This blog post was updated on May 12, 2020.
You’re fresh off the boat, the plane, or the train. You haven’t traveled extensively. You are only a twenty-something, eager to explore the world. You might be on a budget and eked out just about enough for round trip flights (with not much funds to take with you) or you plan on going solo. Perhaps you’re headed to countries you have never traveled in before. Yes, travel can seem magical and fresh through young eyes … until you experience your first travel scam. Sadly, just as older travelers are vulnerable to these scams, so too are young, twenty-something travelers. If you know what common scams to watch out for, specifically those targeted at your age group, you can keep that magic of travel alive and not grow bitter because a pickpocket took off with your entire trip budget.
The Quick-to-Help Stranger
Most twenty-somethings are getting their feet wet with travel. You could even begin traveling by yourself, which can make certain tasks a bit harder to do on your own. So when an overly helpful stranger offers to lift your bags to the next train platform over or help you figure out the automated ticket kiosk, you can’t believe the kindness of strangers. Once they help you, suddenly, they demand a cash prize. You can avoid this scam by being prepared for their approach, usually at busy transport hubs or in lines.
Tainted or Counterfeit Alcohol (Especially at Resorts)
Twenty-somethings are often the target of scams involving alcohol while traveling. While you might want to let loose when you travel and kick back a few drinks at your resort, you may be in for an unpleasant (and mostly unnoticed) surprise when your drinks are served. In recent years, there have been more and more reports of resorts serving up tainted or counterfeit alcohol. Not only are these drinks a scam for your wallet, but they can be life threatening too. You can avoid being served counterfeit alcohol by researching the resort you plan on imbibing. Even if you are at a bar on your travels, if that first sip doesn’t taste right, stop drinking and leave. You can also stick to canned or bottled beer and wine that you can actually see being opened and poured.
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The Fraudulent Ticket
You are standing in a long line to buy tickets for an attraction or a train trip. A man approaches and he can sell you tickets so that you can skip the line. Younger travelers, who don’t like to wait in lines and are used to buying tickets online, frequently fall victim to this scam. When someone offers tickets while you’re in line, they are most likely fake tickets. The scammer will pocket your money and you’ll be faced with paying double for what you thought was a real ticket.
The Free and Open Wi-Fi Network
Younger travelers like to stay connected on their travels and they like to do so for free. If you find yourself in an airport, café, or even your accommodations and see a free and open Wi-Fi network, usually labeled something like “Free Wi-Fi”, DO NOT join it! Often times these are scammers looking to hack your devices and gain access to personal information. Don’t join a network just because it’s free and open, especially if you are looking at your bank account or checking emails.
The Too-Good-to-Be-True Hotel Deal at a Point of Entry
Many twenty-somethings like to go with the flow with their travels. You want to find your accommodations once you get into town, rather than booking in advance. If this is the case, you are this scammer’s dream. You arrive at an airport, ferry port, or train station. A number of people approach you with a picture of a hotel room or other sorts of accommodations at a bargain price. Since you’re young and on a budget, you welcome the steal of a deal. They ask for payment upfront and then they take you to what you saw pictured … or so you think. You get to the accommodations and it looks nothing like what they showed you or where they told you it would be. You can easily avoid this scam by never agreeing to pay upfront for a room you haven’t seen. If they won’t let you see it without payment, it’s a scam.
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The Multitude of Taxi Scams
Seasoned travelers have seen every taxi scam in the book. However, twenty-somethings often haven’t experienced a lot of them. Your driver tells you the meter is broken and overcharges you. You can avoid this by agreeing on a price before getting in the cab. Or your taxi driver quotes a flat fare from the airport that’s actually double the price of what it should be. Avoid overpaying by inquiring with your hotel or airport information desks or by researching in advance the cost of flat fares. Your driver could even tell you your hotel is bad or closed and take you to another where they will get a commission. Always demand to go where you booked in this case.
If you are in your twenties, chances are your cellphone is glued to your hand. When you travel, your cellphone can actually open you up to scams. On the most basic level, if you are always distracted by your phone, especially in crowded public places, you might be a pickpocket’s prime target. They could easily grab your wallet out of your back pocket while you scroll Instagram. Another scenario is you’re taking photos and selfies when someone approaches and offers to take your photo, and they then run off with your phone. Avoid both instances by simply being aware. In crowded places, don’t pull out your phone if you can avoid it. And if a lone person who doesn’t look like a fellow tourist offers to take your photo, especially from far away with your phone, say no thanks.
We get it: life on the road as a twenty-something can be challenging. But even before you start looking for round trip flights for your next adventure, make sure to make a mental note of these simple precautions so you can safeguard yourself from these common scams while on the road.
Have you fallen victim to a travel scam in your twenties? Share your experience with us in the comments below.