Travel tips: Don’t fall for scams

Traveling should be a happy, relaxing time – and often it is. But who among us hasn’t heard a story of a vacation being ruined by the loss of cash, credit cards, valuables? Most of us know the basic rules that keep our belongings safe, but travelers around the world are increasingly vulnerable to a different type of thief: the “scam” or “con” artist.
They’ve always been around, but as Scam Watch, a publication from the Canadian Institute of Travel Counselors points out, forewarned is forearmed. The publication details an extensive list of known scams, from the old “ketchup and mustard” routine to the very effective “baby in distress” and its many variations. Credit card fraud is covered in detail.

Of the many scams detailed in the booklet, the ketchup and mustard scam is distinguished for its inventiveness. You are sitting in a nice café, when suddenly a fellow patron spills ketchup, mustard or any other condiment at hand all over you. While he apologizes profusely and tries to help “clean up”, his confederate has snatched your purse or wallet and is long gone.

One of the most valuable lessons to be found in this booklet: put your antennae up enever something “unusual” happens. It may be innocent, or it may be the start of a rip-off. This may be hard for some people who like to think that they are trusting souls, but the fact is that in today’s world you have to think of your own protection first.

Some basic tips gleaned from Scam Watch:

  • Don’t carry all of your valuables in one place.
  • When choosing pouches or bags remember that thieves may carry knives to slice pouches open
  • Don’t let yourself be too distracted to know where your bags are
  • Don’t let your credit card out of your sight.
  • Check your credit card statements carefully.
  • Don’t put your home address on luggage tags.
  • Be very aware as you pass through airport security checks.
  • There is no such thing as a “free vacation”.
  • Have a plan in case your valuables or passport are stolen.

To order the Scam Watch booklets, visit the CITC website at and click on Scam Watch