Top 10 Travel Scams to Watch Out For

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 4:14am by Site Administrator

Traveling is generally an exciting and enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t take much to ruin a good trip. Every day, unsuspecting tourists fall victim to sneaky travel scams. It doesn’t matter how beautiful or quaint of a location, there are always scammers waiting to prey on naive, money-toting vacationers. Most scams can be prevented by using your common sense, while others are trickier and harder to spot. Before you travel domestically or internationally, it’s a good idea to do your homework and brush up on these 10 common travel scams.

  1. The overly helpful local

    Whether you’re traveling in the states or internationally, you should be wary of the overly helpful local who might try to scam you. This scam can be initiated by one or multiple people, but the goal is generally the same. The overly helpful local may approach you and warn you about pickpocketing and the safety of your wallet. They will also offer help with the ATM, so they can either get a good look at your pin number or steal your cash on the spot. These overly helpful locals have also been known to scout out people with flat tires or car problems and ambush them. Many times, the local will assist you and demand a tip for their help. Beware of these overly helpful locals and try to get assistance from a reputable source or establishment.

  2. The swoop-in

    The swoop-in is a carefully planned scam that preys on unsuspecting travelers. One of the scammers squirts mustard or a white substance that looks like bird poop and another person swoops in to wipe the mess away with napkins. While the unsuspecting tourist is being helped, another person or two come to the scene to steal wallets, purses, passports, and anything else they can get their hands on. Avoid becoming a victim of this scam by refusing help and cleaning the mess yourself.

  3. The attractive flirt

    This scam mostly applies to single male travelers who are easily smitten by attractive, foreign women, but that doesn’t mean an attractive male couldn’t pull the same stunt on a woman. The scam is fairly simple and quite predictable. An attractive, flirtatious woman approaches a single man and invites him to have a drink with her at a bar or nightclub. One drink can turn into several, resulting in an exorbitant bill at your expense. European travel expert, Rick Steves, says there are some variations to the scam, but warns against accepting invitations from complete strangers, especially when drinking.

  4. Monkey business

    It’s not every day that you see a monkey roaming the streets in America, which is why so many tourists fall for this unexpected scam. Once you get down on their level, everything is fair game for these furry creatures. The quick and nimble monkeys are trained to swipe your wallet, purse, passport, camera, sunglasses, and other belongings and run off. Then, a seemingly helpful local will offer to retrieve your items, but not without a fee or tip for their assistance. Oftentimes, the person who retrieves the goods is actually responsible for training the monkeys to be petty thieves. The best way to avoid this scam is to stay away from the monkeys or keep your important belongings out of reach.

  5. Phony police officers

    Scammers often go under disguise to make their ploy much more believable. A popular scam is to pretend to be police officers. They will stop travelers on the street and ask to see their wallet to search for counterfeit bills for their "protection." While the fake police search your wallet, they might take some bills and credit cards in the process. Although it can be difficult to tell the difference between real police and fake police, you might want to study the city’s police uniforms to avoid falling for this scam.

  1. Gold ring scam

    The lost gold ring scam has been going on for years and is particularly bad in Paris. Scammers will approach tourists with a "lost" gold ring and ask if they dropped it. As tourists examine the ring, they discover the pure gold authentication and the scammer asks them to try it on. Once the person tries on the ring, they are stuck. The scammer will ask the tourist to pay for the ring, often at a much higher price than what he or she paid for it, then proceed to beg for money. Avoid falling victim to this scam by ignoring the scammers or simply tell them "no" in your language of choice.

  2. Menu switcheroo

    While dining out abroad, watch out for the menu switcheroo. Restaurants that are looking to make some extra money will show tourists one menu before they order and present an overpriced bill after they finish eating. Anticipating a complaint, the manager or restaurant employee shows the customer a different menu with the inflated prices and insists that the bill is correct. This scam doesn’t always work out in the restaurant or establishment’s favor, but it’s a good idea to study the menu, keep one at your side, and brush up on the local language in case you have to argue your point. Also, before you travel, see if the U.S. Embassy has issued a tourist advisory that names certain places that have been known to rip off travelers.

  3. The slow count

    Another scam to look out for is the slow count, where cashiers purposely count a tourist’s money slowly, hoping that they will get antsy and leave before getting their total amount. The cashiers will take long pauses and move extremely slowly to make the process even more aggravating and drawn out. Avoid this scam by clearly stating the value of the bill and counting your money before you leave.

