Avoiding common travel scams


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Avoiding common travel scams

A target and a scam warning sign

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It’s unfortunate, but tourists are often the targets of scams. Scammers love to target travellers, simply because they may not be familiar with an area or how things are done.

This activity will make you aware of some common scams, and how to hopefully avoid them.

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eSafety tip

If you ever need urgent help overseas, use your mobile device to visit the government’s Smart Traveller website at smartraveller.gov.au and tap the URGENT HELP button. You can then see lots of options for help, such as if you are the victim of a crime, or you need urgent consular assistance.

The Fake travel agent scam

There are a few variations of this scam, but the result is that you end up paying some (or even a lot) of money and don’t get a trip.

To make sure an agent is legitimate, the best way is to visit their shopfront in a major shopping centre. If you can’t visit, search for reviews online, but be suspicious if there are only a few, very positive reviews as they may be fake.

Always call an agent and speak to someone before clicking a Pay Now button, just to be sure.

A scammer on a laptop
An online hotel review

The "Too good to be true" hotel scam

A hotel might use a legitimate website such as TripAdvisor to advertise its service, but put up fake or doctored photos to make it seem better than it is.

Then it offers rooms, or even a suite, at a low price. It seems too good to be true... because it is. When you arrive, the hotel will be dirty or out-of-the-way and your room won’t resemble the photo at all.

Always check reviews of a hotel online before booking, and if you use an agent, ask them to research the hotel on your behalf. They know how to ask the hard questions.

The Photo scam

When you arrive at a famous landmark, a friendly local will offer to take your photo. Just for fun!

However, once they've taken the photo, they may demand money and, if you refuse, they may even follow you or complain loudly that you are ripping them off.

The best advice is to firmly refuse any offer of photography in the first place.

A scammer offering to take a photo

The Taxi scam

There are lots of taxi scams, especially in countries or cities that don’t have taxi regulation or licensing.

One common scam is for the taxi driver to start driving to your destination and then apologise that the meter is broken. This lets the driver charge you whatever price they want when you arrive.

Before entering the taxi, insist that the driver show you that the meter is working. If it isn’t working, wait for a taxi that has a working meter.

A scammer driving a taxi
A scammer driving a car

The Shopping detour scam

A taxi or shuttle bus service might offer you a transfer to your hotel or a tourist site for a very reasonable fixed price.

However, instead of driving straight to your destination, the bus will stop at a local shopping centre or market, and the driver will ask you to spend a little time browsing for amazing deals.

This scam keeps working because these places often sell fake designer products, and many tourists actually like them.

You can avoid this scam by only using pre-booked transfer services or airline/airport shuttle buses. It can be worth paying a little extra to avoid the bother.

Dealing with beggars

It's a good idea to resist beggars who offer trinkets and souvenirs for low prices. These people take business from traders in the local area, which can lead to more homelessness. Opening your wallet in open spaces can also attract more unwanted attention and puts you at risk of being pickpocketed.

A pick pocket
An angry local demanding payment

The Temple fee scam

In this scam, as you enter a famous temple or archaeological site, an angry local will rush up and demand you pay an entrance fee.

This is almost always a scam. Some sites do require that you pay admission, but you will need to go through a gate, and get a ticket and receipt.

If someone appears from nowhere demanding you pay a fee, simply ignore them.

Extending your stay in a hotel: What you should know

This final example is not a scam, but something to be aware of. If you have booked a hotel under a special online rate, that rate may no longer apply if you decide to extend you stay.

For instance, if you purchased five nights for a price of $1,000, and decide to stay a sixth night, you may be asked to pay the so-called rack or walk-in rate, perhaps another $300.

You can usually negotiate a better price by reminding them that you’ve already spent quite a bit of money at their hotel.

A hotel worker confirming the nightly rate

Well done!

You’ve completed the Avoiding common travel scams activity. Now that you’ve learned about some everyday tricks and scams, avoiding them should be easier.

Next up, if you have registered and are logged into the Be Connected website, you’ll now be able to take a short quiz to finish the course. If you're not registered, you are now at the end of the Getting ready to travel safely course.

A scam warning and a thumbs up