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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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    8 Things to Watch for If You’re Considering Being Vegetarian

    8 Things to Watch for If You’re Considering Being Vegetarian

    Vegetarianism has been around for a long time, finding favor with many people, including Pythagoras clear back around 580 B.C. It’s been presented as one of the most healthy diets around, including being touted by the Egyptians to the point of abstaining from meat and animal clothing due to karmic beliefs. The vegetarian society (vegsoc.org) defines vegetarianism as:

    “Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.”

    While it’s pretty obvious that there are multiple benefits to following a vegetarian diet, it’s always good to be informed about the cons of this dietary choice as well.

    Outlined below are several things you might want to be aware of before you say good-bye to meat forever. Whether you are a current vegetarian, or contemplating making a shift, keep in mind these 8 things to keep yourself healthy.

    1. You could suffer from B12 vitamin deficiency

    The B vitamins are especially important for stress management, adrenal health, and brain function. Vegetarians in particularly are at risk for B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is attached to the protein in animal products and without enough B12 you can suffer from depression, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate.

    Due to its attachment to animal proteins, B12 is the hardest for vegetarians to obtain when they don’t eat dairy or eggs in their diet. This essential little vitamin can be found in some algae and has been added to some yeast, but research doesn’t currently provide enough information to say whether or not these forms of B12 are of good quality and can provide adequate supplementation.

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    The body is unable to make this vitamin, meaning it has to be taken in through food or supplementation. Essential for making red blood cells, DNA, nerves and various other function in the body, a Harvard Health Medical report in January of 2013 found symptoms of a B12 deficiency can present in sneaky ways including depression, paranoia, delusion, and loss of taste and smell.

    2.  You could suffer from higher states of anxiety/depression, lower sense of well-being

    According to a CBS Atlanta report, vegetarians suffered from a higher rate of anxiety and depression than their counterparts. Read the full report here. Depression and/or anxiety can be a result of many possible deficiencies including essential vitamins and amino acids you can find only in meat products, including Omega-3s from wild caught salmon.

    Without the correct supplementation and proper understanding of diet, including the importance of micro and macro nutrients, depression and anxiety can become a serious problem, bringing down the overall health and well-being of vegetarians.

    Even though reports on health and lifestyle show vegetarians have a lower BMI and lower consumption of alcohol and drugs, it also shows they suffer from more chronic illnesses and more visits to the doctor than their meat eating counterparts.

    3. You could suffer from excess weight

    When you go vegetarian it opens up a lot of food, but just because there isn’t any meat in front of you, it doesn’t mean it’s necessary healthy. Though pizza and beer technically fall under the vegetarian diet, it’s not a healthy choice for your waist line.

    Just because being a vegetarian is associated with a healthier lifestyle in many cases, doesn’t mean it’s always true. Making bread and pasta your staples and not understanding where your protein sources should be coming from, can pack on body fat, which increases your chances of health issues such as diabetes and chronic inflammation.

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    If the choice to go vegetarian happens on a whim without the proper understanding of food control, portion, and nutritionally dense alternatives you can find yourself reaching for vegetarian foods, which could cause serious problems down the road. Nuts are a good example, but just because something is touted as healthy, it doesn’t mean, your should eat it in excess.

    Eating too many calories in fat will still cause you to gain weight. Eating too many calories in carbs will cause you to gain weight. Eating too many calories in protein will cause you to gain weight. See a pattern here? Not to mention you’ll miss out on important nutrients the body needs by over-eating in one area and under-eating in another. Re-read number 2.

    4. You could have a higher risk of heart disease

    Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables should be a goal we all strive for, but when you cut out meat, you also cut out what is known as complete protein, which you find in animal by-products. Complete means more than just the essential amino acids, it means those amino acids contain dietary sulfur. Without enough dietary sulfur, which is found almost exclusively in fish and pasture feed grass beef, the body will struggle with the biological activities of both protein and enzymes.

    The effects cascade downward, effecting bones, joints, tissues, and even metabolic issues. In short, a low intake of sulfur associated with a vegetarian diet can result in high blood levels of homocysteine, which may lead to blood clots in your arteries, blood clots raise your risk of stroke and heart attack. To read the full report click here.

