This blog post originally appeared on the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System blog.
According to AAA, nearly 37 million Americans (88 percent of travelers), will drive to their destinations this summer—which represents an increase of 4.7 percent over 2017. Another three million will take to the skies, increasing air travel by 6.8 percent over last summer. Other modes of transportation will include cruises, trains and buses, which will be used by nearly two million travelers. If you plan to join the ranks of summer travelers sometime between now and Labor Day, heed necessary precautions and take these steps to avoid travel-related scams to ensure your journey is safe.
If you opt to take a cab, you could fall victim to the case of the broken meter. If the driver says he can’t use the meter for some odd reason, but promises to give you “the best rate,” find another mode of transportation. Or avoid this altogether by negotiating rates before starting the journey.
More serious issues could put you at risk of bodily harm. If you’re traveling via cab, Uber or Lyft and sense that something isn’t right, ask to be dropped off ASAP. In the meantime, pull up the number for emergency services (911 in the U.S., 999 in Europe and Latin America) for easy access. Click here to see emergency numbers throughout the world. Uber has also recently launched a high-powered emergency button for use with its app.
Active air travel scams usually involve the offer of free tickets, available online via several major airlines. These amount to elaborate phishing schemes, designed to steal and resell credit card and other personal information. Also, the fine print on the so-called “free tickets” offer states that in agreeing to the terms, the user opts to volunteer to receive telemarketing phone calls and text messages from a variety of different companies. Good rule of thumb—if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
First, unless you win a sweepstakes prize, you have probably not won a free cruise, no matter what a telemarketer says. Popular cruise-related scams include:
Free Cruise. Once you select the offer, you receive a combination of fees and taxes (including those imposed by the cruise line in addition to government fees), a requirement to sit through a high-pressure timeshare presentation, in exchange for a dingy cabin in an obsolete ship without air-conditioning, sub-par land accommodations in a run-down resort; and (5) pressure to “upgrade” ship or land accommodations.
Online Scams. A potentially dangerous cruise scam can compromise your identity, files, or both. A cruise line emails you with instructions to click a link for more information about your upcoming cruise. This “click-bait” originates with someone who has hacked the cruise line’s or operator’s data, to obtain a list of current and prospective customers. The mail itself or the link contains malware.
Ridiculous Discounts. The promise of “75 percent off” sounds like a great deal. But the truth is that the “base price” is fiction. Compare deals by searching for similar cruises and checking objective review websites.
Always be aware when traveling by train or railway, which is a very popular mode of transportation.
In New York City, subway crimes occur daily.
Groping and other sexual assaults are so common on that the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and the JR Railway Company worked together to establish Women-only carriages.
In Mumbai, groups of men posed as “railway police” to rob unsuspecting travelers.
In London, 457 railway-related crimes were reported over a 12-month period at King’s Cross Station.
Be on alert for these schemes:
“Overbooked” Train Scam. Versions occur around the world, but are particularly common in Asia. Scammers target travelers who look confused, telling them their train was overbooked. The scammer ushers unsuspecting passengers towards a bus stand, where they must purchase a ticket. Scammers do this to earn a commission from bus drivers.
Bag Assistance. Another common scam train travelers face occurs when someone offers to carry their bags. If someone approaches you offering to carry your bags, politely refuse. If you agree, you may never see your luggage again.
Ticket-Machine Trick. Refuse help if you are trying to buy tickets from a machine. If you accept the help, the scammer will cancel the transaction and grab the money that has fallen into the change tray. Also, pickpockets hover around these machines, waiting for unwary travelers to be distracted.
Fierce competition between bus companies forces owners to lower their advertised fares to attract travelers. They make up for the shortfall in other ways. For example, agents upsell “VIP bus” tickets to tourists for a higher price. Then, when the bus arrives, passengers who have paid for VIP seats are ushered onto a regular bus. They are told that the VIP bus broke down, but that the driver is not able to issue refunds. And if you return to the booking office, you will miss the bus.
Another bus-related scam involves drivers purposely driving slowly, so passengers miss their pre-paid reservations and are forced to stay at other hotels, for which the driver receives commission.
If you travel by bus, keep your personal belongings close to you. In some countries, the bus company staff steals from passengers while they sleep.
Locally, watch out for riders looking to pick your pockets, especially on buses. Sometimes it is a tag team, where a kid bumps into your leg a few times, while another person tries to engage you in conversation. The kid picks your pocket and the “team” gets off at the next stop with your phone and/or wallet.
If you plan to travel overseas, check the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Travel Alerts & Warnings to make sure you are good to go.
Pay attention to your surroundings. If you see something, say something.
Keep your personal items close to you, always.
Leave your itinerary and emergency contact information with a trusted friend or family member.
In a hotel, review your escape route.
Scan a copy of your passport and email it to yourself or save the image to your smartphone. This step will save you hassle if you need to replace the actual document.
Don’t flash cash or valuables.
Record emergency numbers so you can easily access them while you are away.
About the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Services System
During your travels this summer, take steps to make sure you are safe. Whether you are traveling or staying local, our interactive, building-specific e-learning program helps commercial, residential, educational, institutional, government, retail and industrial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes and rewards building occupants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to the training needs of your facility. Click here for more information or to subscribe.
About the Author
Kimber Westmore is the director of Allied Universal’s Fire Life Safety Training Division.