Losing your passport and being scammed are two of the worst-case scenarios that can happen while you’re traveling. But sadly, those incidents aren’t uncommon, particularly in countries plagued by high crime rates. Tourists and travelers are the favorite targets of criminals, because they’re unfamiliar with the country’s language and customs, making them more gullible.
Even experienced travelers can find themselves the unfortunate victim of a scam. Hence, if you’re a novice in backpacking, you have to be even more careful. Interacting with a country’s locals may be your trip’s main goal, but there’s no way to tell who’s trustworthy and who’s not until it’s too late.
But being too detached isn’t very helpful either. If you’re often by yourself when you explore unfamiliar territories, a lurking criminal may recognize that pattern and take advantage of it. So as much as possible, employ the buddy system when you’re going abroad.
That said, here’s how to avoid being victimized by a travel scam, and what to do if you’re still bested:
1. Be Wary of Deals Too Good to be True
Travel scams usually start with an illegitimate company sending emails about their so-called deals. They may claim that you can have access to a certain vacation club by paying a fee, for example. But once you pay, you’d find that the perks you’re supposedly entitled to enjoy are nothing special, and are no different from the usual deals you’d find online for free.
This specific scam is one of the biggest known travel scams. The perpetrators pose as someone from a wholesale travel club, luring travelers who might want to gain access to an exclusive vacation club. According to Christopher Elliot, author of the book “Scammed”, he’d never come across a legitimate travel club. So if you receive an email from someone claiming to be a member of such a club, ignore it or report the sender. If you’re already outwitted and you’ve paid, make sure you still have receipts of your email exchange, you that the authorities can trace the sender.
2. Don’t Fall for “Travel-Agent” Card Mills
Another big travel scam is the travel-agent card mill, wherein a scammer promises to issue you a travel agent ID, which would give you discounts to hotels and airfares. They’d charge you hundreds of dollars, only to give you a fake ID.
Keep your wits about you if you encounter a travel agent card “seller”. If you’re not a travel agent, you can’t pretend to be one — it’s as simple as that. There’s no legal excuse to pose as a travel agent just so you could get discounts. The only way out of this trouble is to avoid it in the first place.
3. Only Book Hotels From Reputable Booking Sites
Tourists and travelers love booking sites because of the discount vouchers they always have available. However, some travelers refuse to book until they find the cheapest price — which can come from a fake booking site.
The convenience of search engines can make many travelers inattentive when looking for hotels. They’d simply type a keyword and click the site which matches the keyword best. Worse, the websites they clicked on can look legitimate, with official-looking photos and all.
Luckily, it’s easy to avoid a booking scam. If you’re looking for an affordable hostel with private rooms, for instance, go straight to a reputable, well-known booking site, or book directly from the source. It’s better to pay a little higher than risk being cheated.
4. Get The Contact Details of Your Embassy Abroad
Before your flight, get the address and contact details of your country’s embassy abroad. It is the first place you should go to if you lost your passport to theft or neglect. If it has been stolen, file a police report to confirm the incident. However, this isn’t necessary. It can slow down the progress of the issuance of your new passport.
Take a new passport photo in advance if you can. Arriving at the embassy without a passport photo can also delay the process. After taking your photo, fill out two forms, which are the application for a new passport, and a statement regarding your lost or stolen passport. Note that submitting these forms immediately voids your passport. So even if you found it, later on, you still can’t use it to come back to your home country.
Hence, protect your passport when you’re abroad. Ideally, you should take it with you wherever you go. Leaving it in your hotel room makes it more vulnerable to theft. And on that note, don’t take traveling lightly, even if it’s meant to be fun. Make safety and security your priority on every trip. Being a victim of a crime abroad can leave life-long impacts, so don’t wait for the worst to happen before exercising caution.