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Michigan Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff

Michigan Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff
by Colleen Burcar
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Cons, Hacks and Hidden Fees: Scams to Avoid When Traveling in the U.S.

by Lee Barry
Scam

You return from a trip to New York City only to find the discount Rolex you bought from a sidewalk vendor has already stopped working. You play a $5 DVD purchased from an outdoor market in San Francisco only to find the picture quality is so bad the movie is unwatchable. Scams are part of traveling, and these types of cons are old fashioned in comparison to the digital wizardry being performed by modern hackers. According to Lonely Planet, roughly 156 million foreign travelers visit the United States every year. From experiencing local customs to tasting new cuisine, there are many joys to traveling. However, losing all of your money or having your identity pick pocketed by a cyber thief probably isn’t on the itinerary.

Transportation

Many travelers are dependent on taxis for getting around, and some taxi drivers exploit this fact. From overcharging customers for rides to having meters that run suspiciously fast, when you use a taxi, be sure to have your scam radar on. At some tourist destinations there's even a minimum fee for simply getting in a cab. In order to avoid a scam be sure to confirm the rate before getting in the taxi. USA Today Travel Tips recommend that you only use licensed and metered cabs, and the same holds true if you want a town car or limo. In popular tourist areas there are numerous unmarked vehicles posing as discount taxi cabs.

Identity Theft

You may be vacationing in the U.S. and not even know your personal information has been stolen. It is only three weeks later, when you get an urgent call from your credit card company, that you find out something is terribly wrong. From running up charges on your credit cards and opening new accounts to getting medical treatment on your health insurance, once thieves have your personal information, they can afflict all sorts of financial damage.

To get your personal information hackers target unprotected Wi-Fi connections. Airport lounges, hotels and restaurants are often susceptible to cyber thieves. If you’re going to conduct any business over the Internet when you travel, be sure to do so on a secure connection. Nevertheless, an identity theft protection service will give you a greater peace of mind when you travel. LifeLock specializes in protecting people from credit fraud and identity theft and will alert you if your personal information is being used.

Begging

As a traveler, seeing poorly dressed children and desperate looking people begging on the street is a harsh reality. If you’re a good-hearted person, maybe you have even given $5 to an old man claiming to be a homeless veteran. However, many people begging on the streets in tourist areas are not poor, starving, or underprivileged. Often, they are not veterans, homeless, nor have they been displaced by war. Many of these people are working for organized scam rings, and they are receiving a commission for every dollar they beg from an unsuspecting tourist. This is a particularly insidious scam as it plays on human emotions. Still, despite how bad you may feel for woman who claims she's just trying to earn money to get home to see a dying relative, it's better not to reach into your wallet.

Lee Barry Lee thinks his love of travel came from an Army-brat childhood spent all over Europe. Now he writes about his adventures for a number of blogs.


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