Travel Scams To Beware Of

These travel scams are all too common. But it’s not hard to protect yourself from getting ripped off–just be prepared, careful and aware of the most frequently used tricks.

Phantom Admission Tickets

One of the dirty tricks in the travel scam catalogue is bogus tickets to special events, in particular big games and sold-out concerts. It comes in two forms: paying cash for tickets that don’t exist and purchasing event travel packages that do not include tickets to the actual event. In some cases, eager fans have paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars for seats that don’t physically exist in the stadium or concert hall.

Unscrupulous Parking Valets

From pocketing small change to pilfering laptops and jewelry, parking valets at hotels, restaurants and other establishments can have very sticky fingers. They’ve also been known to park cars in red zones and other street areas subject to tickets or towing. Always stash your valuables in the trunk or take them with you. And if it’s not obvious your vehicle is headed straight into a garage, ask where it’s being parked before you hand over the keys.

Unsecure Airport Security Areas

Your fellow passengers are the threat at airport security areas, especially those on the lookout to lift other people’s iPods, cellphones and laptops. Some terminal crooks work solo, others in tandem. Avoid the risk by keeping an eye on your personal items all the way down the X-ray belt and insisting that your luggage accompany you for any secondary screening.

“Free” Vacations with Hidden Costs

Your mother should have told you that there’s no such thing as a free meal, and that goes with holidays too. But the temptation remains, those enticing offers that arrive on the office fax machine or over the Internet. They look too good to be true because they are. Ball-up and toss those faxes in the nearest trash can.

Hotels’ Unlikely Locations

Just because an establishment calls itself an “airport hotel” doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near the airport. The same goes for “beach hotels” that are nowhere near the shore and “close to the city center” hotels that are out in the sticks. Before you book, run the address through MapQuest or Google Earth, or check out a guidebook to see exactly where the hotel is situated.

Hotel Room ID Theft

Crafty crooks have learned that one of the easiest places to harvest data necessary to steal someone’s identity is a hotel room. Never leave anything lying around that may contain personal information. Just like any other valuable (passport, cash, jewelry, etc.) lock those documents in the room safe or your luggage.

Knockoffs That Could Knock You Off

Counterfeit Gucci bags or Michael Bolton CDs may not be harmful to your health (well, Bolton might be), but a growing number of counterfeit products could be. Among the cheap but dangerous fakes being offered gullible travelers are drugs laced with everything from motor oil to paint, electronics that can explode or catch fire, and phony luxury brand shampoo and perfumes full of bacteria. And that doesn’t even get into the whole topic of the fines that are now being levied on travelers for trying to sneak counterfeit items back into their home countries.

Crafty Money Changers

Money changing scams can range from minor annoyances like inflated airport commissions and lousy hotel rates to more serious troubles like receiving wads of banknotes that are no longer in circulation or money changers who literally take your money and run. The lines might be a little bit longer, but good old-fashioned banks often offer the best rates and the safest ambiance. Although, one could argue that ATM fees and debit card currency exchange fees are yet another twist on this travel scam.

Taxis That Take You For a Ride

Cabbies can tell a rookie a mile away–someone who’s fresh off the boat (or plane or train) and has no idea where they are in relation to where they might want to travel by taxi. Scams can run from “forgetting” to turn on the meter to taking a much longer route than necessary from pick-up to final destination. Avoid the ride from hell by sticking to certified hotel or airport taxies. When that’s not possible, try to follow your route on a map and question your cabbie about why he or she is taking a way that may not seem logical.