Easter safety: Scams, road safety and other travel alerts you need to know about

2017-04-05 08:32 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - If you're planning on taking a break this upcoming Easter holiday but have not booked holiday accommodation yet, you have to be extra wary of scammers and con-artists as fraudsters often target people who are desperate to secure last minute travel and accommodation. 

ALSO SEE: Easter weekend travelling: OR Tambo leads ports of entry service boost

Here are a few holiday safety and security warnings to be aware of going into the Easter period - 

SEE: SA Insider Guide: Easter school holidays events across SA

Last-minute scammers 

According to Sahil Mungar from FNB's digital banking, last-minute travel bookers should expect to pay a premium, not a discounted rate. 

“Fraudsters exploit potential holiday makers by falsely advertising holiday accommodation or timeshares on the internet and social media. Consumers are then deceived to pay upfront in order to secure their bookings. This further gives scammers an opportunity to request ID copies and bank details of their victims, which are then used for identity theft,” Mungar warns. 

When consumers become desperate to secure holiday travel and accommodation, they can easily overlook scams due to the pressure, only to find out that they’ve been defrauded when they get to the venue. 

Here are 8 Tips to avoid being scammed - 

Always try and book accommodation three months in advance or longer to avoid disappointments. This will help you to qualify for discounts and gives you enough time to do the necessary background and security checks. 
Use search engines like Google. If you’re worried about a property or suspect that the photographs are fake, simply look it up yourself online.  Look for reviews from other travelers and Google Maps to ensure that the place exists.
Use accredited travel websites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com to check reviews and to book accommodation securely. Generally these websites guarantee the booking.
Call directly to publicly advertised phone numbers to confirm the booking availability. Even if you get called, rather hang up and call back on the official number.
Avoid depositing or transferring money to an individual’s bank account or sending your personal details to their private email address. Rather pay online on the accommodation’s actual website or in person at the venue.
Lookout for suspicious behavior. Take notice of bad grammar in emails, foreign phone numbers, or if the owner or property manager is not responding to emails. These can all be warning signs.
If you have friends and family that stay close to the place, ask them to go and verify if it is legitimate. 
The golden rule to remember is: When it sounds too good to be true, it probably is... 

Cyber crime 

Linking into online scams is one of SA's major pitfalls - cybercrime. Card payments and data sharing within the travel and tourism industry are heavily under scrutiny as cyber-attacks, phishing scams and data breaches become more frequent and sophisticated. 

According to PCI Security Standards Council General Manager Stephen Orfei, South Africa’s blossoming entrepreneurial landscape has unfortunately seen it become "one of the top ten markets targeted for cyber security weakness".

The hospitality industry is the second-most targeted of all industries when it comes to cyber crime. In South Africa, this is an issue especially. Andrew Henwood, CEO of SA-based QSA Company Foregenix also told Traveller24 that “the risk is largely due to SA having leapfrog in terms of technology and innovation.”

READ MORE HERE: Cyber Scams: SA one of the top 10 most targeted countries - Here's what you need to know

According to Foregenix, “the hospitality is not fully appreciating the value of the data that they’re handling, which means it’s not necessarily secured opening it up to exploitation by criminals”.

How to protect yourself - 

Travellers can protect themselves from cybercrime by reaching out to banks, service providers, online or offline merchants, questioning where your data is shared. 

"Watch where your card goes," Henwood warns. "If you are giving that card information across the phone, ask them what will be done with the data and how long it will be stored. 

"Know the risk factors, as most common scams include phishing, have become extremely sophisticated and convincing."  

WATCH: Cyber-attacks: What should travellers be aware of?

Child trafficking 

After three children were intercepted by immigration officers at OR Tambo International Airport on 29 March, SA's Department of Home Affairs released a statement saying that a "male individual was prevented from departing the country with three children with fraudulently acquired travel documents". 

The DHA warned of an increase in immigration security ahead of Easter, saying that a total of 15 cases of human trafficking have been reported this year alone, including the cases which occurred on 29 March. 

According to the Home Affairs minister at the time, speaking at SA's largest airport hub OR Tambo International Airport, the DHA "will continue to weed out corrupt elements in our Department, in our Government and indeed, in our society precisely because we are of the firm belief that corruption and fraud have no place in our existence". 

READ MORE HERE: Child trafficking: Home Affairs increases security ahead of Easter

Money Matters 

Recent incident of theft and scamming at OR Tambo International Airport indicate that travellers, as well as family and friends doing pick-ups at the airport should be more than alert and vigilant - with Airports Company South Africa advising passengers to report any concerns about safety to SA police at the airport.

Here are a few ways to be smart with handling your money while travelling - 

Travel light – Carry a handbag with a cross body strap. This will free up your hands and help you keep hold of your belongings in busy crowds. 
Share updates – Notify the bank that issued the card to let them know where you are going and the timeframe that you will be using your Visa card.
Have a plan B – Make a note of your payment card numbers, balances, and your bank’s telephone numbers and keep them in a safe place in case of an emergency.
Be vigilant – Save all your receipts and check your account statement. Contact your bank immediately if there are any incorrect or suspicious transactions.
Keep your PIN safe –Never write down your Personal Identification Number (PIN) - memorize it and don’t disclose it to anyone.
Look after your card – Avoid leaving cards unattended at work, in a hotel room, recreation areas, or in a locked or unlocked vehicle. Take advantage of the safe or security box provided by the hotel for your valuables. Cover the keypad when you enter your PIN, and if you notice suspicious activity, cancel your transaction and report to your issuing bank. In case your card is lost or stolen, notify the issuer immediately and request a new card.
Spending money – Use your card securely at retail stores. Keep your card in sight when making a purchase or payment. Ensure that you get your card back immediately after every purchase and check your card when it is returned to you.

Road Safety 

Ahead of the upcoming Easter migration, the City of Cape Town's vehicle testing centres are offering FREE vehicle checks for tyres, brakes, wipers and more. 

The free screenings are available for the enture first week of April, from 3 to 7 April, from 08:00 until 14:00 daily. 

Apart from this, the City's Safety and Security Directorate will also be carrying out their multi-pronged plan to contribute to road safety efforts over the school holidays and the upcoming Easter weekend.

SEE: The 10 Commandments of Road Safety

From an enforcement perspective, the City’s Traffic Service, Metro Police and Law Enforcement Departments will implement the festive season safety blueprint which includes visible policing, ad hoc vehicle checkpoints, and roadblocks in association with the South African Police Service and Provincial Traffic Service.

You can read the full Road Safety 101 Guide here: Road Trip Safety 101 UPDATE: Hijack-hotspots, busiest roads and safety tips for Easter 

What to read next on Traveller24:  

Cyber Scams: SA one of the top 10 most targeted countries - Here's what you need to know

Road Trip Safety 101 UPDATE: Hijack-hotspots, busiest roads and safety tips for Easter

WATCH: Crazy road rage incident a reminder to stay safe SA ahead of the long weekend