How to protect your finances while travelling

By Sahaj Palla

The word travel originated in the 14th century from travailen, that means to toil, or make a laborious journey. Well in modern times, travel means to go from one place to another, however, to a traveller it is a means to break free from the mundane schedules and reset one’s well-being. Whatever the reason be, travelling has shown to have scientifically proven mental health benefits like reducing stress, increasing creativity, boosting your mood and, last but not the least, leaving you with lasting memories and experiences.

The data from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Bureau of Immigration (BoI) showed a rise of 137 percent from 7.72 million in 2021. 18 million Indians went abroad between January and November 2022. This surge in travel was termed ‘revenge travel’, as many wanted to relieve the stress of being ‘locked up’ during COVID-19. While travelling did alleviate that stress, it also gave rise to another concern: scams.

In today’s world, we prefer to do things online rather than going offline, including booking travel schedules and tickets. Online booking has its perks: better discounts, offers, and comparisons, which help save money and get the best deals. However, it also comes with the risk of online travel fraud. Scammers target gullible individuals looking to save money, luring them with fake discounts and tricking them into making online transactions, resulting in the loss of hard-earned money. The 2023 Safer Holidays Travel report found that 27% of Indians were tricked into making payments through fraudulent platforms, and 36% had their identities stolen when booking online.

On the flip side offline scams are no comfort either and are probably even worse than online ones as you get scammed in front of your eyes and probably realise long after the damage is done. Scams that occur when you are in another country are mostly offline since you can't explore online options as easily. In this article, we will take you through various types of travel fraud, how to avoid falling victim to them, and how to secure your finances while travelling.

Kinds of Travel Scams:-

#1 Taxi Fare Scam

You’ve arrived at your travel destination and want to explore. So, what do you do? You find a taxi. You get into a taxi and reach your destination, but the driver charges an exorbitant fare for a short ride.

While you can haggle or get angry, it’s best to pay the money and avoid an argument. Next time, book a cab from a licensed service provider. If you have to hail one, ask about the charges beforehand and ensure their metre is working.

#2 Pickpocketing

While walking around your favourite destination, savouring the colours and culture, someone bumps into you. Both of you apologise, but later you notice your wallet is missing.

Pickpocketing is one of the oldest and most common forms of scamming, especially in buses, trains, markets, and crowded places. To avoid such cons, always be alert and keep your wallet in a front pocket that you can see. Avoid keeping all your money in one place; distribute it so that even if you are conned, you don’t lose everything.

#3 Phone Charging Scam

At the end of the day, you notice your phone’s battery is low. You go to a cafe and find a charging station, plug in your phone, and later receive a message about a transaction you never made.

Public phone charging stations are unsafe as they are prime venues for hackers to install malware on your phone, potentially accessing your photos and financial information. To avoid this, carry a power bank to manage your battery needs. If you are conned, contact your bank to issue a temporary block on your accounts.

#4 Stranger Scam

After a day of exploring, you decide to relax at a bar or restaurant. You order a drink and are greeted by a friendly stranger. After dozing off, you realise you don’t have anything on you, and the restaurant is demanding you pay a hefty bill.

While it’s natural to let loose while travelling, it’s important not to drop your guard completely. Choose places that allow for privacy or opt to go in a group to ensure safety.

#5 Rental Scam

You decide to explore the country by renting a vehicle. After returning the vehicle, the rental owner accuses you of causing damage and threatens to keep your passport until you pay up.

This common tactic is used by locals to scam tourists. Most tourists will pay to get their passports back. To avoid this, haggle to reduce the amount, pay, and walk away with your documents. Rent from licensed providers, and inspect the vehicle thoroughly before taking it. Inform the owner that you are taking pictures or videos of existing damage to avoid disputes later.

Alarmed? Don’t be. Instead, be alert and vigilant. A calm and aware mind can prevent scams even before they occur and give you an added advantage on your travels, making them much more enjoyable and memorable.