    5. You could suffer from low cholesterol

    I know, at first you’re thinking, wait, low cholesterol is a good thing. Yes, it is, when it’s LDL cholesterol, which you get from eating an unhealthy diet, but low HDL (good cholesterol) can cause serious health issues. HDL, according to the mayo clinic, is in every cell in our body and can help fend off heart disease, not enough of it though, and too much LDL can go the other way, will be building up plaque in the arteries and leading to heart disease.

    Cholesterol, the good kind, is actually vitally important to the making of every steroid hormone in the body! There are six, and without cholesterol the body is unable to convert hormones, and it can cause damage in the endocrine system.

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    A vegetarian without a balanced diet, meaning enough protein, enough veggies, and enough good fats, could disrupt his or her adrenals, which are directly connected to the endocrine system and the body’s ability to make and synthesize the hormones your body needs. The six major hormones in the body help do everything from metabolizing carbohydrates, to the electrolyte balance, to making sure if you’re a woman you can carry a healthy baby through pregnancy.

    6. You could suffer from lower bone density and osteoporosis.

    Osteoporosis, the disease where the bones get thinner, weaker, and fractures become a high risk with day to day movements. It’s often associated with the older generation, but your risk for osteoporosis increases with a lower bone density. Bone density can be directly related to diet and lifestyle, along with many other factors.

    When it comes to eating a vegetarian diet it’s possible to miss getting enough of the right nutrients, causing the bones to begin to break down. If your vegetarian diet isn’t balanced and providing you with the correct nutrients and the means to absorb the correct nutrients, your body could begin to break down.

    Recently, Professor Tuan Nguyen of Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research led a review of both Australian and Vietnamese research around the bone density of vegetarian versus their meat eating counterparts. Helping Professor Nguyen was Dr. Ho-Pham Thuc Lan from Pham Ngoc Thac University of Medicine in Vietnam. The review was designed to sort though years of research surrounded by discrepancies and inadequate clinical data.

    At the end of the review, with vegetarianism rising to around 5% of the populace in the western continents, and with wide spread osteoporosis reports – 2 million in Australia and closer to 54 million in America – the decrease in bone density of vegetarians is a serious issue which needs to be addressed, if you’ve cut meat and animal by-products out of your life.

    7. You could be at a higher risk for colorectal cancer

    Cancer seems to be running rampant through America, and it’s within everyone’s best interest to do all they can to keep their body healthy and happy to prevent cancer from finding a place to grow. In most studies it’s been found vegetarians are at lower risk for cancer, but a European Oxford study with over 63 thousand men and women in the United Kingdom found the risk for colorectal cancer higher in vegetarians than in meat-eaters.

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    Extra care needs to be taken when establishing a diet to ensure the body is receiving and able to up take all the important nutritional benefits and requirements from food.

    8. You could end up eating more processed food

    Depending on how deep you choose to go as a vegetarian, it could create the need to substitute a lot of food and recipe ingredients in your diet, but what happens when you cut out meat, eggs, and dairy and your recipe calls for meat, eggs, and/or dairy? You have to end up using a “healthy” vegetarian alternative which include stabilizers, thickeners, and various other ingredients you can’t pronounce.

    Lauren from Empowered Substance puts it into a great perspective with her comparison of Earth Balance, a vegetarian approved butter replacement compared to butter. She points out the ingredients in Earth Balance consist of: Palm fruit oil, canola oil, safflower oil, flax oil, olive oil, salt, natural flavor, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, annatto color. Meanwhile, the ingredient list in butter, is much shorter. It’s butter.

    That’s only one example. To appeal to the vegetarian lifestyle food manufacturers have found alternatives which fall under vegetarian, but aren’t necessarily healthy for you. Consider baked goods, which though vegetarian can be filled with more sugars and binders than regular baked goods with diary products. It’s the same with vegetarian items like mac and cheese, without using real cheese you may just be getting oil and thickeners, without even the smallest amount of nutritional value.

    The reality is, most vegetarian substitutes contain the same junky alternatives which even meat eaters should be avoiding to remain happy and healthy.

    On one final note, whichever lifestyle you choose to work with, remember anything in excess – including protein and animal by products – isn’t healthy for the body. It takes a wide spectrum of food and nutrients to keep the beautiful body you travel around in all day running in prime condition.

     

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