FRAUD WHILE ABROAD: HOW TO STAY SAFE
This is the trip you have been dreaming about for a long time; a foreign travel for either business or vacation. The day finally comes and the fantasies and imaginations are driving you high, you can’t wait to get to the destination. It is an adventure you are looking forward to. You, however, have missed one important point- that this ballooning wonderful feeling can easily be deflated by a single prick; fraud. This is why you have to be very cautious in the planning phase preceding your travel. Language barriers, new peculiar environment, different cultures and ignorance about the destination make visitors easy prey for scammers and fraudsters. The emergence of internet as a core channel of communication as well as payments has made it also easy for fraudsters to exploit any gaps to the detriment of travellers. Organized criminals are becoming more innovative, sophisticated and creative each passing day in an attempt to deceive and extort money from their victims, and the casualties are increasing each day, as local authorities are overwhelmed by the fraudsters’ complexity and numbers. Travellers are always advised to do a thorough research about their destinations, but above all be cautious and never drop their guard at any point, because the consequences could be disastrous. A foreign country is the last place anyone would want to be stranded at. There are varied fraud and theft schemes depending with the location while abroad, but I will explain some universal ones that you should be wary of.
- CREDIT CARD FRAUD
While abroad, you will probably be using your company credit card and your personal credit card for some purchases. Credit card fraud is the most common electronic fraud faced by travellers. To overcome fraudsters of this type, the following tips may be of use.
Upgrade to Chip and PIN The old generation magnetic cards will put you at risk, so make sure you have upgraded your card to Chip and PIN. This two factor authentication mechanism is meant to afford you more security.
Use the Hotel Room Safe to Secure your Card When walking around and about your destination, probably sight-seeing, sometimes you may not need your card. It’s therefore important to keep it in the hotel room safe. When walking around and you need your card, don’t put it in your backpack, because it would be risky if someone snatched your backpack with the card in there. Keep the credit card in your pockets.
Notify the Issuer of impending Travel Some credit card companies track and monitor account activity and spending, and geographical area of use. If any anomalies are noted, they will immediately suspend the account pending communication with the customer. You certainly don’t want to have a blocked credit card while in a foreign country, as this would turn your adventure into a nightmare.
Carry along only the Necessary Cards Don’t carry all your credit cards along with you, only have the necessary ones. Secure the rest in your hotel room so that in case you lose your wallet while roaming, you have a fallback position.
Keep all Receipts You will need the receipts to compare with the bank statements and pick out any inconsistencies for correction by the credit card company. While paying for merchandise at the POS, ensure also that whatever amount that is charged is the right one, because some retailers deliberately double charge unsuspecting tourists. After the travel, be cautious of people purporting to be your bankers calling to say they have suspected some questionable activity on your account. They then ask for your account details and use the same to defraud you.
- BEGGARS In some countries, begging is run as an ‘organized business’ – the children collect money on behalf of their bosses in the criminal chain. In the cases where you feel soft hearted or empathetic with the children, offer them food instead of cash. Close and lengthy contacts with them allow them to carry out their schemes, so avoid or limit lengthy encounters with them.
- PICK POCKETING/ DIVERSION THEFT These diversion thefts occur when your focus has been shifted. Eg Good Samaritans helping out to clean some ketchup stain on your shirt with tissue, or helping you to change a flat tire. Never be distracted to take your eyes off your valuables. Always keep your attention on your valuables.
- CURRENCY CHANGE ‘ERRORS’ Always familiarize yourself with the currency exchange rates in the destination country, as tellers take advantage of the visitor’s ignorance.
- FAKE POLICE OFFICERS
Always familiarise yourself with the host country’s police uniform, as some conmen dressed in uniform will confront you pretending to be police officers with the intention of taking off with your valued wallet.
- OVERSHARING TRAVEL INFO ON SOCIAL MEDIA
You certainly would like all your facebook & twitter friends to know that you are travelling abroad, but it’s advisable to avoid sharing it on social media till you are back. This is because some thieves find out whose apartment has been left unattended and break in. There is also data mining websites like www.pleaserobme .com which mine information from social media sites to know who has left the country and their property by extension. Other common scams involved are;
- False internet friendships and cyber romances
- Marriage proposals delivered online.
- Emails from suspicious organisations promising prizes, promotional offers etc.
Above all, always be alert especially when in a public commotion. When for instance someone spills a drink on you ‘by mistake’ be very cautious since while they are trying to clean you up, a second con artist could be working on your wallet. Be the friend that sticks close to your wallet always. Written by our CFE to help you stay safe while abroad