8 Scams All Business Travelers Should Recognize

Posted on Oct 08, 2018

Too good to be true? Probably. Is this dangerous? Probably. Should I be skeptical? Probably.

Risk is an inevitable part of life. Every day, all of us make choices—subconsciously, consciously— to mitigate this risk, because we know the world is a dangerous place. While traveling, it’s easy to let one’s guard down, ignore instinct, and fall into traps. At home, you might recognize a scam from a mile away, but when you’re in an unfamiliar place, things are different. Criminals are always on the lookout for vulnerable outsiders.

There are significant, specific risks to travelling internationally, especially as the world grows more and more unpredictable. As an employer, you take part in these risks when your employees travel for business—especially internationally. We live in a global society. Corporate business is borderless. For an employer, that means travel risk management is not only a necessity, but a legal concern.

Even seasoned business travelers are at risk of falling for scams that can cost them and their company money. So, when travelling abroad for work, make sure you, your colleagues, and your employees are wary of the following increasingly common scams.

1. "Hey, is this your wallet?"

This classic scam involves a wallet or packet of cash set on the ground in front of you. The scammer picks it up and asks if it belongs to you, trying to give it to you. Another person approaches and claims that the wallet belongs to him, then accuses you of trying to steal it. The two scammers then either threaten to call the police unless the tourist pays them, or ask to see your money to prove you didn’t steal theirs. When you take out your money, they grab it and flee. This can also be done with jewelry or other seemingly valuable items.

2. The house always wins

According to the U.S Department of State, scammers set up games on crowded sidewalks in high tourist areas. They use three shells (or cups) with a small ball underneath one. They move them around and then stop, asking the audience to bet which one the ball is under. Their accomplices in the audience guess correctly the first few times, and then they let regular tourists get involved. They allow the tourists to win and place higher and higher bets until the scammer palms the ball causing the tourists to lose – sometimes hundreds of dollars. There are many simple games like this. It could be dice, cards, or anything else, but the outcome is the same: eventually, you lose, and you have to pay.

3. WiFi Hot Spots Not Spots

Hackers will sometimes set up unsecured WiFi hotspots in public locations to lure unsuspecting victims seeking internet access — the thief then gets access to your computer and personal information. When using WiFi in a public place, such as a cafe or hotel, ask a member of staff for the correct network. Send information only to sites that are fully encrypted and avoid using mobile apps that require personal or financial information.

4. A taxi scam to drive you crazy

A driver may not use the meter, or he’ll say the meter is broken, and overcharge you. Or you may be taken on a ‘detour’ to a hotel or shop, where the driver makes a commission from what you spend there. Before you go, research local taxi rates, and have an idea of how long the journey should take.

5. It’s always phishing season

Usually the goal of a phishing email is to maliciously obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, records, money, social security numbers, credit card details, or bank information. This is done by sending legitimate-looking emails that have links or attachments. If you click on a link without thinking or open an attachment, you risk infecting your computer and introducing a virus into the company’s network. 

6. “Will you watch my bag?”

A friendly stranger asks you to watch his/her bag or purse while in the airport, train, or bus station. The stranger leaves and returns with a police officer, or someone posing as one. The bag may contain drugs or other illegal items. The criminals then extort money or other valuables.

7. Guy walks into a bar…

A young, attractive person offers to show you around town, then invites you to enjoy food or drink at a nearby establishment. You may be taken to a dimly-lit back room and given a menu with small print.  Sometimes, your beverages will be spiked with drugs to relax your inhibitions. When the bill arrives, the host leaves and the establishment sends back-up to force you to pay a crazily expensive bill or face assault.

A scammer posing as an art student might approach you and ask if you like artwork created by local artists. The scammer will invite you to view the artwork at an art gallery and serve drinks, before pressuring you to buy a piece, and/or demand compensation for the hospitality shown.

8. An unexpected call is your wake-up call

You get a call, seemingly from the hotel reception desk, asking you to confirm your card details. They may claim there is an issue with your card, but it’s actually a scammer, potentially working with someone inside the hotel. Do not share your card details on the phone. Instead, go to the hotel reception to make sure it’s legitimate.


At NC4 we strive to improve risk visibility and situational awareness with real-time incident alerts, updates, and global security information to prepare employees for safer travel. Choose a travel security solution that is as reliable as the world is unpredictable, and explore our solutions today.

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