The excitement is palpable as you prepare to set off on other fabulous vacation, leaving routine and familiar surroundings behind for a couple of weeks. We all know that ‘can’t wait’ feeling as we count down the days to departure date. Nothing can stand in our way as we pack and prepare for another memorable voyage of discovery. Checklists ticked off – tickets, passports, visas, insurance, inform the neighbours, all accounts up to date. Awesome! All ready to go, but before you set off, one more thing to consider – How to avoid being scammed on vacation. This is something of which every vacationer should be mindful. In this article, we create awareness, always remembering that crooks never take holidays. Here are four useful tips to keep in mind:
1. Look Out for Bogus Websites
Investigation into vacation scams during 2013 found that 50% of internet surfers were too trusting and ended up being lured-in by bogus copycat websites. These websites look like the real thing and even use clever SEO techniques to ensure high rankings on Google searches. Convinced that they are dealing with a genuine entity, users complete online bookings and happily pay any booking fees. Warning! Never pay so-called ‘administration / initiation fees’ for completing a process you can do by yourself free.
2. Research Thoroughly
When making an online booking, avoid accepting the bona fides of the operation at face value. Before you complete the booking form and pay across money, do your research and satisfy yourself that you are in a good space. A number of claims and advertisements made online are there to convince you of a great bargain.
Search for blogs and online review sites to read other people’s feedback. Everybody likes to make their feelings public because they know it is going to help others avoid making the same mistakes. Always keep in mind that if something sounds too good to be true, it generally is. If it does not feel right, then question it or move on.
3. The Taxi Scam
All of us use taxis at one time or another and there are many legitimate operators offering excellent services. Taxi-fare scams are a world-wide phenomenon and have been around probably as long as the ‘oldest profession’. Some operators are not above taking you for a ride, literally, and then clocking up an absurd fare for what should have been a quick pick-up and drop-off. More often than not, it is the foreign visitor that ends up paying for this vacation scam, simply because they are unfamiliar with their surroundings.
A good way to avoid being fleeced in a taxi is to check what you should expect to pay for a taxi service at the information kiosk in the arrivals hall. When you find an available taxi service, ask the driver what they would charge to get to your specific destination. If it sounds reasonable – and within the guideline tariffs quoted by others – ask the driver to agree to a fixed rate ride as opposed to a metered service. Move to another cab if they refuse. Remember to get a proper receipt for the ride, because this is the proof you are going to need if you discover you were indeed ‘taken for a ride’.
4. Use your Credit/Debit Card to Pay
Most of the people defrauded last year paid with a bank transfer or cash, which left them no means of claiming their money back. A relatively small percentage of those scammed paid by credit or debit card, where some form of redress is open to them. Paying for some or all of your vacation costs by card makes sense, as it means you do not need to carry around a pile of cash to pay your bills.
All well if you use a debit card because you can only use it what you have as positive balance. Credit cards can sneak up on you when you get home and have to face the bills. Remember, the ‘chargeback’ option normally enables your card provider to reverse a transaction if you claim – and can prove – that fraud was involved.
They say that forewarned is forearmed and we hope that you have gained some insights to the highly profitable and serious business of holiday fraud. Other than personal injury, nothing can ruin a holiday more dramatically than being the victim of a crime. Venture safely and enjoy your vacation!