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Beware of Tourist Scams When Traveling Abroad

by Lux Joseph 22. July 2015

Summer is the season for our medical escorts to be traveling to/from Europe on a weekly basis. Although Commercial Medical Escorts moves patients in and out of Europe throughout the year, summer is the most favorable time of year for travelers to see the Amalfi Coast of Italy, the heart of Paris, and the other magnificent destinations throughout Europe. Pictures and stories depict Europe as a great place to visit, but as a tourist CME reminds you to be cognizant of your surroundings and stay away from “tourist traps”.

U.S News reports the top ten European cities as:

  1. Rome
  2. Paris
  3. London
  4. Florence
  5. Barcelona
  6. Amsterdam
  7. Prague
  8. Berlin
  9. Venice
  10. Vienna

Of these top ten destinations, three of the cities are in countries where tourist scams are most prevalent. Spain is the number one ranking country in Europe known for tourist and holiday scams. Italy and France follow close behind. Every day travelers to these areas have a high chance that they could become a victim of one of these scams. Some of the most common scams include pickpockets, over-charging taxi drivers, charging a hidden tourist tax at hotels, street vendor tactics, and street crime.

In an article written by Hugh Morris from The Daily Telegraph, he provides statistics from a study which travelers were scammed:

Rank

Country

Percentage of Individuals scammed

1

Spain

21.5

2

France

14.8

3

Italy

10.2

4

Turkey

8.4

5

Austria

8.1

6

Greece

7.5

7

Belgium

7

8

UK

5.4

9

Armenia

4.4

10

Cyprus

4.4

 CME strongly encourages our nurses and physicians to take necessary safety precautions when traveling abroad. Our operations team does a full safety review of each destination to ensure our escorts are aware of the safety protocols and current social environment at each location.

 The USTIA provides the following tips to prevent common scams when traveling:

Once you have arrived, here are some top travel scams you want to be on the lookout for:


1. Credit Card Confusion – You’re relaxing late at night in your hotel room after a long day. The phone rings, and the clerk at the desk explains there has been a mix-up on your paperwork and credit card number information.  They would like to read the credit card number to you to verify that it’s correct.  They provide you with the last 4 digits of your card number and ask you to verify that it’s correct (it won’t be).  After you explain the number is incorrect, they sound confused and ask you to read back the entire number. Once you read the entire card number they claim to have found the form and all is well. You’ve just been scammed!

What to Do When The Phone Rings:

  • Never give your credit card information over the phone from your hotel room. 
  • Go downstairs to the hotel registration desk in person should any “questions” arise in regards to your reservations or payment details. 

 

2. Taxi Cab Scam – You’re standing in the hotel’s official taxi line waiting. Suddenly you hear “taxi?” and turn to see a nicely dressed person motioning for you to leave the line. You notice the 15 people waiting in front of you and think bypassing the line might be a good idea; after all, you’re in a hurry!

Do not take the offer! Scam artists are known for posing as taxi drivers. Accepting a ride risks more than your wallet, and you might become a victim.  Once you are in the car, these con artists may take you to a deserted area and then assault and/or rob you of your luggage, money and other valuables.

What to Do If Approached:

  • All official taxis should have the car number and company plainly visible on the outside. Check for it – if you don’t see it, don’t accept a ride.
  • Visibly examine the rate “sheet” and/or the meter when you get into the car. This may keep the driver from getting any ideas about hiking up the per mile rate after you’ve started toward your destination. 
  • If you’re unsure about where and how to catch a proper taxi, check with your hotel concierge for a recommendation.

3. Helping Hand – Walking in a crowded tourist attraction, you suddenly find you’ve been bumped and food or drink spilled on your clothes. The kind stranger who jostled you offers to lend you a helping hand to clean up. While helping you, the stranger also helps him or herself to your wallet. 

What to Do:

  • Stay alert in a crowd! Any attempt to divert your attention or jostle you should be treated as a pick pocketing attempt.
  • Divide up any money that you are carrying between your pockets, socks, shirt, wallet and any other areas you can think of. It is unlikely that a thief will be able to reach all the different areas where your money is stored should you be targeted. 

4. The Deal of a Lifetime – This one may happen prior to departure!  These scam artists will offer you hotel or other accommodations in a travel hot spot for a ridiculously low price. The goal is to relieve you of your money as quickly as possible. To do this, they might offer you a “bonus” or a “prize” for purchasing. Typically the prizes sound great, but are not as advertised.  


What to Listen For:

  • Time sensitive Offer – “only good for next few minutes…”
  • Warnings - “you can’t tell anyone about this!” or “only one package is available...”
  • Verbal pauses - “ahs” and “ums”

If you are approached, do not agree to purchase without first verifying that the company is legitimate. In the U.S., you can do this by inquiring about the company’s liability Insurance. Any legitimate company should have liability insurance. If not, it should be a red flag that things aren’t on the up and up. Remember, if a trip seems too good to be true, offers too many prizes or bonuses or is below market cost, then it probably isn’t a legitimate offer.

