8 Scams That Can Ruin Your Vacation

It pays to know the telltale signs of common travel scams.

ByABC News
February 16, 2016, 10:15 AM

— -- Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this year, which means spring is right around the corner. For the winter weary, however, summer is still too far away and the lure of blue-green seascapes under sunny skies is strong.

If you’ve decided to take the plunge, remember: Your vacation is supposed to be a time to unwind. Unfortunately, there are thieves who make a living off your relaxation. That’s why it pays to know the telltale signs of common travel scams and to do a bit of preparation before you fly, drive or sail off to parts known and unknown.

Before You Fly: Search Engines Are Your Friend

Chances are probably good that you went online to find out which restaurant has the best local food, where you can get the biggest bargain on beachside cocktails or what unforgettable adventures await. You may even have taken a virtual tour of your accommodations before you made your reservation.

But, while every destination has a special cocktail or a must-try local delicacy, many often have a local scam or scams as well. That’s why you should go online and plug your destination along with “crime” or “tourist trap” or “scams” into your favorite search engine.

Didn’t find anything? Try some wider search terms. For instance, substitute the city you will be visiting with the name of the county, state, province, island or country you will be visiting. With that in mind, here are some common scams that target travelers, along with some advice on how to avoid getting got.

1. Fake Deals

In many destinations it’s not uncommon to be offered deals on luxury items, and many ports of call will boast several completely legitimate retailers of gem stones and jewelry as well as local handicraft and antiques. Unfortunately, it’s also not uncommon to be approached by a freelancer offering these valuables for the deal of your life.

When it comes to larger items, a common scam tactic is for the seller to take a percentage of the agreed sale price, the rest being payable on delivery — sometimes after endless haggling where you are made to feel like an excellent negotiator. The outcome: You lose the down payment, as well as the precious vacation time you wasted waiting for a delivery that never comes.

How to Avoid the Scam: Buyer beware. You wouldn’t buy a pearl, a diamond or an antique carpet from some guy who approached you in the parking lot of your local supermarket, would you? So what’s different about a vacation spot? Resist the temptation and stick to shopping at reputable retailers in the area.

2. Front Desk Scam

You get a call from the front desk a few hours after a late check in, probably after midnight. You are told that the credit card number you provided has been declined or an error was made when they keyed in your information. The caller then asks you to read the card number again or they request another card number.

How to Avoid the Scam: Hang up, and go back to sleep. The chances that a hospitality worker would wake you up in this fashion are slim to none. If you’re worried, you should still hang up, then call the front desk yourself.

3. Fake Police

You may be approached by someone posing as a police officer. He demands to see your identification (and finds fault with it) or accuses you of having committed a crime. But, wanting to be a good host, he is willing to overlook the incident if you could see your way to slipping him a little cold hard cash.