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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 January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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