If you’ve ever fallen prey, you’ll know how astonishingly skilled a pickpocket can be in swiping items without you noticing. And airports make a great hunting ground: we’re often tired, distracted and conveniently in possession of our most valuable belongings.
Indeed, over 23.8 million Britons will be heading abroad this summer and more than one in 10 have been a victim of theft in the airport, according to insurance provider Policy Expert (don’t get fleeced on travel insurance either, while we’re on the topic, read Telegraph Travel’s guide here).
Below are 12 common scams to look out for at airports, and how to avoid them.
Scam 1. The security swipe
Is that person in front of you at the security line faffing about with their coins, keys, and belt because they’re unprepared (a cardinal airport sin), or because they’re a “staller”?
This trick requires a team of two pickpockets working together – one to slow down the line after you’ve tipped all your valuables into the tray, and another on the other end to swipe them as they emerge from the conveyor belt before you’ve had a chance to collect them.
Keep a close eye on the conveyor belt, and make it obvious that you are. It will make you seem a less easy target if you’re not daydreaming.
Scam 2. The distractor
There are plenty of points during the course of your traverse through an airport where you’re likely to be distracted: gawping at signs and departure screens, waiting for your baggage at the carousel and looking for car hire companies, to name a few. All these moments can be seized upon by thieves to grab small items from your bag, so it’s worth stowing your valuables in a less-easily accessed place, like inside a zipped bag, or in one of those nerdy wearable travel wallets.
Scam 3. The decoy artist
Even if you aren’t particularly distracted at the airport, you’re more easily distractible. Be wary of strangers who strike up a conversation (another cardinal sin, for the English at least) – it could be one of a two-man team, one leading your attention away from your bag or suitcase, and the other making off with it.
Scam 4. The bump
Yet another way for a pickpocket to grab your wallet, phone or passport while your mind is elsewhere – by bumping into you seemingly by accident and knocking you briefly off your guard. You can’t really avoid being bumped into, of course, but you can check for your valuables straight away should it occur, before your plunderer has a chance to disappear.
Scam 5. “Free” Wi-Fi
Some networks ask you to create a profile in order to gain Wi-Fi access, and what do give them for this? Your password, which will very commonly be your password for other accounts too. Official airport Wi-Fi can be patchy at best, but it’s better than giving hackers an open invitation to your online vault of information.
Scam 6. The Bluetooth ruse
Ensure that while at an airport, your phone’s Bluetooth isn’t set to “discoverable”. Having it activated presents another way for hackers to gain access to your data without ever meeting you.
Scam 7. The kindly “helper”
It would be nice if we lived in a society full of good Samaritans, but we don’t. Beware airport handlers who offer to help you get your suitcase to the car, only to then charge a fee at the end which is hard to wriggle out of, given they’ve already performed a service. Work instead on the assumption that no-one is going to do you a free favour, and that we live in a cruel world.
Scam 8. The phone scam
Be wary of vendors that rent out phones at airports, assuring you that you’ll get your deposit back when you return it at the end of your holiday. The deal might look attractive, but with extortionate calling rates taken into account, you can probably kiss that deposit away.
Scam 9. Fake officers
This one is all too easy to fall for. Psychological experiments have proved again and again that most us will conform to highly ridiculous requests if we’re ordered to by someone in a uniform. Wise to this, some scammers will work in teams: one plain-clothed stranger approaching to offer you illegal drugs, and before you’ve even had the chance to sensibly decline, two others in fake uniforms storming in to confront you, then letting you off with a “fine”. Lucky escape? Not really.
Scam 10. The currency game
Exchanging foreign money at an airport isn’t the best place to do so, given you’re usually out of other options by the time you’ve got there, so will grudgingly pay higher rates. But we know this. Cashiers, however, have other tricks up their sleeve. Sometimes they’ll count out the money so infuriatingly slowly that you’ll lose patience, especially if you’re in a rush, and just take whatever they give you. Or they’ll say the advertised rate is the “daytime” rate, and that the evening rate is higher. Don’t fall for it.
Scam 11. The false greeter
Most of us are used to dodging aggressive taxi offers at the airport in favour of licensed cabs that are less likely to rip us off. But if someone’s standing with your name on a board, that feels legitimate. Unless that person has seen your name on the board of the scheduled driver further back and scribbled it down on their own sign, making sure to stand where you’ll see them first. Just double-check you’ve got the right one before being led away.
That old chestnut. If you aren’t already in the habit of doing this, ask the driver for a flat rate to wherever you’re going, before getting in, or if that’s not possible, at least enquire whether their meter is working up front. And try not to look confused. A dodgy driver is far less likely to overcharge someone who appears familiar with where they are going than an obvious first-timer.
Source: The Telegraph
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