Fraudsters are known to target tourists all over the world, but with the right knowledge you can spot dodgy deals and keep your cash safe.
Here are seven common travel scams to beware of when it comes to winter sun destinations…
1. Bogus booking sites
If you’re still in the process of booking your getaway, beware of deals for flights, accommodation or car rental that seem too good to be true.
“Scammers will use fake websites, apps, or phishing emails,” warns Vonny Gamot, Head of EMEA at McAfee. “Instead of leading you to a great deal, [they] link to scam sites that can then lift your login credentials, payment info, or even funds should you try to place an order through them.”
To make sure you’re on a reputable booking site, check the web address begins with ‘https’ not just ‘http’, she explains. “That extra ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’, which means that it uses a secure protocol for transmitting sensitive info like passwords or credit card numbers. It often appears as a little padlock icon in the address bar of your browser.”
2. Counterfeit cash
Mexico is a hugely trendy destination this year, but travellers withdrawing cash from ATMs at Mexico City have reported finding fake notes in amongst the genuine ones.
Wherever you’re taking out cash, be sure to check for security features such as watermarks, transparent windows or metallic threads – and only use ATMs directly linked to banks where possible.
3. Fake reviews
Reviews are vital when faced with lots of options for accommodation, transport or tours, so how do you tell if they’re genuine?
“Fake reviews are rife in travel with one in three hotel reviews being fake,” says Kim Burgess, chief customer officer of verified reviews platform Feefo.
She says there two key things to look out for when surveying reviews. “First, lots of enthusiastic feedback as a flood of fake, positive reviews is common, especially after some negative feedback.
“Another red flag is multiple reviews lacking detail, as people typically include specifics if they’ve genuinely used a service.”
4. Card skimming
With lots of online banking services offering fee-free card payments, it’s never been easier to use a debit or credit card overseas, and fraudsters are taking advantage of our increasingly cashless world.
According to FICO, card skimming – when criminals put a device called a skimmer on an ATM machine or card reader – was up by 751% in the US in the first half of 2022.
To avoid having your card details stolen, look out for anything that doesn’t look right on ATM machines and cover the keypad when you enter your PIN in case a camera has been installed.
When making payments in shops or restaurants, make sure your card isn’t taken away from the cash desk or table, as crooks have been known to clone cards and then return them to customers.
5. Unsecured WiFi attacks
Free WiFi can be very handy when you’re abroad and don’t have mobile data, but it’s wise to be wary of unsecured networks.
“Cyber thieves are like moths to a flame when it comes to public WiFi,” says Gamot. “They can eavesdrop and grab personal data or access your devices.”
Connect with caution, she warns. “And consider subscribing to a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your online activity and give your family secure internet access no matter where you are.”
6. Ride share scams
Whether it’s a well-known app or a local one, be careful when using ride-sharing services.
“Sadly there are also cyber criminals who will use phishing tactics to send legitimate-looking yet fraudulent emails or texts from the ride-sharing company asking you to reset your password or share your card details,” Gamot says.
Never change your password by clicking an email or text link, she advises. “Always use the app itself or go directly to the company’s website. Double-check your ride receipt for extra charges, and if you spot anything suspicious, report it immediately.”
7. Phone or email scams
Just as when you’re booking a holiday at home, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is, which is why you should be wary of phone or email offers that could turn out to be a scam.
“You may think you’d never fall for such a call, but people get lured in by super-friendly phone agents pitching free or bargain vacations, camps, and tours,” Gamot says.
In particular, watch out for offers promoted for a ‘limited time only’ or requiring payment in advance.
“Never pay a company with a pre-paid debit card or via wiring the funds,” she says. “If you do purchase, only do so with a credit card since credit card companies allow you to contest fraudulent charges.”
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