The Rio Olympics are set to kick off, and sports fans around the world have their eyes set on South America. If you’re one of the lucky fans who’ve opted to travel to the country to watch the action up close, be prepared: the usual numbers of scams associated with any exotic locale will grow exponentially during this event.
There are literally dozens of scams that crop up in hot-ticket tourist destinations, and they can be grouped into different types. This link from Scam-Detector.com contains details on more than forty different scams that might target travelers to Rio, but here are some general categories to watch out for:
- Travel Scams – It doesn’t matter where you’re headed, there’s undoubtedly a travel scam waiting to steal your money, your identity, or both. Many of the scams take shape before you ever even pack a suitcase, such as ones with bogus flights, fake hotel accommodations, or hefty fees that you wouldn’t have been charged if you’d used a reputable service.
Do your research before booking any travel, lodging, or ground transportation. Beware of “too good to be true” deals, or offers of free lodging and free car service. Remember that the location isn’t the problem, but the fact that scammers know you’re out of your element and more likely to fall for their schemes.
- Extortion Scams – There are so many different variations on extortion schemes, but they all have one thing in common: you’re going to be intimidated into forking over your money to clear up the confusion. Whether it’s a dropped item scam that makes it look like you’re responsible for damaging someone’s property, a money drop scam in which someone offers to split “found money” with you, or a scam in which someone argues that you received a service then didn’t pay for it, don’t fall for their intimidation tactics. If the scammer starts calling for the police, let them; in fact, encourage them to alert the authorities, or call for the police yourself.
Be warned though, there are scammers who pose as police officers and automatically take the scammer’s side, informing you that your ignorance of the country’s laws is at fault. When in doubt, contact the US consulate or embassy in the country where you’re staying. There are common reports of local police corruption or their willingness to look the other way when it comes to a foreigner being scammed. Do not let threats of physical harm or jail time coerce you into handing over money to make it all go away.
- Identity Theft Scams – Oddly enough, the very same scams that target your identity when you’re home are still viable in other countries. That’s why you have to be careful about using an ATM, paying at the gas pump or a payphone with your credit card, logging into your sensitive accounts over public Wi-Fi, and more.
Do your homework before you leave, and learn what technology steps you need to take while you’re in Rio (or any other country). Make sure someone back home has the right access to help you if an account problem comes up, such as knowing where your credit card information is stored in case your wallet is stolen or your account is compromised by a scammer. Make sure you monitor your credit card and bank account statements very thoroughly when you get home in order to spot any suspicious activity.
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from scams is to avoid looking “too much” like a tourist. Some things can’t be helped, like driving a rental car that alerts scammers to your traveler status. But other behaviors can make you seem like more of an easy target, so keep a low profile, keep an air of quiet confidence about you, and do your best to blend in with others.
Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.