Industry veteran and travel agent John Frenaye is warning travelers about the top-three top travel scams that consumers should be aware of before embarking on their spring and summer vacations at a new consumer web site, TravelHoppers.com.
”People have a tendency to become complacent and think they are too smart to fall for obvious scams,” said Frenaye. “Yet, even the most frequent flier can be had. The three largest scams have been around for eons, but they are still prevalent today.”
Frenaye’s top travel scams included the following:
1) Distract and Lift: The most common culprit is a friendly person or group of people who have mastered the art of distracting tourists while they secretly snag their wallets or belongings. Even a well-seasoned traveler can fall for this trick.
Frenaye admitted, “A few years back, I was using an ATM and a “nice old granny” asked me a question and when I diverted my attention, her accomplice snatched my ATM proceeds.”
The best advice is to be skeptical of all strangers. When approached by a party you don’t know in an unfamiliar destination, be on your guard, Frenaye advised.
2) Bait and Switch: Hotels and car rental agencies can be some of the leading contenders of this classic scam, which lures travelers into thinking they can receive a next-to-impossible deal or a bargain basement price, only to be told that the deal can no longer be purchased, but that an “upgrade” is available for an additional cost. Should a traveler find him or herself in this position, Frenaye’s advice is to “stick to your guns and demand a no-cost upgrade or agree to be walked to a competitor.”
More often than not, when a hotel clerk or car rental agency realizes a consumer is prepared to walk away completely, the deal may miraculously reappear. The best defense to not fall prey to this vacation spoiling scam is to obtain a confirmation in writing, if possible, so that the consumer can back up their claim, Frenaye said.
3) Public Transportation: Public transportation is fertile breeding ground for travel scams, Frenaye said. Buses, planes and trains are crowded with strangers and taxis are gone once they have turned the corner. In many destinations, taxis are not regulated so it is important to agree on a price up front. If traveling in an area where taxis are regulated, Frenaye said that a traveler should still not let their guard down. When it comes to taxis, it is suggested that travelers do their homework and know if the destination regulates taxis and if so, they should know how to recognize them. He also says, consumers should not shy-down or be afraid to ask how much the fare will be and hold the driver to his word as long as it is reasonable. On public transit, travelers should keep belongings with them. If that is not possible, personal items should be kept in clear sight and closed or locked. Overhead storage can also be a prime target.
Frenaye asked, “How many times have you tossed an unlocked suitcase in an overhead bin on an airplane and dozed off?” Thieves will target these bags, he warned.
Frenaye adds that while these three classic travel scams tend to be the most prolific year after year, it’s also important to keep in mind that these are only the top three scams and that consumers are likely to encounter scam artists, new scams, and variation on the old ones everywhere they go.
As the new Travelhoppers “Travel Troubleshooter,” Frenaye will offer his perspective on travel issues from both sides—as an owner and operator of travel companies and as an experienced traveler. Frenaye has been a member of the ASTA Communications Committee, Board Advisor to iJet Intelligent Risk Systems and also served as an MSNBC.com travel columnist.