4 hot scams targeting international travelers

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Americans are set to travel overseas this spring and summer in what could be record numbers. That’s great news because I love international travel so much. But there are some dangers you need to be aware of.

Before you go, you’ll want to brush up on some of the hottest scams targeting travelers. USA Today has put together a compilation of some common scams to get you started. Be sure to click through to their article for the full list.

Beware of these popular ploys aimed at international travelers

1. The mustard stain scam. Someone squirts or sprays mustard or another stain on your clothing and then offers to help clean it up. While you’re distracted with their ‘help,’ an accomplice steals your purse or wallet.

2. The counterfeit scam. Someone comes up and says, ‘Oh, there’s a big problem with counterfeit funds in this country.  Would you like me to check your money to make sure it’s legit?’ If you agree, they look and say, ‘Oh, no. This is fake money…but here’s some real currency.’ Of course what they’re handing you is counterfeit currency!

  • TIP: My rule is never buy foreign currency before you get to your destination. The fees are too high when you buy at home in the United States. You will get much a better deal on exchange once you land at your destination.

3. The taxi meter scam. If you get in a car and the driver says the meter is broken, get out and get into another cab!

4. The credit card slip scam. Make sure you look closely at the charge slip you’re signing when traveling internationally. It’s very common that criminals try to put in a charge far greater than what it should be, thinking it will get lost on you in translation. And you’re on the hook because you sign for it.

  • TIP: Please, be sure you’re using a credit card with no foreign currency fee. Most credit card issuers charge 3 percent if you use their card outside the United States. Capital One, however, has no fees at all on their credit cards when used internationally. Ditto with Bluebird. Many smaller issuers and credit unions will not charge rip-off fees. Use those cards if you can. In addition, USAA has no foreign transaction fee, though there is a 1 percent MasterCard/Visa fee associated with their cards.

Remember, I don’t say any of this to discourage you from going overseas. But money belts or anti-theft handbags are highly advisable in many international cities. Pick-pocketing can happen anywhere.

I also suggest you make photocopies of your passport before you go. Only the ID pages need to be copied, along with any current visa stamps. Check out the State Department’s Traveler’s Checklist for more info.

Leave some copies at home and take others with you to leave in your hotel room. Be sure to carry your original passport on your person at all times. Replacing a lost or stolen passport when you have a copy of it is so much easier than if you have no copies whatsoever to show.

Finally, be sure to read my Internation Travel Tips Guide: Money, Mobile & Banking before your international travels start. It’s got everything you need to know about how to use cell phone, mobile and wifi overseas, the best ways to exchange and handle money, and more.


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