International travel back and forth can open you to new scams on a global level. Here are just some of the scams we’ve come across in our 41 years in the industry.
1. Hotel Rewards Hack
One of our clients reported that someone had hacked into their hotel rewards account, changed the email address where confirmations were sent, and made hotel reservations with their rewards points. Our client only found out when he got an email from the hotel asking him to fill out a survey about the stay!
2. Permanent Visas to the USA
We have encountered individuals who have paid inordinate amounts of money for USA visas from persons who posed as employees of our travel agency. Be aware that Willamette International Travel is not authorized to obtain visas for entry into the USA.
3. Hacking Emails
Emails being hacked in is nothing new, but travelers can encounter further risks while abroad. While overseas, one of our client’s email was hacked into, and emails sent to his entire list that he was currently in London and desperately needed to have $2000 wired to him at a Western Union location. As it is, our client was traveling in Mexico at the time—so it surely wasn’t him!
4. Rental Scams
Willamette Intl Travel always works with hotel or vacation rental companies where we know the properties being offered have been vetted by their local representatives or our own agents, and where there is an in-country representative to contact should issues arise. We never book you in a place that doesn’t meet these qualifications, because we cannot guarantee you have an enjoyable vacation. It’s important to keep in mind of accommodation scams if you choose to book independent locations on your own. In one instance, we had a client who booked an independent flat themselves in London—and ended up losing over $2000 on a scam. Despite our best efforts in assistance, involving the British Tourist Board and attorneys, they never got their money back.
5. Hotel Scams
This can come in the form of a phone call to your hotel room, posing as hotel staff and asking for your credit card information. Sometimes this is timed for the morning, when the guest is still waking up. Or it might happen directly after you check in and go up to your room. They’ll phone your room saying there was an error, and ask for your credit card and PIN number again. Never give this info over the hotel’s phone line—always walk down to the front desk. Another creative scam is to run through the hallways overnight, looking for door hangers with room service orders. After they get your name and room numbers, they call the next morning just before the order delivery, asking for your credit card to allegedly pay the room service.
6. Bank Card
Your bank or credit card company may contact you, asking you to verify a charge to your card. When you deny the charge, they say they will issue a credit to your account. They will even give you your full address, sound very official, and they may perhaps even give you your card number (!). They just require your security code. Which of course you may be inclined to give to them, as they have all the other information correct—but be aware! Your bank or credit card company will never call to ask you to verify your security code. If there is an alleged issue, hang up and contact the company yourself.
7. Credit Card Fraud
A good policy whether you’re abroad or at home is to monitor charges to your credit cards regularly online. Sometimes, a team of scammers will attempt guesswork on credit cards, and bill a small amount, usually less than $5.00, to your card to see if they have created a valid card. Once they know they have a valid card, they will go on a spending spree. Do not let these small amounts slip through – put them in dispute immediately. Also, try not to let your credit card out of your sight when shopping or dining and using your card. If a store clerk, or restaurant staff want to take your card out of your sight, refuse, ask them to bring the validation machine to you. There is no reason for the store clerk to not have the validation machine in clear site. Many restaurants, especially in Europe now, have the handheld card machine which is brought to your table, where you insert the card, and sign at your dining table.
Our Tips to Avoid Travel Scams
- Regularly update your passwords and store them securely.
- Notify your bank of the dates of your travel so they don’t flag your card for charges abroad. We are finding some credit card companies are saying it is not necessary to advise them of your travel plans, but we are still calling and notifying them of our personal travel, and we recommend you still take this extra step to help avoid fraud.
- Individual cards – couples should make sure they have individual cards, this way if one is blacklisted for suspected fraud there is still a valid card to use on the trip.
- A lot of these scammers fool people because of how professional they sound. Don’t be fooled or let your guard down. Better to be safe than sorry. Remember you cannot offend a legitimate call by refusing to give the information over the phone advising you will call or visit the bank. A Scammer will feign offense!