WITH the summer holidays here and record numbers of Australians heading overseas, a travel expert warns holidaymakers to beware of tricks and scams that can wreck a trip of a lifetime.
Oonah Shiel, editor of cheap flights.com.au, said that in a foreign country, people let their guard down, relaxed, and often behaved in a way they never would consider back home, leaving them open to highly organised tourist scams.
"These scams often play on the traveller's kind and trusting nature, their desire to save on holiday purchases, and their lack of local knowledge," Ms Shiel said.
Michael McAuliffe, executive director at insurance provider SureSave, said it was difficult to pinpoint the exact number of Australians who fell victim to scams overseas.
He said travellers often did not realise they had been caught out until it was too late and many were simply too embarrassed to admit being fooled by a simple con.
"All it takes is a momentary lapse of judgment to fall prey to scammers, and yet you might regret it for a very long time," Mr McAuliffe said.
The key piece of advice is to keep your wits about you and learn from past travellers' mistakes and if in doubt call the police.
If a traveller finds themselves being accused of a crime they didn't commit, chances are they're dealing with a counterfeit cop.
For example, fake police might charge an over the top, on-the-spot fine for putting out a cigarette in public.
Check the officer's ID and contact the real police if in doubt.
On route to their official destination, Dodgy tuk-tuk or taxi drivers take travellers to stores where they are offered deals too good to be true.
The so-called gem scam can actually involve any high-priced or desirable item.
Victims soon discover their "jewels" may be nothing more than polished glass and those larger items never make it back home.
These can be anything from a child waving a paper in your face to an old woman needing assistance.
While you are distracted, a second crook comes in and swipes your stuff.
The key to making it out with all your valuables intact is to pay careful attention to your belongings and others around you.
These can take a variety of forms, but the basics involve a traveller being approached by locals who invite him or her to a bar.
After a few drinks, they leave and the tourist is left with the hefty bill.
Some of the most common taxi scams are inflating fares or telling passengers their selected hotel/bar/restaurant is closed but never fear, they know a better one.
Always travel in licensed taxis and, if possible, agree on a fixed fare.
Also, insist on going to your original destination and see if it's closed for yourself.