ILLUSTRATION JOHN RITTER
YOU'VE LOOKED FORWARD to that trip to an exotic destination for months. But be aware that traveling puts you in the path of scam artists who want to separate you from your vacation dollars. And in 2017, there are some new traps. Be aware of how and when you are most vulnerable.
The Samaritan Scam
You’re boarding a flight overseas and discover your wallet is missing. Your cellphone rings. A guy on the other end says he found it in the airport. But don’t worry, the Samaritan has your address from a business card and can drop the wallet in the mail today. No need to postpone your trip to deal with canceling credit cards.
The point of the call — which came from a disposable phone that can’t be traced — is to lull you into giving the thief a period of time to ravage your accounts while you wait for the mail that never comes, rather than taking the appropriate action of immediately reporting lost credit cards. You don’t find out you’ve been conned until the bogus charges show up.
Be careful at hotels. Make sure the doors have adequate locks. And don’t fall for this scam: You check into the hotel, and a few minutes later you get a call from someone pretending to be from the front desk asking you to repeat your credit card number and security code — claiming it was written down wrong. That’s a common ploy by crooks who were lurking when you checked in, to get information they need to rip you off.
Driver's License Rip-Off
Watch out for unsolicited offers to help you get an international driver’s license — for hundreds of dollars. That happens to people who make internet travel plans. Check with AAA to see if you even need one.
The Phantom B&B
Beware of fancy websites describing lavish accommodations at a great price. All you need to do is sign a lease and send a cash deposit. But when you get there, no such address exists. Do your research — make a call to the Better Business Bureau or the chamber of commerce. In foreign countries, there is usually a tourist bureau that can tell you if the company making the offer has been caught victimizing others.
Be alert to strangers claiming that there is a spill on your clothes. This is often a ploy to get close enough to grab your wallet or purse. Also be careful at ATMs — if a bystander offers to help you with an unfamiliar machine, it’s likely a ruse to steal your code and your card. And don’t fall for an unsolicited offer to take your photograph with a friend or spouse. That’s a good way to have someone dash off with your camera or smartphone.
How to Stop Fraud
Next: Shopping Scams