Even if you are traveling domestically and not to a foreign country, you must not throw caution to the wind and assume nothing bad will happen to you and your family. Travel scammers are on the rise and occur each and every day, I’m sorry to say. Granted, you are more apt to come up against a scammer in the larger cities, but let’s be honest, it can happen anywhere. The only saving grace in a smaller city or town is that pretty much everybody knows who’s a local and who isn’t, so skepticism for someone planning something bad doesn’t go unnoticed. They will get locked up pretty darn fast! So, what do you need to look out for?
Don’t carry a fanny pack. It screams “I’m a tourist.” Don’t make yourself a designated target.
When staying in a hotel don’t order from a menu that’s slipped under the door. When you call in the order they will probably require a credit card up front. You get the charge but the food never arrives.
Don’t wear t-shirts with a destination on the front or back. Again, it screams tourist making you another target.
If at an airport, don’t use the “free” Wi-Fi. They are unsecure and hackers can steal your personal information accessing your air space. Instead pay for a wireless Internet connection.
Don’t take an unlicensed cab. They generally will inflate the price and can even steal your luggage. Since you are unfamiliar with the area, they might take you on the scenic route, again jacking the price up.
It says it’s a free trip! Great right? Wrong! Many times they are just cover-ups to get your credit card information to verify your eligibility. Don’t ever pay to receive a prize.
Need to use an ATM? Be careful. If you can, use ATM’s inside a bank branch. First of all, cautiously enter your PIN number. Don’t let it be seen when you enter the number. You may be watched, have your card stolen and your account drained. Another scam involves rigging the ATM so that it “eats” your card so that when you leave they can retrieve it. That helpful individual who comes up to lend a hand is simply trying to learn your PIN. On the high-tech end of ATM scams, the machine can be fit with a card reader that records your card details and PIN, following the creation of a fake card.
Don’t let your credit card be taken out-of-sight in a bar or restaurant. While out of your view, while they are swiping your card there are capabilities to have a second machine that records the card’s identifying information from the magnetic strip. Usually it’s an inside job.
Don’t be scammed by someone claiming to have run out of gas or their car breaking down close by. Also don’t follow them to where they say their car is located. If you think they are really in trouble, call the police and report it. Otherwise, you could be robbed.
Check out a travel agent before giving them any money. Make sure they are registered with the American Society of Travel Agents. Ever heard of the Better Business Bureau? Use it. Don’t lose your hard earned money to a scamming “travel agent.”
Buyer beware! Always know if there is a cancellation policy before sending any money that’s travel related. Know how much you’ll lose if you have to cancel.
Are there more?
There are many scamming schemes out there and undoubtedly there are new ones that come to light every day. The most important thing is to stay alert, remain cautious, be leery of situations that seem too good to be true, look out for individuals that exhibit suspicious behavior and guard your personal information. Chances are you will never be the brunt of a travel scammer. At least that’s what I hope. And of course, if you are looking for the safety of a smaller city to visit without the worry associated with larger cities, stop in Wilmington and Clinton County in southwest Ohio.
Written by Debbie Stamper, Executive Director of the Clinton County Convention & Visitors Bureau in southwest Ohio