Insurance Blog

Posted: 06/27/20233,852 Views

Taking a vacation to another country gives you the opportunity to experience different scenery and a different culture, but it can also expose you to different risks. Scammers exist in every country in the world, and tourists who know little about their surroundings can be easy targets.

If you fall victim to one of these common vacation scams, you could easily be out hundreds or thousands of dollars. Here are some of the main scams to look out for, and what you can do to avoid becoming a victim.

Fake Hotel and Resort Listings

We all want to find the best deals possible for vacation accommodations. So, when you see an online ad or website that seems to offer a better price than everyone else, it’s only natural to want to book a reservation. But you have to be careful. You may arrive at your destination and find out you’ve been scammed.

Numerous fraudulent websites list fake hotel rooms in popular vacation destinations. The pictures might be real, and the listing might be for a hotel that exists or is under construction. But if you show up and try to check in, you’ll find out that you’ve given all your money to a scammer, and you have no room booked at all. These same scams are common with vacation rentals.

To avoid this, always make sure you’re booking through a legitimate website. Stick to big-name platforms, and make sure to check the URL to ensure you’re on the real website. Do your research about the hotel or resort, and use your common sense. If something seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

Taxi Scams

In some countries, taxicabs are still much more popular than rideshare services, and they don’t have the best reputation for honesty. Some drivers may swear that their meter is broken, only to demand an exorbitant price once arriving at your destination. Others may purposefully take a much longer route than necessary to run up the meter. A popular scam lately is for drivers in Mexico to state that a trip will cost 100 pesos, which is about five US dollars, only to demand $100 at the destination. 

Your best bet is to book a taxi through your hotel or resort’s front desk whenever possible. They can help you steer clear of unlicensed taxis that are more likely to scam you. Regardless of how you choose a taxi, make sure you have a clear understanding of the price before you get in. If the driver is combative or won’t provide a clear answer about what the cost will be, choose a different cab.

Card Skimming at ATMs

Although this scam occurs everywhere, you’re more likely to fall victim on vacation, as you won’t be as familiar with ATM locations. The scam is quite simple, and you won’t even know it’s happened to you until it’s too late. You’ll insert your card to withdraw cash from an ATM, only to have your confidential information stolen by a skimming device attached to the machine’s card reader. By the time you’ve found out what’s happened, the scammers may have drained your bank account. 

These skimming devices are almost always attached to standalone ATMs that aren’t located in banks. So, the best defense is to be proactive. If you need cash to go out that night, find a bank and use the ATM inside to withdraw your cash during the day. ATMs near bars, restaurants, and entertainment districts that often get used late at night are the ones that are most likely to have skimming devices attached. 

Bar & Club Scammers

This scam starts innocently enough. You’ll be blowing off some steam at a local bar or dance club when a stranger or two strikes up a conversation with you. You’ll start having some drinks together, and before long, they’ll be convincing you to barhop across town with them. Sounds great, right?

The problem is, these new “friends” of yours are actually charging your card for each drink, and they may even be in cahoots with local bartenders who are adding a few zeros to the bill. At the end of the night, your jaw may drop at the sight of a bar tab that extends well into the thousands, and you’re expected to pay. And those new friends? They’ll be long gone by then. 

There are a few ways you can avoid this. For one, keep your wits about you and don’t over-imbibe. It’s easy to get taken advantage of when you’re inebriated. You can also insist on paying cash for each drink as you go. This way, the bartender won’t have a card to charge anyone else’s drinks to. 

The “Lost Passport” Scam

This one gets a lot of travelers, because the scammer is usually the same nationality and speaks the same native language as the victim, creating a false sense of trust.

It usually works like this: You’ll be walking the street of your destination when a person appearing to be a fellow tourist grabs your attention. They’ll swear to you that they’ve lost their passport or wallet, and just need a little bit of money to get a new one, some food, and a place to stay for the night. As they’ll likely have quite a story to tell you about how it all happened, they can seem very convincing. 

But in reality, they’re only trying to scam you. They’ve probably given this same story to dozens of other tourists today, and their only goal is to get as much cash as possible from good Samaritans. 

Luckily, there is a way you can offer help to these individuals. Have the phone number and address of your country’s local embassy written down, and offer to give the person that information. If they’re truly stranded abroad, they’ll appreciate the help. And if they’re a scammer, at least you won’t lose any money to them.

Buy Travel Insurance for Extra Protection

Falling victim to a scam can cost you a lot of money; but so can a travel mishap. The difference is, sometimes travel mishaps are unavoidable. The best thing you can do is prepare for them with the right travel insurance.

A travel medical insurance plan for your vacation can protect your bank account in case you get sick or injured during your trip. The domestic health insurance you have in your home country probably won’t be accepted abroad. You’ll want to make sure you can get necessary medical treatment without getting stuck with an unaffordable bill. Travel medical insurance can provide you with a way to get the best available care for a predictable price. 

US residents traveling abroad or domestically on vacation can benefit from trip cancellation insurance. It can reimburse you for your prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses like hotels and airfare if you have to cancel your trip for a covered reason. It can also provide coverage for emergency medical care, lost luggage, travel delays, and other important benefits depending upon the plan you choose.

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