Illustration: Rocco FazzariWhen you’ve saved up for a trip, the last thing you want is to be ripped off. Be aware of common scams and make sure you’re not among the victims.
Some are relatively harmless, like the “bird poo” that lands on your shoe closely followed by a person with a shoe-cleaning kit. Other scams, like bogus accommodation bookings, are much more sinister, costing unsuspecting travellers hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Here are some of today’s most common travel scams and how to avoid them.
The internet security software provider, AVG Technologies AU, says many Australians fall victim to fake websites and holiday prize scams.
A security advisor for AVG, Michael McKinnon, says where there is growth in an area of internet activity, such as holiday bookings, cyber criminals follow.
AVG is detecting a new raft of phishing scams aimed at travel websites and mailing lists, such as email offers for non-existent resorts and holiday packages.
McKinnon warns travellers to be wary of internet pop-ups and unsolicited emails, and to only open information from reputable travel providers. When dealing with a company you haven’t used before, do a Google search to establish its bona fides or, in the case of a small operator, make a phone call.
McKinnon says travellers should also learn to look for a padlock symbol on browsing or payment pages and to look for pages beginning with https://, as the “s” denotes security.
Allianz Global Assistance says fake booking websites have been a common source of travel insurance claims over the past 12 months. The company says travellers should stick to well-known sites and to be wary of offers that seem too good to be true.
While many travellers have found accommodation bargains on overseas listing sites such as Craigslist (craigslist杭州夜网), the internet is full of tales of woe.
A common scam is requesting payment via wire service or an “online escrow service”, most of which are fraudulent, according to Craigslist, which goes on to say you should only deal locally with people you can meet in person, should never wire money, and should never give out any financial information.
It also warns against renting any accommodation without seeing the interior, as it is possible the accommodation is not actually for rent at all.
The corporate affairs manager of AAMI’s personal insurance division, Reuben Aitchison, says booking overseas holiday homes can be risky. In one recent case, the holiday home owner’s website had been hacked, while in another the property had been listed by a bogus letting agent.
In a case in New York, the customer got suspicious and arranged for a friend to visit the address, only to find the apartment they had paid for did not exist.
Aitchison warns travellers to make contact by phone and to try to find reviews or other sources of information about the property.
The insurance provider Cover-More says travellers should also be wary of online coupons, as some travellers have had pre-purchased accommodation coupons rejected by hotels.
The travel insurance provider SureSave says fake police have become a common scam, particularly in Thailand. The executive director of SureSave, Michael McAuliffe, says it is hard to put a number on how many Australians fall victim to such scams, as they often don’t realise they’ve been duped until it is too late, or don’t admit to being a victim.
Typical examples of fake police scams are travellers being given on-the-spot fines for minor “offences” or being accused of crimes they did not commit.
McAuliffe says travellers who find themselves in this situation should check the officer’s identification and try to contact the real police if there is any doubt.
Cover-More says claims for luggage are on the rise – up $2 million over the past 12 months to a total of $13 million (for Cover-More customers alone). The company says Spain, France, Italy and Greece are responsible for large numbers of claims.
AAMI says it is common in Spain for thieves to target cars with foreign number plates and let the air out of one or more tyres.
When the traveller returns to the car, the thieves pose as willing and helpful locals and provide a distraction while an accomplice steals the traveller’s belongings.
Other distractions have involved someone dropping a bag of shopping; travellers being asked to complete a survey; or travellers being told they have bird poo on the back of their jacket.
While they are busy dealing with the distraction, their bags or wallets are leaving the scene.
The travel insurance provider, 1Cover, says travellers should also be wary of taxi drivers.
One Australian couple had to claim for more than $4000 worth of belongings when their taxi driver dropped them outside their hotel in Bali and then sped off with their luggage in the boot.
The best way to limit this risk is to keep valuables such as passports, wallets and cameras in a bag inside the car.
Charging for damages
Allianz Global Assistance says travellers sometimes encounter problems with operators trying to charge them for pre-existing damage to either rental vehicles or hotel rooms.
The company recommends taking photos of any existing damage at the time of hire, and taking it up with the operator straight away.
What travel scams have you come across? What are your tips for avoiding getting ripped off? Post your comments below.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.