At some point during your travels, if it hasn’t already happened, you will be scammed. It happens to the best of us. There are millions of scams to be wary of, here are just three:

REQUEST FROM A “KIND” STRANGER…

I was recently standing at the Cambodia Angkor Air desk at the airport in Ho Chi Minh, waiting for someone to find my reservation and hoping that I wouldn’t miss the last flight to Phnom Penh.  A frantic woman approached me, explaining she was in charge of a group children, had just flown in from Phnom Penh and had accidentally taken the passport of a child now stranded in Cambodia.  She asked if I would be willing to take the passport back with me. 

Never, it bears repeating, NEVER agree to transport packages, envelopes, suitcases, or anything not belonging to you, for a stranger.  You could find yourself an unsuspecting smuggler or mule.  If you have two hours to spare, watch Brokedown Palace to see what happens to a young Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale after falling for a hot drug smuggler in Thailand.  If you’re caught smuggling anything illegal, it will not matter to local officials that you were scammed into the situation.

It should go without saying, but I wouldn’t even touch the envelope the woman was trying to hand over.  I have no idea what was in it, but I’m extremely confident that there was no stranded child in Cambodia waiting for his passport.  So what did I do?  I started laughing.  I tend to laugh at inappropriate times – it’s an issue I’m working on.  I turned to look around to see if anyone else had been close enough to witness the encounter.  In the time it took me to do that, the women quickly disappeared. 

THIS ROUND IS ON ME…

You’re overseas, meet a gorgeous local at a bar, or you end up at a bar of their choosing.  Next thing you know, your new friend is gone and you owe the bar an exorbitant bill.  Don’t have a credit card? Don’t worry, the scammers may even take you to an ATM to get the money you owe. 

Men tend to be the most common target for this scam.  I’ve heard of situations where the victims just pay the bill, sometimes in the thousands, in order to remove themselves from the situation.  If you’re at a bar, ask for the cost of a drink before ordering, each time.  Or pay for every round individually.  I know this sounds paranoid, but just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean that someone isn’t out to scam me.   

INSTA-SCAMMED…

Keep in mind that your travel could make your family back home susceptible to a scam.  In what is commonly referred to as the grandparents scam, a con artist calls your family pretending to be you and asks for money.  They make your family believe it’s an emergency and ask for the money to be sent through Western Union.  Usually, the level of information that can make this type of scam possible, is readily available online. So, what can you do to try to protect yourself from this type of scam?

  • Limit the amount of information you put on social media;
  • Don’t post in real time/tag your location (i.e. #latergram should be your rule of thumb when posting photos);
  • Use strict privacy settings on social media;
  • And most importantly, keep in touch with your family!