Travel scams are unfortunately all too common these days. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of scammers is to be aware of the tricks they use to confuse and deceive people and to make sure anyone you’re travelling with knows what to look out for too.
1. Airport security confusion
As you go through security, there is usually lots of commotion and sometimes the scammers work in pairs to distract you from your belongings. In the process, they steal your laptop, wallet and valuables from the conveyor belt.
Tip: Be sure to keep an eye on your belongings until you walk through security and keep an eye on them after they go through the machine.
2. The rigged scale scam
Not every airport in the world is trustworthy and some have dodgy staff members who try to rip off unsuspecting travellers. Check-in attendants sometimes won’t reset the scale before they weigh your bag, meaning you suddenly have a bag that appears as if it weights more than it really does and end up paying huge excess baggage fees which they pocket themselves.
Tip: Always make sure the scale is set to zero before placing your bag on it.
3. Bullets in the bag
Last year, airport workers in Manila were found to be dropping bullets into the bags of unsuspecting passengers. Since carrying ammunition is a crime, they were able to force people into paying them bribes and fake fines to avoid charges.
Tip: Travel with a hard shell suitcase without any pockets on the outside, or wrap your luggage in cling wrap to keep it secure.
4. Security gate thieves
Working in pairs, one scammer will hold up the line in front of you while your bag is on the conveyer belt going through the security screening. While your bag goes through ahead of you, the person on the other end picks it up and takes it with them before you’ve cleared security.
Tip: Keep your eyes on your bag at all times or ask the person working at the security gate to hold your bags until you’ve gone through.
5. Pick pockets
Airports are busy and crowded, making them the perfect place for pick pockets to strike. Baggage carousel and security lines are prime spots for people to ‘accidentally’ bump into you and take your wallet without you realising.
Tip: Keep your phone and wallet secure in your bag and make sure it’s always zipped shut. If you’re travelling with a partner, make sure you both keep an eye on each other and hold onto your belongings if anyone bumps into you or randomly stops you for a conversation.
6. Fake wi-fi
Scammers have been known to set up wi-fi networks marked as ‘free’ at airports and then steal all your info once you’ve logged on.
Tip: Research the name of the airports wi-fi before you connect, or ask a staff member for help. Turn off any file sharing applications you have open before connecting to the wi-fi and disconnect once you’re done.
7. Airport taxi scams
Its’ always best to get a taxi from the official taxi queue at the airport, but sometimes not even these drivers can be trusted in some countries. Some are unlicensed or will demand a flat-rate fare that is much higher than what the meter would deliver. Other drivers have been known to claim the meter is broken half-way through your journey and then tack on a huge sum of money when it comes time to pay.
Tip: Always take a metered fare and ensure it’s running for the entirety of the journey. Otherwise try services like Uber or, if you can afford to splash some cash, book a private driver ahead of time.