Press Release: According to Senator Carr, 14,000 Australians find themselves in trouble overseas each year.
With this in mind, Travel Insurance Direct have set out to make travellers aware of the most common scams found abroad, to help prepare them for the worst, with a convenient mobile app, Tripwise.
As we count-down to the summer holidays, Travel Safety Expert Phil Sylvester from Travel Insurance Direct, Australia's leading online travel insurance provider, has put together the Top 5 Travel Scams covering some of Australia's favourite destinations.
According to Phil, "By providing practical, expert advice and information, we hope to turn novice travellers into seasoned globetrotters and help prepare them for every eventuality, rather than watch them fall victim to yet another common scam.”
Top Five Travel Scams, according to Travel Insurance Direct:
1. JET SKI DAMAGE - Phuket
This particular scam happens in many beachside destinations; however the scam rate is particularly high in Phuket, Thailand.
The scam: Travellers rent a jet ski from the beach. When it’s return the owners claim that it’s been damaged and present a hefty repair bill. If the traveler refuses to pay, some of the rental bloke's large friends come to "convince" and have been known to march the victim to the nearest ATM. In some instances, the police have been called in to assist – and do negotiate a better price - but video evidence suggests the police are in on the scam too.
Best defence: Don’t hire a jet ski in Phuket. If tourists stop renting, they’ll soon go out of business, or look for another lucrative scam.
Note: Some travellers have tried to beat this scam by photographing the Jet Ski before they head out onto the water – but the crooks have begun to hide the damage with water-based paint, which washes off.
2. GOLD RING SCAM - Paris
Some say unless you've been offered a gold ring by a gypsy you haven't really been or experienced Paris.The scam: Someone will approach the traveller and hold up a gold wedding band, claiming it's been dropped. Often, the scammer will pretend to pick it up right in front of the traveller's eyes. They claim that in Paris, there is a reward for returning it to its rightful owner, perhaps 20 Euros or so, and suggest splitting the cost with you.
Conveniently, they say they don’t have time to go to the police station, so the traveler is left to do it handing over their share of the reward money first. The ring is of course worthless brass and no-one owns it.
Best defence: Keep your possessions close and be aware of the scam. Don't feel heartless for ignoring someone who is trying to scam you or claim that someone else has been unfortunate to lose their possessions.
3. COPYCAT HOTEL - Vietnam
Make sure you know where you really are staying before you head to Vietnam this summer.
The scam: In Vietnam if a particular hotel becomes popular with visitors it's likely received a good write-up in a newspaper, a mention in a popular guidebook or a breakfast TV show weather segment – the proprietors of less-successful hotels will try to cash-in on the reputation by re-naming their hotel to something that sounds very similar! For example The Mid-Town Sofeetel (with 2 E's), might not be quite what you were expecting to find!
Best defence: Have a copy of your hotel booking with you and make sure you have the exact address of your accommodation, preferably written in the local language. Check with the map on your phone that you’ve actually been taken there (not scammed by the taxi driver as well.)
4. CAR TROUBLE – Sicily
This scam is widespread, and notorious in parts of Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Sicily.
The scam: Someone drives alongside the traveler indicating there's a problem with their car. Naturally they pull over. The other driver walks with the traveller to the back of the car to inspect the problem whilst his accomplice makes off with all the valuables…. Or worse they rob at knife-point!
Best defence: Don’t stop. If it’s a genuine problem it will soon become apparent to you. Try to make it to a town or service station before stopping.
5. STUDENT BOOKS - India
So you're off to Magical India? Keep your whits about you - only the really devious survive.
The scam: A 'poor student' will take the traveller sightseeing for hours in exchange for school books. Unfortunately when the traveller goes to buy the books they find they are significantly overpriced, and the kind student is getting a cut of the profit. Or, more disturbingly; a young child may approach to buy “milk for her sister”. She'll escort the traveller to a small shop where they will end up paying 10 times the going rate. She and the shopkeeper share the profits.Best defence: If you’re feeling charitable, make a donation to an official charity, one where they have professionals making sure the money gets to the right people.