If possible, use a credit card when paying for your tickets, hotel, car rental and attraction fares. This ensures you can dispute any charges if you do get scammed without actually being out money from your bank account.

Be smart when you travel. Make sure you purchase travel insurance and always know your surroundings. Commercial Medical Escorts believes safety and security is the number one priority and so should you!

Beware of Travel Scams

by Lux Joseph 13. June 2014

Did you really win the luxury free vacation in the Caribbean? We all enjoy time off from work where we can sunbath, go sight seeing, and enjoy the natural wonders of the world, but you don’t want to be subject to a travel scam. Travel scams happen all over the world and it is important for you to be able to recognize them. Our nurses and physicians travel on a daily basis to different countries around the world and safety is our top priority not only for the patient, but also for the escort. At Commercial Medical Escorts we ensure that hotels and ground transportation are prepaid for, but there has definitely been times in which the drivers have informed the escort that it had not been paid for. This could simply be a miscommunication between the dispatch and the driver, or it could be a completely different company trying to gain additional cash. At CME we encourage you to be aware of the travel scams out there so that you do not become a victim of one.

 Some of these offers below sound intriguing, a deal of a lifetime, or the best bargain for a vacation, but typically it means a scam is brewing.

·      Free vacations often come with the stipulation that a second must be purchased at “regular price,” which is usually two to three times more than it would cost to purchase the ticket through a travel agent.

·      Lodging certificates may also require users to purchase a second ticket at an inflated rate. Moreover, this “free” stay probably comes with a long list of limitations and exclusions and may even require attendance at timeshare presentations.

·      So-called “free” airline certificates are often not really free. They require you to purchase hotel accommodations at inflated prices. Be sure to read the fine print for limitations, exclusions and refund restrictions. Some certificates might require attendance at a timeshare or real estate sales presentation.

·      Some Spring Break companies don’t use a formal contract, which further complicates matters. Tour company brochures often double as contracts and as a result, when students sign up for more information, they might be unwittingly signing a contract.     

·      Beware of travel offers extended by postcard, telemarketer or newspaper invitation.

·      Paying for travel in advance can be risky for customers who wait too long, or the company could very well go out business. Use a trusted travel agent or a well-known travel resource when making arrangements. Ask them for their credentials and business history to ensure they didn’t just start up yesterday.

·      Buyers should also be wary of paying for accommodations they’ve never seen or heard of being stuck in a poor quality motel in an inconvenient location is no bargain.

·      Education is the key to avoiding travel scams.  Know the vocabulary scam artists frequently use and book through a professional travel agent.

·      Avoid telemarketers. They have no further responsibility to consumers after the sale has been finalized.

·      Be wary of firms asking consumers to send payment by overnight delivery. It’s more difficult to detect fraud through mail correspondence. It is best to use a credit card when making these purchases.

·      Companies offer to make people instant travel agent, so they can receive the discounts offered to certified agents. But only suppliers such as airlines, car rental companies, hotels or cruises have the authority to offer discounts.

·      “You have been specially selected to receive our spectacular vacation offer” translates to “You have been offered an opportunity to pay for a trip that fits OUR definition of luxury, whatever that might be.”

·      “Blackout periods” are also common to the fine print. These are blocks of dates, usually during peak travel times and holidays, during which time discount rates do not apply.

·      “Subject to availability” means consumers could be denied the accommodations and times they requested.    

·      Be skeptical of ads that have large pictures without much text. Also, watch for trips that guarantee your dream vacation for seemingly impossible rates.

·      Prepaid timeshares, campgrounds or travel clubs are risky investments because membership and maintenance fees can increase, the company can go bankrupt and timeshares are difficult to resell and rarely appreciate in value.

·      Don’t be pressured into accepting limited time offers--choosing a vacation is a big decision and legitimate deals won’t expire after a night’s sleep. When in doubt, always say no.

·      Never give your credit card number or bank information over the phone, not even for so-called verification purposes. Only disclose this private information to trusted businesses you’ve used in the past and trust.  

·      Senior citizens should be especially cautious of travel fraud since they are the most targeted consumers, according to the FBI.

·      An AARP study revealed that three out of four victims were chosen solely on the basis of their age. Consumers over the age of 50 are targeted because they have more free time, are inclined to spend money on travel and have fixed incomes.

·      Planning your vacation can be fun and exciting if you follow this golden rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

·      What looks too good to be true, usually is. Talk to your travel agent when you are unsure about online deals and “free” vacation offers. They typically can price match and then you will know you are working with a reliable source.

 As we have shared with you before, traveling can be overwhelming and stressful to begin with. Knowing that you made your arrangements through a reliable source will make sure that your arrangements are secure and confirmed. The last thing anyone wants to experience is getting to a destination where his or her luxury vacation is supposed to be and upon arrival there is nothing. Travel scams can even happen to the most experienced and sophisticated travelers. If the bargain is too good to be true, most likely it is. Be smart: Know what you are paying for before handing over money, and always count your change. 


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