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Travel scams you need to be aware of

JILL OKEKE - The Nation - 17-12-17
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Christmas Travel

One of the most frequently asked questions since the last few weeks is ‘Are you travelling?’ Irrespective of the seemingly harsh economy, friends, colleagues, relatives, turn to each other time and time again, requesting to know who and who is travelling.

The Christmas season is characterised with so much love, sharing, giving, feasting that most people all over the world strive to celebrate it amongst loved ones and family members.

Most companies shut down for periods of two weeks or even more, leaving staff with ample time to travel out of town or even out of the country. Like every other country round the world, Nigeria has its share of scam artists and fraudsters in every sector.

With just eight days to Christmas and with many schools already closed, many families will be travelling this week. As you are preparing to travel to affect lives positively, there are people who are also planning to dispose you of your properties. All through the year, they have been perfecting ways on how to defraud you during this season.

Travelling can be a very exciting and enjoyable experience but if you fall victim to fraudsters it can end up becoming an ugly and painful nightmare. We need to be mindful of travel scams, whether we are travelling on air, land, rail or sea.

If you are travelling on air, the first place you are likely to encounter fraudsters is as you engage in purchasing your ticket indirectly. Most times, customers pay ahead and this has created opportunities for scammers especially during peak periods like now.

Scammers will send offers by phone or mail of extremely low cost trips and demand pre-payment for trips that will eventually may not be executed.

In view of this, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) cautions travellers to be very critical and suspicious if they receive such proposal especially if the cost is very low, the consumer is being pressurised to make quick and upfront payment.

NCAA, which one of its responsibilities is to protect the interest of air passengers, advises passengers to be wary of any offer which describes a prospective carrier as ‘a major airline, leading airline etcetera’ without its specific name.

Rather, cautions NCAA in a statement, the passenger should ask the person or organisation for their brochure and a few days to enable you think about the offer.

“Ask for a confirmed departure date and flight, and whether your payments are refundable if you wish to cancel your booking. If the response to those requests is negative, then you have good reason to be suspicious.”

Another scam which air passengers must not take lightly is allowing Airlines to force them to pay the increased ongoing rate after a passenger may have booked weeks back and paid the going rate as at the time of her booking.

According to Chioma Aneke, “last year December, I booked and paid N21,000 two weeks ahead of my travel time to Enugu. At the airport on 24th of December, the airline official insisted that I must augment my fare to the current rate of N31,000.”

Speaking in bitterness, she continued: “I pointed out that it was wrong and unprofessional but as the staff insisted and I did not want to miss the flight, I reluctantly paid an additional N10,000. The airport was filled with eager passengers ready to pay any amount to board the flight.”

Passengers must keep an eye on their luggage before check-in.

Just like air travellers, there are scammers on all travel routes. Like bees to a flower, fraudsters are drawn to vulnerable visitors and tourists who are unaware of their schemes and have resources to burn. These fraudsters directly or indirectly trick these travellers out of small change or, worse, set them up in way that spells danger for both parties.

Whether you are taking public transport or private vehicle, you must be at alert to avoid being a victim. Road fraudsters employ so many tactics. One of the most common one is when unknowingly to you, oil is splashed on your tyre at a fuel station or as you slow down in very bad spots on the road. Then the perpetrator calls your attention to it suggesting that your wheel bearing has wrecked, causing grease to melt all over your tyre. Once you buy into that, your journey becomes doomed.

Another is egg throwing. They throw raw eggs at your windscreen. If that happens, do not even bother to use wipers as that action alone will make a total mess of the screen, thereby making it impossible to see ahead in which case you will be forced to stop as the scammers have planned. If such happens, manage and drive without stopping till you see large settlements, then stop and use water.

Do not stop for one or few people on lonely areas who may be waving you down supposedly for help. Just pedal harder and keep driving.

The fraudsters also engage distraction tactics. They basically distract you so that you are oblivious when they rob you. For instance, a person might come to you with the pretence of getting clarification on an address or direction and while you are listening to him or her or trying to help out, someone else robs you.

The slow count, this is also a common occurrence in Nigeria. At first, you would not know this is a scam as the perpetrator usually seems honest and willing to perform the services that eventually get delayed in a bit to take advantage of the traveller. It plays out in many ways, but most popular at fuel stations food joints. An attendant engages you in a chat while calculating your purchase or counting your change, that way you impatiently do not pay attention to details and leave without cross-checking the amount you have been handed until you are already far gone.

Tags: Travel, scams, offers, low cost trips, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, road fraudsters, egg throwing, slow count

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