How to avoid getting scammed this summer

Sarah Coles
A pickpocket steals a wallet from a man's back pocket.
A pickpocket steals a wallet from a man's back pocket.

Criminals love it when we relax on holiday. We're not really concentrating, we lower our guard and we provide the perfect targets for scammers to take advantage of. So this summer, while we don't want to stop you taking a break from the stresses and strains of everyday life, it's worth taking a few precautions while you're away, to stop holiday scams from causing a whole new range of stresses and strains of their own.

1. Rental listing scam
Unfortunately, one of the fastest-growing scams hits before you go anywhere. Scammers will list fake properties for rent on villa listing sites. You pay for it up-front and when you arrive there's nothing waiting for you. It's worth, therefore, making sure that you use a reputable website, and choose a property with plenty of positive feedback going back for years.

2. Copycat websites
There are a number of versions of this scam, ranging from visa sites to passport sites and even sites offering EHIC cards. The basic premise is the same: the site looks and sounds official, and in many cases will provide you with the documentation you expect. It's just that they will charge you for free services, and will charge hugely inflated prices for things like passports. It's important, therefore, to track down the right government site offering these services - and not assume that those at the top of an internet search are legitimate.

3. Roadside car scam
There are a few varieties of this scam. In one, an individual will seem to have broken down and flag you down for help. In another, a fellow driver will point to one of your tyres and indicate that you have a flat. All the variations are designed to get you to the side of the road and out of your car, at which point the scammer's accomplice will drive off in your car. It's worth, therefore, being sure never to stop at the side of the road, and travel on to the nearest garage or service station if you think there's a problem.

4. Metal detector scam
These are common wherever there are metal detectors - whether that's a theme park, a museum, or a US airport. Once you have put your belongings onto the conveyor belt, the person in front of you will be stopped at the metal arch when it beeps. They'll spend ages fishing coins out of their pocket - during which time your belongings will travel through the scanner and into the hands of the waiting accomplice.

This isn't common in most airports, because the thief cannot leave the departure area. However, in some American airports it's far easier to come and go. To be sure you don't fall victim, you can either queue separately from someone you are travelling with - so they can pick up your items, or refuse to put your belongings onto the belt until the arch is clear.

5. Currency counting con
When a taxi driver, restaurant or shop gives you change, they may try to short-change you. Some will just hand back the wrong change, others will knock a zero off the end, and some will take a note - so for example a 50 - then palm it and hand back at 5, telling you that you've made a mistake.

6. Reception scam
Once you have checked into your hotel room and gone to bed, you may receive a call from reception, asking to verify your credit card number. You read it over the phone to them and go back to bed. Unfortunately it wasn't anyone at reception, and the scammers are quickly spending your money while you sleep. You should never give card details over the phone like this to someone who calls out of the blue, but if you get a call from reception while you're on holiday, you can always go downstairs and deal with anything in person.

7. Taxi scam
One of the most common unlicensed taxi scams is simply not to turn the meter on - or not to have a meter at all. Then when you reach the destination they'll charge an exorbitant sum. It pays to have an idea of what the journey will cost you, then either demand the meter is turned on, or agree the fare up-front.

8. Taxi luggage scam
This one is common in Las Vegas, where the taxi driver insists on unpacking your luggage at your hotel - and drives away with something still in the boot. To prevent this, make sure you know exactly what you are travelling with, and either count the suitcases coming out of the boot, or demand to get them yourself.

9. Photo scam
This is particularly popular in European tourist hotspots like Rome. Scammers will dress up in fancy dress, and offer to pose for a photo with you. Once you have taken it, they will demand money for the photo.

10. Pizza delivery scam
This simple scam delivers pizza leaflets under hotel room doors or to tourist villas. You call and order a pizza, and are encouraged to pay by credit card. There is no pizza restaurant, and no delivery, it's just a cunning way to enable the criminals to get your details.

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