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How to stay safe from skimmers and scamsters when you’re on your dream vacation

Reading about common scams in the country you are travelling to can help you stay more alert

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

It’s not the ideal way to start the dream holiday you’ve been planning for the longest time: You arrive in the other country only to lose your passport or have your credit card skimmed. It’s gutting, but don’t let it turn your holiday into a complete, expensive loss. Here are five things that could happen on your trips abroad, and how you can protect yourself.

Health emergency

Most countries, apart from the Schengen zone, do not require a mandatory health insurance cover for admission. While people travelling for work get international travel policies, many individuals don’t buy cover. When travelling abroad, do realize that you would be out of pocket for thousands of dollars if you end up needing medical treatment for any reason, from a nasty viral fever to a more serious illness. Hence, an international travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment is essential. Most policies on the market also cover other exigencies such as trip cancellation and trip interruption, loss of baggage and important documents and repatriation of remains. These policies are not going to make a significant dent in your overall travel budget, and it is highly recommended you buy one before you leave the country.

Losing documents

Another risk that comes to mind is losing your passport. It is a good idea either to keep it on your person, or in the safety of the locker provided in your room. You should have access to a scanned or a photocopy of your passport at all times. In the unfortunate event that you discover that your passport is lost, you should report it to the local police as well as to the nearest Indian embassy or consulate in the country you are in. You would be issued an Emergency Certificate, a one-time document that authorizes you to travel back to India. Once back, you can go about getting a new passport issued.

Skimmed cards

Skimming of cards remains a common and major problem for international travel, but comes with an easier solution. Try and use credit cards over any other mode of payment for payments made with plastic abroad. Not only is the liability of any fraudulent transaction easily passed off to the bank, but you can get a new card easily and move on with your life. If you really must withdraw money from an ATM, make sure to see if there are no artificial devices on top of the card slot that may be cloning your card’s data. That’s a precaution you should take in India too.

Lost luggage

You may arrive in another country without your bags having been loaded on the right flight. Between leaving people and bags behind, most airlines choose bags because they can come later. So, if your bag does not make it on a trip with you, always remember that you can receive compensation from the airline to buy the most essential items. Beyond that, you should write a missing baggage report before leaving the airport and receive a copy. The airline will try and get you your bag at the earliest.

Natural disasters

Last but not the least, the risk that is completely out of anyone’s control is a natural disaster. You could be stuck in an earthquake or some other disaster.

During such situations, it’s important that somebody back home knows your location. I always write down, or print out, my travel itinerary and leave it for my family, including my flight details, and the address of the hotels I would be staying at. Of course, it helps that I usually keep my phone on while travelling but if a disaster cuts out cell signals, it will help your family know where you are most likely to be and how to reach you.

In a nutshell, a trip abroad is exposure all kinds of experiences. It’s best to take it all in with an open mind. But staying alert and aware of your options helps you stay away from possible trouble. A little bit of reading up about common scams in the country you are travelling to, along with all the dos and don’ts, would go a long way in making you safer on the road.

Elevate Your Travel is a column for the business travellers by a business traveller.

Ajay Awtaney is founder and editor of, an Indian aviation website.

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