Everyone loves the opportunity to explore and the chance to escape from reality. Because we are so eager to enjoy our fabulous vacation, we often overlook some of the red flags that pop up while traveling. Unfortunately, there are a lot of travel scams out there and when a deal seems too good to be true, it’s most likely because it is. Scammers know that travelers make easy targets since they are willing to take chances in order to make their dream itinerary a reality. Not to mention, most travelers tend to let their guard down when they are in “vacation mode.” Rest assured, we’ve got your back! This article will provide some tips to help you recognize and avoid some of the most common scams out there:

“Free Gifts”

Don’t accept any free gifts. Often times, a stranger will approach you and try to give you something for free. Whether it be a bracelet or a rose, they are counting on you embracing their complimentary gift. Once in your possession, they will try to force you to pay for the item you so willingly accepted. Most tourists are too polite to cause a scene and so the con-artist walks away with your cash. It seems rude but try your best to ignore and not make eye contact. Being “unfriendly” is a much better alternative to being taken advantage of.

Photo-Takers (Literally)

Don’t let strangers take photos for you. As tempting as it is to get an epic group shot overlooking a gorgeous landmark, your new profile picture is going to have to wait. Unfortunately, it’s very common for a “friendly” stranger to approach the gang and offer to take a group shot of everyone. Before you know it, they’ve fled the scene with your camera/phone and you’re left high and dry. If possible, try to take a #selfie but if you absolutely insist on getting a group shot, try to ask a fellow tourist for a less risky approach.

Money Matters

Dealing with foreign currency can be tricky and it’s an area that many scammers try to exploit. Some merchants have been known to give you the incorrect change, thinking you won’t notice. Make sure to carefully review the change you’ve been given and feel free to take your time, even if you feel rushed. As an additional technique, many merchants will try to convince you that you gave the wrong denomination in the first place. In an attempt to avoid this uncomfortable scam, make it clear that you are not a target to be messed with. Carefully review the money you are about to provide and make it known that you are very aware of what you are giving them.

Local Tips

Getting to know the locals is a wonderful and authentic part of traveling but you have to be cautious of “overly-friendly” characters. It sounds cynical but unfortunately, many natives have ulterior motives when it comes to offering their services. Often times a local will offer to help you purchase a train or bus ticket but they ask for money after the fact in exchange for their assistance. Try to do your research ahead of time so you’re not relying on the “kindness” of strangers. Many locals will try to convince you to visit a “better” landmark only to lead you to one of their own shops. This can make for a very uncomfortable interaction if you’re not in-market for a tapestry. When in doubt, stick to your original plan and if you are intrigued by the offer, try to ask detailed questions to get the answers you need. Taxis are breeding grounds for scammers and there are several ways in which drivers can take advantage of you. Many cab drivers have been known to claim their meter isn’t working so they can overcharge you without any connection to the distance traveled. In this case, try to negotiate a reasonable price upfront. Taxis with working meters aren’t scam-free either. Many drivers have been known to take the long route to jack up the price. Try to make it known that you are (roughly) aware of the distance between destinations to discourage scammers.

Unfortunately, scams are always going to be a reality of traveling but this shouldn’t deter you from taking that next great trip. As long as you do your homework ahead of time, you’ll be in a position to make smart choices. It’s important to trust your instincts and always be aware of your surroundings. If you act confident and knowledgeable, scammers won’t perceive you as an easy target. Without the threat of being conned, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your well-deserved vacation!