For many travelers, their journey begins and ends at the airport - making it a comfortable and familiar place where guards may be dropped. With signs are printed in multiple languages and police officers posted in high traffic areas, many travelers feel safe and secure while waiting at the airport.
However, travelers aren't the only ones who feel at home at the airport. Scam artists also feel a sense of security while visiting different departure points, looking for unknowing travelers to target. As a result, smart scam artists and pickpockets have found ways to part travelers from their valuables without their knowledge. When a traveler lets their guard down even for a moment, it can result in the loss of wallets, passports, and even luggage.
Prior to arrival, every traveler needs to make sure they stay safe from pickpockets and other scam artists. Here are three common scams every traveler needs to watch out for at the airport.
Airport security checkpoint scams result in lost luggage
It is no secret that airport luggage theft is a problem in airports around the world. From unscrupulous security officers stealing from luggage, to items being stolen directly from the carousel, luggage theft is a threat to anyone who passes through the airport.
One of the most common attacks on travelers involves a team of thieves looking for victims at the security checkpoint. Much like a bottleneck pickpocketing attack, an airport security check scam starts when a traveler sends their luggage through the x-ray machine. Once it's through, another traveler will often cut in front of the line and intentionally set off the metal detector or body scanner. The alert causes a temporary pause in the line, allowing an accomplice to steal luggage on the other side of the security checkpoint.
In order to prevent becoming a victim of this scam, travelers should stay with their luggage until they are next to go through the metal detector or scanner. Only then should they allow luggage to pass through the x-ray machine. Those are stopped by security personnel for additional screening can ask that their luggage be held at the checkpoint until they can claim it.
Airport pickpockets target passengers at the carousel
When a flight arrives at its final destination, most travelers immediately congregate around the luggage carousel to retrieve checked luggage. Although carousel theft is a problem, smart scam artists are looking less at the luggage and paying more attention to the passengers.
The airport pickpockets strike as tired and jetlagged passengers huddle around the luggage carousels focusing on the bags, and not other passengers. When travelers drop their focus the pickpockets will utilize a "bump," where they seem to accidentally run into a passenger. As a result, the pickpocket leaves with a traveler's wallet or documents, leaving the traveler unaware they have become a victim until it is too late.
Much like any crowded place, the best thing travelers can do is stay alert of their surroundings. Those who keep their head up and focused on those around them are less likely to be singled out as a target.
Airport taxi scams prey upon tourists
After an overnight flight heading east, travelers may have no bigger want than to go straight to their hotel for some needed rest and jet lag recovery. After clearing customs and retrieving luggage, the next step is finding a way to get to the hotel. While some hotels offer shuttle service to and from the airport, others require a taxi ride – which is an easy way for travelers to get in trouble.
Most airports will offer an official taxi stand for licensed transport. However, scam artists will still solicit travelers directly, offering discounted ground transportation. The result can range from being taken for a long ride, to being taken to the wrong hotel entirely.
Unlicensed taxi services are not only illegal, but can be incredibly dangerous. Travelers who are solicited for an illegal ride should immediately walk away and either use the services provided by the airport, or book another form of ground transportation.
Even at the airport, scam artists and thieves are looking to take advantage of international travelers. By staying aware and alert of their situations, travelers can make sure they stay safe at both arrival and departure.