Australia’s consumer watchdog is encouraging travellers to get scam-savvy this week, as its annual National Scams Awareness Week officially kicks off.
Compare the Market has gotten into the festive spirit, spreading awareness for dodgy dealings by releasing new research to reveal just how common scams connected to overseas travel can be, as well as some handy tips for travellers.
The independent survey revealed a whopping one in three (36 per cent) of Aussies are nervous to travel out of fear of being fleeced by scams.
More than half (57 per cent) of the nationally-representative panel of 1,500 Aussies surveyed said they had seen counterfeit goods being sold to travellers, and while this may come as no shock to savvy travellers, 56 per cent also said they had seen or heard about tourists being overcharged by taxi operators.
On top of this, almost half had seen fake charities and beggars asking for money, while another 45 per cent said they have seen unsuspecting tourists being pickpocketed on their travels.
Other known cons include schemers putting something into someone’s hand before demanding money (22 per cent) and rental car companies charging exorbitant fees for damage to a vehicle (14 per cent).
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade received over 2,500 theft reports from Aussie travellers in the last three years. The top five countries for scams where tourists reported the most thefts, were Spain at number one, followed by Italy, Mexico, Thailand and Japan.
In conjunction with the research, Compare the Market put together some helpful tips on what to do if you or your clients are scammed overseas:
- Watch your alcohol consumption. Most travel insurance policies have a blanket alcohol exclusion which may extend to scams. If you’re pickpocketed at a bar or nightclub for example, your insurer could have grounds to void your cover if it found you were too intoxicated to take due care of your belongings.
- Check your coverage for property hired or loaned to you. If you borrow a camera from a friend and a stranger offers to take a photo for you on your trip before disappearing, you could be left to foot the replacement bill, since some insurers may not cover loss or damage to hired or borrowed equipment. That’s why it’s crucial for anyone who takes out travel insurance to check their PDS cover and any exclusions.
- Ensure you’re covered for every country you’re visiting, including layovers. If you’re skimmed by a dodgy taxi operator from the airport on a stopover in Hong Kong but your travel insurance only includes coverage for Europe, you may not be covered for that loss or any other event or emergency for that stage of your journey.
- Don’t forget to extend your cover. If you’re swindled by a merchant who overcharges you, after you decide to take a few extra days to travel around Thailand, but forgot to request a cover extension from your insurer, you could lose that cover for the entirety of your journey, not just the part of the trip you forgot to tell your insurer about.
- Be wary of financial collapses and fake advertisements. If you book tickets to a theme park for the kids and the establishment goes bust, you may not be reimbursed for the cost of the tickets as most travel insurers don’t offer cover following the bankruptcy of service providers. On top of this, if it turns out the attraction advertisement was a hoax too, your travel insurer will most likely not provide cover either.