How Can I Avoid Scams While Traveling?

Vacation is something we all look forward to!  Do you visualize spending time on the beach, taking a relaxing stroll, or visiting a popular tourist attraction?

The goal on vacation is usually to have fun, relax, and refresh.  One thought that’s probably not at the top of your mental list (after booking hotels, flights, and cars; packing, and gathering necessary documents) is that it’s during a vacation, when you’re relaxed and off-guard, that you can become vulnerable to scam artists.

Tourists make great targets for scam artists because they can be easy to spot. Some of the objects tourists are most likely to travel with are cameras (around the neck), folded maps, fanny packs and even matching clothes. Protect yourself by blending in with the locals.  Some quick research on the internet about your destination city can provide you with enough information to get you started.

Once you have arrived, here are some top travel scams you want to be on the lookout for:

1. Credit Card Confusion – You’re relaxing late at night in your hotel room after a long day. The phone rings, and the clerk at the desk explains there has been a mix-up on your paperwork and credit card number information.  They would like to read the credit card number to you to verify that it’s correct.  They provide you with the last 4 digits of your card number and ask you to verify that it’s correct (it won’t be).  After you explain the number is incorrect, they sound confused and ask you to read back the entire number. Once you read the entire card number they claim to have found the form and all is well. You’ve just been scammed!

What to Do When The Phone Rings:

  • Never give your credit card information over the phone from your hotel room. 
  • Go downstairs to the hotel registration desk in person should any “questions” arise in regards to your reservations or payment details. 

2. Taxi Cab Scam – You’re standing in the hotel’s official taxi line waiting. Suddenly you hear “taxi?” and turn to see a nicely dressed person motioning for you to leave the line. You notice the 15 people waiting in front of you and think bypassing the line might be a good idea; after all, you’re in a hurry!

Do not take the offer! Scam artists are known for posing as taxi drivers. Accepting a ride risks more than your wallet, and you might become a victim.  Once you are in the car, these con artists may take you to a deserted area and then assault and/or rob you of your luggage, money and other valuables.

What to Do If Approached:

  • All official taxis should have the car number and company plainly visible on the outside. Check for it – if you don’t see it, don’t accept a ride.
  • Visibly examine the rate “sheet” and/or the meter when you get into the car. This may keep the driver from getting any ideas about hiking up the per mile rate after you’ve started toward your destination. 
  • If you’re unsure about where and how to catch a proper taxi, check with your hotel concierge for a recommendation.

3. Helping Hand – Walking in a crowded tourist attraction, you suddenly find you’ve been bumped and food or drink spilled on your clothes. The kind stranger who jostled you offers to lend you a helping hand to clean up. While helping you, the stranger also helps him or herself to your wallet. 

What to Do:

  • Stay alert in a crowd! Any attempt to divert your attention or jostle you should be treated as a pick pocketing attempt.
  • Divide up any money that you are carrying between your pockets, socks, shirt, wallet and any other areas you can think of. It is unlikely that a thief will be able to reach all the different areas where your money is stored should you be targeted. 

4. The Deal of a Lifetime – This one may happen prior to departure!  These scam artists will offer you hotel or other accommodations in a travel hot spot for a ridiculously low price. The goal is to relieve you of your money as quickly as possible. To do this, they might offer you a “bonus” or a “prize” for purchasing. Typically the prizes sound great, but are not as advertised.  

What to Listen For:

  • Time sensitive Offer – “only good for next few minutes…”
  • Warnings - “you can’t tell anyone about this!” or “only one package is available...”
  • Verbal pauses - “ahs” and “ums”
If you are approached, do not agree to purchase without first verifying that the company is legitimate. In the U.S., you can do this by inquiring about the company’s liability Insurance. Any legitimate company should have liability insurance. If not, it should be a red flag that things aren’t on the up and up. Remember, if a trip seems too good to be true, offers too many prizes or bonuses or is below market cost, then it probably isn’t a legitimate offer.

If possible, use a credit card when paying for your tickets, hotel, car rental and attraction fares. This ensures you can dispute any charges if you do get scammed without actually being out money from your bank account.


US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA)
UStiA is a national association of insurance carriers, third-party administrators, insurance agencies and related businesses involved in the development, administration and marketing of travel insurance and travel assistance products.