Before you go
Tens of millions of holidaymakers book trips online – but a few thousand are left with nothing but a big dent in their finances. Before you type in your financial details to pay for flights or accommodation, satisfy yourself that you are dealing with a bona fide trader. If anyone asks you to send money by bank transfer, alarms should sound. Do not send money unless you are certain you can trust the recipient. Bank transfers are irreversible. If the deal is a scam – for example, the villa you “booked” does not exist – you have no come-back. Other payment methods, such as credit or debit cards, allow for appeals.
Bags are packed, ready to leave …
Careful how you label your luggage. One popular trick among burglars is to go to airports and study the labels on baggage – either memorising the home address, or taking a mobile-phone picture of the details. It’s a fair bet your home will be empty for a week or two. So, don’t reveal any personal details beyond your name, mobile phone number (prefixed +44, in case a baggage office needs to call you), and an email address. Put the same details inside the bag for added security.
Just arrived. Who are those odd men?
No, not the pilots – the chaps hanging around the arrivals area. You are at your most vulnerable on arrival at your holiday destination. Tired and confused, you have to sort out the next step of your journey tickets or transfers. You a tempting target for villains.
Think before you tweet
“I’m at the airport #onhols” – I follow a number of airports on Twitter to learn of any problems with weather or strikes, and I’m amazed by how many people tweet something like: “Lovely day 2day in Ibiza.” It took me about two minutes to find out a great deal about the tweeter. You might as well send an email to your local burglar about your details.
Get an up-to-date guidebook to plan your journey. If you can book in advance and print out your onward tickets, so much the better. Have some local currency to hand so as not to reveal where the bulk of your funds are stashed. Stay alert to what’s happening around you . At railway stations, airports and on airport trains, keep your eyes on your luggage: the lines from Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle are notorious for thefts. Avoid crowds.
When sightseeing, don’t lose focus
Pickpockets, bag snatchers and scam artists are as fond of busy tourist attractions as they are of transport terminals. Rome, Florence, Prague, Barcelona and Seville are prime crime territory. Again, be aware in crowds, whether of children or men. If anything unusual happens – eg a woman claiming to have found a wedding ring, or a man who “finds” a wallet and seeks your help – be immediately suspicious. This usually marks the beginning of an elaborate and often expensive scam.
Many hotels have an open-door policy that enables people to walk in unchallenged off the streets. Be careful of people milling about at the front desk, may be eyeing up your luggage. If anyone knocks on your hotel-room door, check first with reception. In general, small, family-run hotels tend to be better protected against crime than big, anonymous properties. – The Independent