• The Klutz Con
You're walking through an airport terminal when someone "accidentally" spills food or drink on you. As he helps you clean up the mess, a nearby accomplice scurries off with your carry-on luggage. Outside of hotels, beware of clumsy passersby who bump into you or knock you down or even collapse themselves. They could be diversion dupers whose accomplices are waiting nearby to lift your luggage or wallet.
Protect yourself: No matter the mishap, always keep your eyes on their prize: your personal belongings.
• The Hollow Heist
A favorite in train stations (but it can also occur in airports), this scheme involves one scammer who diverts you in conversation while another places a large, open-bottom suitcase over yours — and wheels off with your luggage inside his Trojan horse.
Protect yourself: If you feel the need to converse, continue to hold your luggage or place it between your legs.
• Cabbie Cons
Most taxi drivers are interested in your fare, not fraud. But there are those who try to inflate the former with the latter, driving unfamiliar tourists on a purposely long route to maximize the meter.
Others try to steal your luggage. In one scam, a cabbie takes you to an airport or hotel and then hands you your change as he begins to unload your luggage. While you're counting it, he slams the trunk and quickly drives off, with at least one suitcase still inside.
Protect yourself: At airports, look for signs or ask information desk personnel about how much the fare should be to your destination and where you can get a legitimate cab. Ignore anyone who approaches you offering a ride. Once you're in the vehicle, write down the driver's name, cab number and company to help in your recourse should you encounter a rip-off.
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.
Also of interest: 5 tips for cheaper airline tickets. »