Traveling can be a truly remarkable experience. It can open yours eyes to new experiences and allow you to explore things you never dreamt of. But it’s not all fun and exploration; there’s a darker side to travel, particularly for senior citizens. Seniors are often the target of travel scams, with unscrupulous scammers aiming to take their money — and ruin their vacation. Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself no matter where your adventures may take you. Here’s what seniors need to know to protect themselves from travel scams.
The Perfect Deal
Planning the perfect trip can be stressful and costly; who wouldn’t like a little help? Scammers often target senior citizens by promising them fantastic travel deals at bargain prices. The problem is, they don’t actually exist. Would-be travelers often arrive to find that their entire itinerary — or indeed the flights themselves — are fictitious. This is when playing it safe is key. Use trusted sites, and be wary of random offers for incredible trips. If something seems fishy, trust your gut and investigate further. Be smart, be sensible, and you’ll dramatically reduce your chances of getting scammed while traveling abroad.
For many seniors, mobility is a concern. So it makes sense that you’ll turn to cabs to get around — particularly if your hotel isn’t close to the places you want to explore. The problem arises when it’s time to call a cab; often, scammers will pick up tourists and demand ridiculous fees for subpar service. This can be doubly dangerous if you’re unfamiliar with the area. When in doubt, use verified taxis or rideshare services. Most airports and major travel hubs have taxi stands to ensure the people driving you are legit.
It’s hard to resist the offer of something free, a habit which scammers take full advantage of. In many European cities, scammers will offer tourists a ‘free’ piece of jewelry or a small souvenir. Once the unsuspecting target has accepted the trinket, the scammer immediately starts demanding money. If the target refuses, the scammer will often cause an enormous scene until they receive payment. The solution to this one is simple: don’t accept gifts from strangers, and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Pretend Tour Guides
Travel is costly, and cutting corners to save some extra cash is always tempting. Unfortunately, that’s where scammers come in. At many international locations — particularly popular tourist attractions — so-called ‘tour guides’ will offer deep discounts to take you around. Usually, the unlucky targets of this move end up with empty wallets and nothing to show for it. Play it safe and only use official, approved tours when exploring parts unknown.
Law Enforcement Impersonators
This scam plays on your natural instinct to obey police officers. Traditionally, scammers will approach you in uniforms and demand to see your travel papers. Sometimes they will go through your wallet and sneak out some money, returning it to the unknowing target. Other times the ‘officers’ will claim you’ve violated some sort of law and demand you pay a fine. While less common than others, this scam is popping up more and more frequently, particularly in bigger cities. If you find yourself in this sort of situation, remain calm. Insist on seeing proper ID, and don’t hand over any papers or information until you’ve determined that you’re speaking to real law-enforcement authorities.
Know of any other travel scams that seniors should watch for when abroad? Tell us about them in the comments.