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Sorry, Wrong Number: British Tourist's Stolen Phone Racks Up Five-Figure Bill

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You assume, if your credit card gets stolen when you're on vacation, that the bandit will make a beeline for a local electronic store. And if your phone gets stolen, most of us would assume that the device just gets sold.

But London ad exec Mike Clear discovered a new, dizzying level of travel theft last month when he was vacationing in Spain.

According to a Daily Mail article by Martin Robinson, Clear’s phone got stolen one day in Alicante by pickpockets—lousy luck, to be sure. But the real shock came when his phone bill arrived: the bill, usually about £100, was now approaching £15,000 (about $23,000 Stateside).

As it turns out, the crooks were repeatedly calling a “premium rate” number that cost a whopping £21-a-minute, which racked up the exorbitant bill in just about two hours. It appears the crooks also set up that premium rate number, connected to their own bank account, and just needed to “recruit” phones to help them generate customers.

The article speculated that the pickpockets were also savvy enough to have some software that cracked the security code on Clear’s phone, which he had locked. 'There must be plenty of people who think that remote locking their phone when it's lost or stolen will give them some protection,” Clear told Robinson. “But it's a more or less useless security measure.”

For the first several days after the bill arrived, the story details, wireless provider O2 maintained that Clear was indeed responsible for his lofty phone bill. Happily, after further investigation, the company agreed to forgive the charges. A spokesperson for O2 called the crime “unprecedented.”

The lesson for the rest of us: if your phone ever gets stolen, cancel the phone—and any security code—stat.

See: Finding Lost or Stolen Gadgets.

Illustration by Mark Matcho

Nothing Inspires Passenger Confidence Like Silly Costumes

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Spring Airlines, based in China, probably thought they had a fun promotion on their hands: Dress the flight attendants in themed costumes to liven up the flights from Shanghai. Their first idea, posted on the Facebook page? Classic, and maybe short-skirted, maid costumes. Folks like to feel that they're getting good service, right?

Indeed, from various reports published in the past months, it seems that the bad ol’ days of “Coffee Tea or Me” for flight attendants might be making a comeback. Both Ryanair and Thailand-based Nok airlines have been dinged recently for selling calendars featuring flight attendants (or models posing as flight attendants) in skimpy outfits, while Vietnam’s VietJet Air actually staged a beauty contest down the aisle of an aloft flight last year, to celebrate a new route. (In that case, at least the bathing-suit-clad contestants weren’t crew members.)

For Spring Airlines, the frilly-skirted maid joke clearly fell flat. Some bloggers and Twitter usershave taken the airline to task—for objectifying the crew members, certainly, and perhaps even for putting their onboard safety at risk, due to those teeter-y heels. The airline responded by posting on Facebook that “We'll never objectify any of our staff; in fact this idea came from our international crew of qualified Chinese, Japanese and Thailand cabin staff.”

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The Emperor's New Tomb: Chinese Tourist Site Likely a Fake

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He's been blamed for the deaths of millions of his subjects—as well as the murder of his own father—the ancient Chinese emperor Yang Guang has also, apparently, put one over on thousands of tourists, even if he did so inadvertently.

According to a CNN Travel report by Frances Cha, archeologists recently discovered a tomb at a Yangzhou construction site, where tablets indicate that it was the actual resting place of the infamous ruler, who lived from 569 to 618. The site also features an adjoining tomb that may have belonged to Yang Guang’s empress.

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Hottie Crackdown: Men Booted from Saudi Festival for Their Looks

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Memo to Ryan Gosling and Jon Hamm: Steer clear of Riyadh.

According to a story in The Telegraph based on a report from the Arabic news site Elaph, three male delegates from the United Arab Emirates were recently asked to leave a cultural festival in the Saudi capital and subsequently deported back to Abu Dhabifor the crime of being too good-looking.

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That Sinking Feeling: Passengers Rescued from Liverpool Duck Bus

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When Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip rode the amphibious tour bus, the Yellow Duckmarine, for a tour of Liverpool last year, they may have elevated this rather conspicuous mode of tourism to a slightly more dignified position.

This week, the image of these tours has sunk again—rather literally. Over Easter weekend, a lunchtime run by the Beatlemania-tinged tour—which passes by several local landmarks, including the Cavern Club where the Fab Four got their start—ended abruptly when the boat began to sink in the River Mersey. Luckily, as The Daily Mail's Becky Evans reports, all of the passengers were evacuated safely to a pontoon.  (Beatles nerds might note that "Ferry Cross the Mersey" was not a Beatles song, but a hit for Gerry & The Pacemakers.) From the shore, many passengers watched (and documented) the Duckmarine sinking, not unlike Pete Best’s star potential back in the day.

