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Beware of Scams, Especially When Traveling

Beware of Scams, Especially When Traveling

    I think everyone I know has a trip planned for the next few weeks, trying to get in just a few more days of summer fun before fall really sets in. But as all the travelers come out, so do scammers ready to take advantage of people who aren’t exactly following their normal routines.

    Scams can be found anywhere: I visited Petra, where a local man tried to sell me pottery that he swore was over a thousand years old… too bad it looked exactly like someone had smashed up a brand new terra cotta pot. I’ve found scammers closer to home, too, including a guy wanting to sell me a magical gas-saving device before I even left on my journey.

    There’s really only one way to avoid getting scammed, and that’s recognizing a scam before you hand over any money. There are a few scams that target travelers in particular — try comparing these to any you hear along your journeys.

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    Gas-Saving Gadgets

    As gas prices have risen, anyone who drives has started looking for ways to cut their gas bill. Scammers of all sorts have seen an opportunity: they offer up all sorts of gas-saving gadgets for sale. There’s a wide variety of gadgets available for sale — some by manufacturers who don’t fit the traditional definition of a scammer.

    They all have one thing in common, though: they don’t work. There are products like the Magnetizer, which supposedly rearrange the ions in your fuel line and the Turbonator, which swirls air going into engines to improve fuel combustion. But the Federal Trade Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency have tested these products and they just don’t work. That includes those shilled by your gas station attendant and those found on television.

    Currency Exchanges

    While kiosks and banks are the recommended locations to exchange your money, there are other options. For instance, if you’re willing to make an exchange with someone on the street, you can often get a better rate.

    Of course, you can also wind up with bills and coins that are no longer in circulation or have your money entirely stolen.

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    Travel Deal Bait-And-Switch

    Travel packages tend to sell well — whether a hotel is offering free meals at its restaurant or groups are going together. But it’s incredibly easy for a hotel to change the terms of your package deal after you’ve arrived — what are you going to do, after all? Go home? What if home is hours away and you don’t know the area? Some hotels will wait until you’re checking out to present you with a bill, saying that the original package was invalid or something similar.

    If you’re traveling on some sort of package deal, double check the terms when you arrive and when you leave. And, always, get your deal in print!

    Travel to Closed Locations

    Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to travel to certain places. U.S. citizens, for instance, are forbidden from traveling to Cuba for tourism. But there are plenty of travel agents and fixers more than willing to arrange that trip, if you’re willing to pay.

    But with a trip of questionable legality, it becomes easier for something to go wrong. It’s not an uncommon scam for a travel agent to sell trips to Cuba or other off-limits countries. They’ll require a large deposit and, when the departure date draws near, announce that some government authority has blocked the trip. Who is to say otherwise?

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    Car Rental Insurance

    If you’re planning to rent a car while you travel, don’t automatically sign up for the rental company’s insurance policy. Check with your car insurance company and your credit card company — both usually offer some level of coverage for your car. Some rental agencies push hard to get you to take an insurance policy.

    For drivers who do get in an accident while driving a rental car, it’s absolutely crucial to keep an eye on the paperwork the rental agency issues: most impose a staggering number of fees. These can include towing, storage, impound fees, loss of use, diminished value and administrative services, and up to thousands of dollars. Unscrupulous rental agencies simply pile on the fees, expecting the customer will just pay.

    Counterfeit Merchandise

    There are some travel destinations that provide great shopping opportunities. Products are available for a tenth of their price elsewhere in some countries. Of course, these versions are almost always counterfeit.

    Counterfeit merchandise may not be a big deal, but if you’re thinking about buying cheap pharmaceuticals, it’s probably worth exploring other options. Counterfeits are so cheap because their manufacturers cut corners somewhere. In the case of pharmaceuticals, it’s often by cutting drugs with anything they can get their hands on, including toxins and poisons.

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    Fake Tickets

    If you buy tickets online — for a special event, an airplane ride or anything else — there’s at least a small risk that you’ll wind up with nothing but the paper you printed your ‘ticket’ on. The Beijing Olympics ran into this exact fraud. A scammer set up a very professional looking website (BeijingTickets.com) and sold over $50 million worth of tickets that they promised to then deliver to customers. Of course, no customers received tickets. Several other websites offered similar scams, as well.

    It’s worth noting that many of the tickets were purchased after the International Olympic Committee announced that tickets were officially sold out.

    Take Care of Yourself

    Not every hotel, car rental agency or salesman is dishonest. There really are some good travel deals out there. But when you’re offered an opportunity that really does seem to be too good to be true, it’s worth asking yourself why it seems so unbelievable. Maybe it really is too good to be true.

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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