  4. Overpriced taxi ride

    Taxis are a necessary form of transportation when traveling abroad, so it’s important to keep your guard up when riding in them. The most common taxi scam is being overcharged by the driver. Avoid becoming a victim by using taxi stands, asking for the fare up front, and only taking taxis with meters in them.

  5. The gypsy baby toss

    If you’re traveling to Italy or Eastern Europe, you may have been warned about gypsies and their pickpocketing ways. A common way for gypsies to snatch your cash and belongings is to do the baby toss. Gypsy women will target single female travelers and approach them while holding a baby in a blanket, which is often a baby doll. Then, they’ll toss the baby into the travelers’ arms and another person will quickly steal their purse, wallet, jewelry, and anything else that’s accessible. The best way to avoid this shrewd scam is to steer clear of gypsies and beggars because they’re often up to no good.

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10 Most Recognizable Business Mascots

Monday, January 16, 2012 at 4:28am by Site Administrator

Used to be that a mascot for a business, be it a cartoon character, member of the animal kingdom, or human stand-in, existed only in two-dimensional form on signage and print advertising. These days, with more outlets for advertising than ever before, advertising mascots appear on Facebook pages, tweet on Twitter, and even star in their own sitcoms. Some mascots are so entertaining on their own, you might not know or care about the product they’re trying to sell. Here are 10 of today’s the most recognizable business mascots, mascots designed to brand a service as opposed to a product such as breakfast cereal or pancake syrup.

  1. The GEICO Gecko

    Most recently voiced with a Cockney London accent by actor Jake Wood, this charming and earnest reptile maintains his own blog, sharing updates and photos from his travels around the world.

  2. The GEICO Cavemen

    The joke just doesn’t get old. Articulate quasi-metrosexual Neanderthals repeatedly find themselves the butt of GEICO’s "So easy, a caveman could do it…" tag line. (Honorary mascot mention: Kash aka the stack of cash with googly eyes identified as the money a person saves when using GEICO. Kash’s recurring music cue is also a hoot.)

  3. The AFLAC Duck

    The ad agency responsible for this mascot credits the ducks in the ponds of New York’s Central Park for demonstrating how much "AFLAC" sounds like a quack. That team of creative ducks received payment for their help in the form of several loaves of white bread. Gilbert Gottfried voiced the character for more than a decade, but he was fired in spring 2011 when he made jokes about the recent tsunami and earthquake that company officials deemed "lacking in humor."

  4. The AOL Running Man

    Back in 2009, AOL tried its best to replace the Running Man with a variety of new branding images, including a goldfish, all of which seem to be gone now in 2012. That little yellow guy is still their best icon.

  5. Juan Valdez

    Created in 1959 by a New York ad agency, this fictional character, wearing the traditional dress of an arriero, or mule driver, is directly inspired by Colombia’s real-life coffee farmers. In addition to being the brand symbol for the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, Juan Valdez is a national folk hero, representing the very real demographic of rural coffee farmers that help make Colombia the world’s third-largest producer of coffee.

  6. The Twitter Blue Bird

    Perhaps it’s not surprising given the nature of the Internet, crowd-sourcing, and out-of-date copyright laws, that Twitter paid the designer less than $6 for this now ubiquitous image of a blue bird. That’s just a couple bucks less than what the designer of the Nike swoosh received.

  7. Mayhem

    If fate is a hunter, than Allstate’s Mayhem is looking to mount your head on his wall. He is one of the most frightening and funny mascots in current advertising culture, and very much a product of our uncertain times.

  8. Flo the Progressive Girl

    In television commercial after television commercial, the incessantly bubbly and, well, kinda sexy Flo the Progressive Girl for all of her oddball quirkiness, somehow delivers a consistent message regarding credibility and customer service. And her 2.4 million fans on Facebook can’t all be stalkers, right?

  9. Reddy Kilowatt

    Those of you born later than 1930 may have no idea who this freaky character is. The lightning bolt limbed Reddy was once the super-charged mascot of more than 200 electric power companies promoting electricity as a safe utility for homes and businesses.

  10. William Shatner

    There are no second acts in American lives. Unless your name is William Shatner, who has experienced at least four or five. In addition to starring in two different hit television shows after playing the iconic Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series, Shatner has enjoyed a lucrative career as less of a spokesman and more of a mascot — albeit a very butch, post-modern, self-aware mascot — for a variety of companies, including DirectTV, Smith & Hassler Attorneys at Law, and perhaps most famously,