Cover-More exposes new travel scams

Scams growing in sophistication

Cover-More exposes new travel scams


By Roxanne Libatique

Familiar scams such as fake taxis, counterfeit designer goods, and bogus tours are well-documented. However, a recent case involving a fictitious beauty pageant in Africa underscores the sophistication of modern travel scams.

Paul Trotter from Cover-More Travel Insurance’s security assistance team explained the incident.

“Scammers know how to target people, and this was a textbook example of how they make use of social media,” he said. “They trawl through feeds looking for the right type of target with the right mentality and then they marry the real and digital worlds in executing their con. So, the more information about ourselves we have out there, the more there is to target.”

Female Australasian fell victim to travel scam

According to Trotter, a female victim from Australasia believed in the authenticity of a beauty pageant and handed over money to supposed organisers. Upon arriving in Uganda, the traveller was robbed, leaving her without resources.

“We first learned of the issue when the woman called us for assistance,” he said. “She was stuck in Uganda with no pageant, no money, and nightfall rapidly approaching. That is definitely not a circumstance you want to find yourself in. We helped her with arrangements including hotels, flights, and security advice, and she did make it home safely. But it could have been so much worse.”

Trotter said the incident highlighted the professional nature of many scams.

“Part of staying safe is about being aware of what goes on in your destination before you even get there,” he said. “Like the fact credit card skimming is more prevalent in Southeast Asia than five years ago, and that the limited-edition statue of the Eiffel Tower you are offered on the street in Paris is really anything but.”

Current prevalent travel scams

According to Cover-More, current prevalent scams include:

  • faux flat tyres: In Barcelona, scammers puncture rental car tyres and then steal luggage while pretending to help victims change the tyre
  • real babies in Paris: Scammers use real babies to distract tourists while pickpocketing them
  • fake religion: Impersonating religious figures, scammers offer to pose for photos and then demand payment, exploiting tourists’ reluctance to cause a scene
  • “special” rules for foreigners: Local police may solicit bribes at checkpoints or for minor infractions, targeting tourists specifically
  • Inside jobs: Hotel staff or store clerks may collaborate with scammers by using fake card machines to clone credit cards

How to avoid travel scams

Trotter stressed the importance of vigilance.

“If there weren’t gullible people, these scams would never exist,” he said. “But you need to remember this is a profession; these people do it for a living, so they're always going to be better at it than you.”

His key tips for travellers include:

  • awareness: Recognise how physical characteristics can make you a target
  • context: Not all scams are illegal, but they can still be exploitative
  • no assumptions: Safety should not be presumed based on location or language
  • firmness: Clearly refuse unwanted attention

“Don’t be a polite victim. You’ll never see these people again and, ultimately, your safety and security need to be paramount,” he said.


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