New tricks and old favorites in the second part of our travel scams special: Internet Scambusters #651
We promised you there'd be more -- and this week we have a further batch of travel scams that crooks have lined up for unwary tourists.
Some of them are brand new but we've also reserved space for certain long-established con tricks that are seeing a resurgence this year.
And however they work, they all aim to steal either your money or your luggage.
Now, here we go...
Heads Up for 10 More Travel Scams
As promised, we have another batch of travel scams this week to add to last week's collection, Just in Time for Vacations: 7 Latest Travel Scam Alerts.
It's interesting to note how many of them involve transport or street-based tricksters -- but all go to prove that when you're on vacation or traveling on business, you can never let your guard down.
Take the Bus
In Thailand, at a railway terminal, a local offers to help you buy your tickets.
The scammer then announces that the train service you need is fully booked.
But all is not lost; you can take a tour bus instead.
Of course, the local is just hustling for a local tour bus company.
Action: Get your own tickets or ask for help at the station booking office.
Hang on Tight
At many resorts all over the world, you'll find street scammers inviting tourists to compete in a challenge for a cash prize. Often, they have an accomplice who makes it look easy.
In Southern Portugal, tourists are invited to hang from a large metal bar that rolls back and forth along a couple of rails.
You pay 10 euros for the challenge. If you can hang on tightly for a minute, you get 100 euros.
But guess what? It's impossible. You'd be better off just handing the money over and saving the skin on the palms of your hands!
Con Artist Artist
Another common scam, seen on the streets of New York this year but also popular in many resorts, is the rapid draw artist who offers to sketch your portrait for $5 in just a few minutes.
Only five bucks. How bad could it be?
Pretty bad, as it turns out.
Some of these fast-draw characters have no artistic skill at all and their work has no resemblance to the subject. In fact, many of their sketches look remarkably similar to each other -- a real one-horse trick.
But if you paid upfront as you're usually asked to, you won't get your money back.
Push Me and I'm Off!
Tourists and business travelers in the Philippines are being targeted with a simple but effective ruse by bogus taxi drivers.
Some of these vehicles, known locally as "colorums," can often be spotted around airports and may actually take you to your destination.
But they're unregistered and unlicensed.
However, other users could find themselves on the receiving end of a scam in which the driver feigns a breakdown and asks passengers to get out and give them a push to restart.
But as soon as the victims get round the back of the vehicle, the driver shoots away, with all their luggage in the trunk.
As with all airports, go to the official taxi line or area for your ride.
Another taxi trick, this time seen in the U.S., involves switching victims' cards when they pay for their ride.
The driver takes the card into the front of his cab and swipes it for the fare payment, than "returns" a similar looking card, which may be stolen or a simple fake, to the passenger.
He can then use the victim's card to make purchases.
So, always check that you got your own card back from the driver in this situation.
Expensive Ticket to Ride
In the U.S and, most recently, London's Oxford Street in Britain, rickshaw cyclists -- or "pedicab" operators as they call themselves -- offer short trips around tourist locations.
Exploiting the fact that many tourists don't understand exchange rates, they're often a big rip-off.
But to make things worse, in the London case this year, some of the rickshaw cyclists post what seems to be a relatively low rate on their vehicle; they don't tell victims that this is the rate per person per minute.
We reported on this in New York last year but in a new case, four Spanish tourists in London were each charged five British pounds per minute -- that is 20 pounds a minute.
The ride took 20 minutes so the final bill was 400 pounds - about $625 USD!
Don't get taken for a ride if you plan a pedicab trip. Make sure you know in advance exactly what it will cost.
Old Favorites Pop Up Again
Among the many other travel scams we've reported in the past, three are seeing a lot of exposure this season.
* In China and other parts of southeast Asia, scammers posing as students ask tourists to help them practice their English. They lure their victims into a coffee or tea shop where they're eventually presented with a huge bill.
Politely decline these requests and walk away.
* The distraction ruse in which a scammer "spills" a liquid on the tourist's clothes and an accomplice picks the victim's pocket or purse while they're cleaning up.
This scam is extremely common in many countries. Secure your wallet and other valuables before you do anything else.
* Worthless timeshare deals are again hitting media headlines.
Attendees at hotel presentations are being persuaded to part with several thousand dollars on the promise that they can take four weeks' vacation at locations all over the world.
But the locations turn out to be fully booked when victims try to secure them.
At all costs, resist the temptation to sign up on the spot for any timeshare deal.
The top tip for this and so many other travel scams is: Do your research before parting with any money.
Alert of the Week
Finally, according to a report on the popular travel website TripAdvisor, some U.S. and European tourists who've booked hotels from online booking agencies have subsequently received emails supposedly from their hotels asking them to send full payment upfront.
The messages are pretty convincing with all the correct details including the booking reference numbers -- which suggests either the agencies or hotels concerned have been hacked.
The giveaway is that victims are asked to send a money wire payment, which few if any genuine hotels ever do.
Before making any payment, even by card or check, independently double-check any such request with the booking agency and hotel.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!
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