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Camera Lost at Sea Near Maui Found on Taiwan Beach Five Years Later

Maybe there's hope for Brittania Fisher after all. Fisher, the Dallas woman who lost her wedding ring in the surf in Miami earlier this month, might be happy to read the story of Lindsay Crumbley Scallan, who lost an underwater camera while scuba diving in Maui in 2007 and has gotten it back—plus a free trip to Taiwan to retrieve it.

Last week, Hawaii News Now broadcast a story about the camera, which was found last month washed up 6,000 miles away on the shore in Taiwan. The camera, a Canon PowerShot A520, was intact despite its casing being covered with barnacles. More importantly, its memory card still worked and contained clear pictures of its owner enjoying Maui. A China Airlines employee who found it on a beach in Taiwan set up a Facebook page looking for the woman in the photos. Hawaii News Now posted a slideshow of images recovered from the camera along with an appeal to help track down the people in the photos. Since it was posted on Friday, the story of the lost-and-found camera was passed around the Internet until it was seen by a high school classmate of Scallan's who recognized her and brought it to her attention. She's planning her trip to Taiwan now.

In an interview aired on HNN, Scallan, who lives in Georgia, said the discovery of her camera and its social media-aided return is "just unbelievable… It's pretty neat."

See: Best Digital Cameras for Travel.

Welsh Tourist Fired After Saving Kids from Shark

Nothing helps shake off the stress of work like a beach vacation far from home. But as one Welshman learned, there may be a fine line between easing stress and whooping it up—at least in the eyes of his bosses back at home. Paul Marshallsea was taking stress-related sick leave from his job at a charity in Wales, and was using part of that time to visit Australia's Sunshine Coast. On the beach one day, the 62-year-old spotted a shark in shallow waters near a group of kids. "It could have been very nasty," he told the BBC.  "My instincts took over and I just grabbed the shark by the tail."

And then some: Marshallsea wrestled the shark into deeper waters, all of which happened to get caught on film and broadcast on Australia's Channel 9, where he was declared a hero. (Watch the video above.)

For starters, we feel for anyone who takes a vacation expressly to unwind, and ends up tangling with a shark. But Marshallsea's good deed did no go unpunished: Back in Wales, his employers happened to see the clip and fired him. "If I hadn't gone in to save the kids on that beach that day, I would still have a job," he told WalesOnline. "You think being … a children's charity, they would have tapped me on the back."

What do you think? Is it out of bounds to take a vacation while on stress-related sick leave?

Baby, Please Don’t Go: Man Calls in Fake Bomb Threat to Ground Girlfriend’s Plane

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Admit it, if this were part of a movie, it might be kinda awesome: Lovers have a fight just as the girl is about to leave town, perhaps for good. The guy must stop her from leaving—he sprints through the airport, of course—and then tries one last desperate move: Calling in a bomb threat so that her plane has to be evacuated. Girl de-planes, boyfriend apologizes. "You’re crazy!" she tells him. "Crazy about you," he replies. They kiss, music swells, credits roll.

We cannot vouch for any reconciliation, but a 31-year-old Chinese man reportedly did indeed call in a fake bomb threat to his girlfriend's flight to Shenzhen, because they had had an argument before she left. Her plane had actually already gotten some distance from Hefei Luogang International Airport and had to make an emergency landing at Nanchang Changbei. We're guessing that ruined their cinematic reunion. Perhaps even more disturbing, though, is that China has apparently endured a number of fake bomb threats lately: two within one week during fall 2012, and one last spring involving an 18-year-old man imitating the rules of a game; in fall 2011, a 28-year-old woman apparently even called one in on her own China United Airlines flight, to "make her husband worry."

If this trend continues, nervous fliers everywhere will have their own reasons to worry.

Photo by iStockphoto

Coming Soon to Guam: Dead Mice From the Sky

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There are two things that Guam is particularly famous—or infamous—for: its residents love of Spam, and the area's snakes. According to some experts, Hawaii—another Spam-lovers paradise—is just one unlucky plane ride away from becoming a den of vipers, too.

Both canned processed meats and snakes arrived in Guam right after World War II, courtesy of the armed forces (the Spam as non-perishable meals; the snakes as stowaways on ships). Since then, Guam’s now-thriving brown tree snake population has been responsible for decimating the local bird population, gnawing on power lines, biting lots of folks, and generally giving Guam a bad name.

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A True Destination Wedding: Getting Married at the Frankfurt Airport

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Now arriving in Terminal 1: The bride.

The destination wedding—having your family and friends trek to an island or foreign country for your nuptials—has become a staple of the wedding industry. But for the bride- and groom-to-be that can't commit to just one destination, Frankfurt has a new suggestion: Throw the party at the airport.

As part of its "Great to Have You Here!" campaign, Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) is now inviting travelers to get married in the terminal, as a convenient springboard for honeymoons. Indeed, it may be a nice lure for wedding guests, too. Your friends and family can fly into FRA just long enough to toast the happy couple, do the chicken dance and then catch a connecting flight to Prague.

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