Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
I have written articles about protecting yourself, your belongings, and your home while on vacation and around the holidays. There are many scams out there designed to separate you from your belongings and your money while traveling. I am going to list a few in this article. These scams can happen anywhere but some are locale specific and I will let you know what and where to watch out for them.
The Hot Dog Scam
While walking through an airport in just about any country, be on the look-out for the hot dog scam. Someone will approach you carrying a hot dog bun that will have a packet of mustard in it. This person will squirt the mustard on your clothes and immediately and profusely apologize. You set your things down instinctively, concerned about the mustard and the offender. Meanwhile, an accomplice is gathering up your belongings and running off with them. If this does happen to you, do not put your things down and just keep moving.
The Maradona Scam
This scam can pretty much happen in any country but the primary place it happens is in Bucharest, Romania. This is also known as the fake police scam. While walking the streets of Bucharest, you are approached by an individual who begins talking with you about some reprehensible activity. Then some men dressed as policemen will approach you and accost you for talking with this “known criminal”. The fake police will then ask you for your passport and your wallet after showing you their badges. If approached by these scammers, just refuse and keep on going. The scammers will usually avoid further confrontation with you.
The Found Wallet Scam
Again, this can happen in any country but is recorded as mostly happening in Ukraine, in the city of Kiev. You will see a wallet lying on the ground and when you pick it up to see who it belongs to, a person will approach you and accuse you of stealing it. Of course, there is no money in the wallet and you are then accused of stealing the money. This person will then demand the money that you stole from it. Avoid this scam by not picking up any wallets, even if you are thinking you are being kind in trying to return it.
The Claims of Damage Scam
This is another scam that can virtually happen in any country and is very difficult to avoid. Most, if not all, hotels require a credit card for you to rent a room. When you get your credit card statement, you find out that even more money has been charged from the nefarious hotel. This is a claims of damage. The hotel reports you damaged the room and are being charged for it. The hotel also sends the credit card a photo of a damaged room so it is nearly impossible for you to refute the claim. The way to avoid this is to take daily pictures of your room complete with time stamp, especially when you are leaving to check out.
The Security Checpoint Scam
When in Chinese or European airports, beware of the security checkpoint scam. You will place your valuables on the conveyor to be scanned and suddenly someone will cut in front of you before going through the metal detectors. This person will have metal on them so while they are being searched, someone else is removing your belongings after being scanned. Never take your eyes off of your stuff as it goes on the conveyor.
The Smash and Grab Scam
This is probably the most popular scam and happens mostly in South American countries as well as reports from Malaysia and Hawaii. You will be sitting in your car at a long red light and someone will come up, open your doors and quickly grab whatever valuables you have sitting there like cell phones, purses, etc… They will often also smash your car windows and take your stuff while you are shocked. Make sure your car doors are locked and valuable items are out of sight or hard to get at quickly.
When making travel plans for vacation, make sure to stay at reputable hotels and mind your own business. There are many different type of scams out there so please be prepared for any of them, anywhere, at any time. Also check the interwebs for other traveling scams, especially in the places you plan to visit.
Be safe, protect yourself and your belongings and use traveler’s checks whenever possible. Keep pictures of your passport, bank card and credit cards so you will have a record of these things.
Remember, crime never takes a vacation. Be alert. Be aware.