Travel Scams: How to Stay Safe When Travelling

frequent travel scams to look out for

Travelling is a gratifying experience as long as you embark on your journey well-prepared. Most of the time, one of the only things that can ruin your vacation is falling prey to a scam. Even though tourists have become accustomed to various frauds and cons and know how to avoid them, digital scams are now just as dangerous and common. Here are some tips to ensure you remain safe.

Public Wi-Fi Eavesdropping

It is common for cybercriminals to set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots in popular tourist areas. Even if they don’t set it up themselves, no one can guarantee that public Wi-Fi is not compromised. A bad actor can monitor network traffic and steal sensitive information. These can include:

  • Login credentials
  • Financial data 
  • Other personal information

Because of this, travellers should avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive activity. To connect to public Wi-Fi safely, consider using a VPN. This software encrypts your data even if you use an unsecured connection and protects your privacy.

Phishing Scams

We're all accustomed to receiving unsolicited emails, text messages, or social media messages. They keep coming even while you travel. Before travelling, you're likely to do research and look for the best deals. That’s why, while travelling, you may receive messages from hotels, airlines, or travel agencies with various updates and offers.

what travel scams should I look out for

However, these can also be scams. Phishing scams involve using a fake profile and posing as a legitimate business to trick unsuspecting victims into clicking malicious links or downloading malicious files. Sometimes, links or files aren’t present, but they will ask you to provide bank details or other sensitive data for unsuspicious reasons. Once the unsuspecting victim does this, their device can be compromised, and their information may be leaked. To avoid this, always double-check the legitimacy of the sender. Treat all unsolicited communications with caution.

Fake Booking Websites

Cybercriminals sometimes create fake travel booking websites to mimic legitimate companies. This is also a common phishing scam, but is more convincing as it doesn’t directly ask you for details. Unsuspecting travellers can easily fall prey to this sort of scam, especially in foreign countries. Once they book fake flights or hotel stays, they will lose their money, and their financial information will also be exposed to criminals to commit even more fraud. To avoid this, always be aware of the websites you visit and verify their URLs. Also, check the reviews before making any bookings.

Free Online Tools

It’s easy to get scammed while using free online tools. For example, travellers might want to use a free VPN to protect themselves while travelling or other software. VPN scams are nasty since they exploit the victim’s sense of security. The person lets their guard down, thinking they are safer now, but actually, their personal information is leaked without them knowing it.

travel scams to look out for

Even if your free VPN provider isn’t fake or malicious, free online tools generally do not have the same level of protection and transparency as paid ones. Always opt for a premium VPN provider or other software that offers the type of online tools you need to ensure your safety and proper functionality.

ATM Skimming

ATMs are usually safe, but depending on where you travel, ATM scams might be more common than in other areas. ATMs might have hidden card skimmers or cameras installed, which can be used to steal your card information and PIN. It’s crucial always to inspect the ATM for any signs of tampering. To take extra precautions, try to use ATMs located inside banks or reputable establishments. Regularly check your bank statements as you travel and when you’re back home for any suspicious activity. If you were scammed, contact your bank immediately and inform them of the situation.

Rental Car Scams

Nothing is as comfortable as renting a cool car to explore new places while on vacation. However, you always have to take good care of the vehicle unless you want to pay additional fees for property damage. In some instances, rental car companies can claim you damaged the vehicle during the rental period to extract more money from you. This is a heinous scam, and the best way to avoid it is to use only reputable rental car companies and take pictures of the car’s condition before and after usage.

What about you, what kind of travel scams have you encountered? Feel free to share any tips & advice below!

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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