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Tech Thursday: How to Avoid Travel Scams

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The first time I ever flew into JFK was during a flight back to NYC from Los Angeles. I hadn't gone to bed until the sun came up earlier that day, was running on just a couple hours of sleep, and I was ready to get home and collapse onto my bed. So when faced with the decision to wait in the long taxi line or take up some guy on his car service option, my foggy brain decided the latter was a sound decision. I followed the guy to his “taxi” which was a rusty old pick-up truck, but thankfully had enough sense to stop, say “Absolutely not,” and turn back around to deal with the line for a legit cab.

Of course, now I know never to agree to an overzealous car service offer at the airport. Not only is it illegal, but it could very well be a big ol’ scam. City cabs have a strict payment policy that can’t be fudged. The illegal drivers just pull a number out of the air.

My reason for telling this story, which makes me look like a novice traveler, is as a reminder to be aware of the many scams travelers can, and are, presented with while on the road. (In fact, a couple years ago, we reported about the most common scams from around the world.) And today I discovered a new app that dives into all (or darn close to all) of the scams to be aware of: Scam Detector. (free; iOS)

The app has more than 500 scenarios, broken into five categories: Auto Scams, Face to Face Scams, Internet Scams, Telephone Scams, and Travel Scams. Of course, with 500+ scams listed, that’s a lot of reading. (And you certainly can’t pull up the app mid-potential scam to reference. “Excuse me. Could you hold one moment while I research to determine whether you’re scamming me or not?”) But it’s worth downloading and casually reading through, so you can be prepared ahead of time.

And if you’ve been the unfortunate victim of a scam, you can help others avoid the same fate by submitting your story to be included.

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Joshua Pramis is the social media editor for Travel + Leisure and no longer agrees to taking rides from shady strangers. (His mom is so proud of him!) Follow him on Twitter: @joshuapramis.

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