Travelers Beware

Finally, you get to cross Rome off your bucket list for travel destinations!

While exploring the Colosseum, one of the locals offers to snap a photo of you and your group in front of the busy landmark. Without thinking, you agree and hand over your smartphone.

As you’re getting ready to pose, you look up and see that your new “friend” has just run off with your phone.

In your twenties, you might have chased after the thief. But, as you get older, you can’t rely on your physicality as much. Instead, you need to stop crooks before they even have a chance to act.

Traveling tops most American’s lists of things they’re most looking forward to spending money on in retirement.

This year alone, baby boomers spent an average of $6,600 on leisure trips both domestically and abroad, according to AARP. So before you book any flights, make sure you read my post from yesterday about how I fly around the world, and stay at luxury hotels for free, and how you can too!

Now, if you’re planning an international trip or even looking to travel within the United States, I have a few recommendations on how to stay safe.

  1. Learn the Common Scams

It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, there’s always shady people willing to trick you out of your hard-earned cash. Even Canada has its fair share of tourist scams.

But the best way to avoid being scammed is learning what the most common “tourist traps” are. I recommend you start by searching, “Most Common Travel Scams” in Google. Then narrow your search to your specific destination, “Most Common Scams in Paris…Rome…Mexico…etc.”

You’ll quickly learn some of the common tricks these con-artists try like broken taxi meters, “free” bracelets and flowers, fake rental damages, etc. The more scams you’re aware of the less likely you will be to fall prey.

  1. Check The U.S. Department of State’s Website

Before you buy airfare or book accommodations to your next trip abroad, make sure you visit The U.S. Department of State’s website.

The U.S. Department of State lists every country in the world, and all known dangers and current threats to visitors.

There’s one major caveat here: the State Department’s job is to warn travelers about everything that could go wrong, which is not necessarily what is likely to go wrong.

This means their advice is typically overly cautious. Keep this in mind while researching your destination of choice. But, generally speaking, the State Department’s travel warnings will give you an idea of what’s going on in a country and if there are any specific problem areas you should avoid.

  1. Register With STEP

The U.S. Department of State also offers the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), that notifies your destination country’s embassy of your arrival and will keep you updated on the latest safety information.

STEP is free to all U.S. citizens and nationals living abroad. It’s a great way to get reliable, up-to-date safety information as you travel.

If an emergency were to happen, like a terrorist attack or natural disaster, the local embassy can get a hold of you quickly to help with evacuation.

  1. Write Down Emergency Info

You might be tempted to skip this tip. After all, we live in a time when information we want can easily be found on the Internet or on our smart devices in a matter of seconds.

But if disaster strikes, you might not have time or be in the right mindset to look up emergency information.

Don’t put yourself in that situation. Instead, write down local police or ambulance service numbers on a piece of paper. Create an “Emergency Plan” on a recipe card and keep it in a dry place like a ziplock bag or waterproof pouch.

Also save a copy of the emergency plan on your phone so you can quickly access it in case you lose the written copy. This way you won’t have to think of who to contact if disaster strikes.

  1. Email Friends/Family Your Itinerary

Once you know where you’re going and when, make sure you tell someone your plan.

Email your full itinerary to a family member or close friend back home. If your schedule is evolving day-to-day, then spend five minutes texting someone your plans for the day first thing so they know where you’ll be and when.

This way, if they don’t hear from you for a few days after you’re supposed to return, they can notify local authorities, the embassy, etc.

  1. Use ATMs with Caution

Covering your hand when keying in your PIN is a good start but there are a few more steps you should take if you plan on using an ATM abroad.

Always take a close look at ATM machines before you use them. Pull on the card reader, run your finger along the card slot. Look for any signs of tampering. If you suspect the machine has been compromised, go into the bank and notify the clerk to come out and have a look.

If the ATM seems to have eaten your card, run your finger along the card slot to see if you feel anything protruding. The “Lebanese Loop” is a scam where a thin plastic sleeve captures your card, then as soon as you walk away, a thief pulls out your card and runs away with it.

Also, never let anyone “help,” you with an ATM. This is a common trap that typically ends in you getting robbed.

  1. Little White Lies Are OK

The last thing I’ll recommend is keeping your travel plans and accommodation details to yourself. If strangers or shop owners ask where you’re staying, feel free to mislead them a bit. Give the name of a different hotel or be vague.

You don’t have to be rude, just be cautious with what information you share. The same goes for anyone asking if you’ve been to a destination before. Saying it’s your first time traveling some place could give a con-artist the impression that you’re less savvy to some of the local tricks.

My final travel tip is don’t put the “clean my room” sign on your hotel room door. Those signs are like big advertisements telling crooks that your belongings are ready to be stolen.

Thieves know that travelers leave their passports, extra money, jewelry, and electronics in their rooms locked up. These crooks also know how to jimmy door and suitcase locks and will steal your belongings.

Rather than advertise your absence, once you leave the hotel call the front desk and notify them that your room is ready to be cleaned.

Traveling should be a rewarding experience. Something that you’ve worked hard for many years to be able to enjoy. Don’t let a small group of scammers ruin your retirement travel plans.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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Nilus Mattive

Nilus is the editor for the daily e-letter The Rich Life Roadmap and a Paradigm Press analyst.

Nilus began his professional career at Jono Steinberg’s Individual Investor Group, where he published his original research through a regular investment column. Later, he worked for a private equity business and spent five years editing Standard and Poor’s...

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