artists often copy ads for legitimate homes and get unwary vacationers to send money for a home that the scammer doesn't own.

·      The best way to avoid this scam is to merely go online to the tax assessor’s office for the name and address of the owner of the particular property and if they do not match the person to whom you are sending the money, you have a scam.
·      Use Search Engines –With tools like Google Maps, it's easy to find photos of a property and check out the neighborhood.

·      Don't Send Money - Don't pay by money transfer systems like Western Union, or wire money to someone's bank account. Be sure to pay by credit card or PayPal, which enable you to dispute fraudulent charges.

·      Make Some Calls - Before you officially decide to book, give the owner or property manager a call and have a simple conversation with them. Be sure to ask them for references and contact those previous renters to make sure they were pleased with the property or check out reviews linked to Facebook, so a prospective renter is capable checking out reviews from a past renter.

·      Book Direct - To completely avoid scams, it's best to shy away from Craigslist and check out properties from vacation home rental sites like VacationHomeRentals.com, which has over 50,000 reviews written by real guests. Also, the company's Happy Rental Guarantee protects you for up to $10,000 if the home has been foreclosed or is in bankruptcy, if the owner double-books the property, or the property is misrepresented.
·      Suspicious Behavior - Take notice of bad grammar in emails, foreign phone numbers, or if the owner/property manager is not responding to emails. These can all be warning signs.

Third Party Securing Your Credit Card Number
1) Hotel Pizza

You find a flier under your hotel or motel door with an ad for a local pizza restaurant that will deliver
sounds tempting. Unfortunately, it can also be phony and if you provide your credit card number over the phone, you will have just provided your credit card to an identity thief.
Solution: Check out any such offer with the local yellow pages or business directory before considering responding to such ads.

2) Front desk call

You receive a telephone call from the front desk indicating that there was a minor problem with your credit card and that they need to run it again, but that all you need to do is give them the information over the phone. The call is not from the front desk, it is from an identity thief who has checked into the hotel and is making a room to room call (or two).
Solution: Never give this information over the phone because you can never be sure of to whom you are speaking.

Taxi Drivers Scams
Probably the most ubiquitous scams all over the globe. These ripoffs cover
a wide-range of kinds of ripoffs: exorbitant unstated charges; more than
the required time and distance; incorrect change returned, and so on.
Solution: negotiate, negotiate, and negotiate BEFORE you get in the car and have some idea of where you are going (ask concierge) so that you don’t seem like a total tourist.  If possible, ask your hotel to help you book your ground transportation.

Mobile Phone International Roaming Fees
It's no secret that taking your phone overseas can be an expensive decision…I found out the hard way after a trip to Mexico. If you're not careful, you could easily end up with a bill in the thousands of dollars. Even simple voice calls can run upward of $5 a minute when you head out of your home networks.
·      Use Skype
·      Avoid Roaming Charges: When you're headed abroad by all means, bring your phone, just lose the SIM card before you leave. When you get to your destination, pick up a local SIM card for a fraction of the price you'd pay in roaming charges.  Must be able to unlock your phone.
·      Alternatives – have your regular cell # transferred to a local phone.
·      Got stuck with a huge roaming fee bill?  Most companies will allow you to retroactively purchase an international plan. You'll pay a little out of pocket, but the roaming charges will be reduced or erased.  Call your phone provider and explain situation.  If they still don’t budge on the fees, ask to cancel your account.  That usually gets their attention.

Pick Pockets
If it hasn’t happened to you, chances are you have heard stories of thieves pick pocketing
unsuspecting travelers…knowing that travelers are carrying credit cards, money and other important information like passports.
Solution: Clever
Travel Companion's travel clothing
with built in secret pockets that help travelers avoid thefts, loss and
being pick pocketed.
Basically, instead of wearing a (to professional thieves) very visible
fanny pack, neck pouch or money belt, with the Clever Travel Companion's
 gear a travel hides his passport, credit cards and money in a zippered
pocket in their t-shirt, tank top or underwear. That way no pick pocket can
never access their valuables.

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