Vacation is a time to unwind, have a few beers or tropical cocktails, and let your guard down a bit. Which is exactly why con artists have come up with so many vacation-themed scams. Unfortunately for vacationers looking to soak in some sun or explore a new city, con artists know that the best time to dupe someone is when they’re taking a break in an unfamiliar place. Here are few vacation scams—ranging from predictable to truly bizarre—to look out for on your next vacation.
1. MONEY WIRING
Watch out for hijacked Craigslist ads for vacation rentals: Some scam artists not only post fake ads, but also copy real ones. They simply change the contact information and ask unsuspecting victims to wire them payment. Before you know it, your money is gone.
2. FAKE BOOKING WEBSITES
A plague of fake hotel booking websites is upon us! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a warning to travelers about third-party hotel booking websites that will happily take your money but “forget” to book your hotel.
3. FAKE BUS SERVICES IN VIETNAM
For almost every legitimate tourist bus service in Vietnam, there’s an identically named scam bus company. The imposter companies range in insidiousness from simply providing an inferior service to scamming you into paying for an overpriced hotel—with which they are in cahoots.
4. CD BULLIES IN NEW YORK CITY
The routine goes like this: A guy hands you a copy of his CD and asks you to check out his music. But when you try to walk away, he’ll scream that the seemingly free CD costs $10. There are different versions of this scam all over the world: In some European countries, the scam artists will sell you a leather jacket; in Madrid and New Delhi, they’ll sell you rosemary.
5. “FREE” VACATIONS
While a lot of scams are easy to spot, some come from seemingly legitimate corporations. Some travel clubs—clubs that offer discounts and other special privileges for travelers—offer a free vacation when you sign up, but then make it near impossible to actually book the trip. For example, the club will tell you that you have a year to cash in on the free vacation, but whenever you try to do so, they’ll say that you’ve missed the deadline.
6. FAKE PIZZA DELIVERY
If you find a pizza menu under the door at your hotel, think twice about ordering from it—even if they offer free toppings. A lot of these are actually fake menus. When you call to place your order, you’ll be connected to an identity thief, not a restaurant employee, who will gladly take down your credit card information.
7. CAMEL SCAM IN CAIRO
When you visit the pyramids in Giza, you can also pay a few dollars to pose in front of the pyramids on a camel. Unfortunately, some camel wranglers will hold you hostage on the back of the 8-foot-tall animal until you pay an additional fee to get off.
8. THE STRING TRICK IN FRANCE
If someone on the street in France offers to make you a friendship bracelet on the spot, refuse. They’ve been known to wrap a string around their victim’s wrist and refuse to let go until they are paid. So much for friendship…
9. THE RING TRICK
If you find what looks like a gold ring on the street in any European city, it’s probably best to just leave it alone. Scam artists will try to convince you to pay ridiculous amounts of money for the fake gold.
10. A ROSE FOR YOUR GIRLFRIEND
This one’s similar to the CD bullies of New York, except that in addition to cheating you out of your money, this scam embarrasses you in front of your significant other. Generally, someone will approach you and your girlfriend and offer her a rose. If she accepts the gift, the scammer will ask you to pay him an exorbitant amount of money for it.
11. TIME SHARES
Most people get lured into lengthy timeshare lectures with the promise of free food or other goodies. Even if they don’t fall for the timeshare itself, they’ll end up wasting an entire afternoon of vacation sitting through a boring lecture just for some free dinner or cocktails.
Nothing is sacred—not even your vacation. For more widespread misconceptions about everything you thought you knew, tune in to Adam Ruins Everything on truTV Tuesdays at 10/9C.