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scams to avoid on holiday

Here are some common scams that could be used to trick you, and handy tips to help keep your money and other valuables safe.


​Scam 1: The bump and grab

In a crowded area, like an airport, station, market or mall, someone bumps up against you. While you are distracted, they pickpocket you, making off with your wallet or other valuables.

How to avoid this: 

  • ​Be extra vigilant in crowded areas. If someone bumps you, hold on to your bag, wallet, phone or camera tightly 
  • Take special care when exiting a train, taxi or bus. Criminals may try to grab your handbag or backpack as the doors close 
  • Don’t keep your wallet in your pants pocket where it is easily visible 
  • Never keep all your valuables together. Separate your passport, travel documents, cash and bank cards. Store items in the inside pocket of your jacket (preferably it should close with a zip) or wear a money belt under your clothing 
  • If you’re staying at a reputable hotel, lock your passport in your room’s safe

Scam 2: The friendly ATM helper 

You are approached by someone pretending to help you at an ATM; however, their intention is to steal your card and get you to reveal your PIN. Sometimes 2 people work as a team – while one distracts you, the other skims your card with a card-skimming device or swaps it for a fake card. (Read more on card fraud ​here.)

How to avoid this:  

  • ​As helpful as someone may seem, never trust a stranger to help you at an ATM – even when you’re not travelling 
  • If the card slot seems jammed and someone offers to help you, rather find another ATM. Criminals often jam or attach a card skimmer to the card slot to steal your card details 
  • Be wary of people standing close to you – criminals may try to steal your PIN by looking over your shoulder. Always hide the keypad with your other hand as you enter your PIN 
  • NEVER share your PIN with anyone (not even a bank official)

Scam 3: Counterfeit money 

Counterfeit money refers to fake banknotes. Devious people may try to take advantage of the fact that you are a tourist and try to scam you. For example, if you are paying with a large banknote and are unfamiliar with the currency, a criminal may switch it for a fake one or one that is worth less. Or they might hand a fake banknote back to you and ask for something smaller, saying they don’t have change, or short change you claiming that you paid with a less valuable banknote.

How to avoid this: 

  • ​Get to know the currency of the country you are travelling in and make sure you can differentiate between different banknotes and their values 
  • Pay with your Capitec card, it is accepted worldwide wherever you see the Mastercard® logo. As a Capitec cardholder, you don’t need traveller’s cheques or special currency cards. You can get cash at any ATM with the Mastercard logo for R55.48, or simply use your Capitec credit card to pay in the local currency at the card machine; there’s no currency conversion fee. If you pay for your flight ticket in full with your Capitec credit card, you also get free basic ​travel insurance and many other benefits. Find out more ​here 
  • Look out for cashiers who appear to be busy on the phone as they handle your transaction. Watch their movements carefully to make sure they don’t skim your card or photograph it or swap your cash for counterfeit banknotes

Scam 4: The bargain/secret deal 

There are many variations of this scam, but they all offer something that seems too good to be true. For example, a shopkeeper offers you an amazing bargain but swaps the goods for something inferior without your knowledge. Or you are offered amazing and affordable hotel accommodation or a cheap city tour, but in reality, the person pretending to help you plans to mug you. 

How to avoid it: 

  • ​As a rule of thumb, don’t trust strangers. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is 
  • Never get into a taxi or car with a stranger offering to show you the sites, take you bargain hunting or take you to a nice hotel 
  • If someone mentions a friend or family member with a special deal, it’s often a red flag. Rather decline their offer politely and walk away 
  • If you’re offered an unbelievable discount when out shopping, be cautious and check the goods carefully. Rather pay a bit more and avoid being conned into buying a counterfeit item 

In short, always exercise caution and practice common sense so you can enjoy your trip without worrying about being robbed of your hard-earned money or possessions.

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