"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
Volunteers who are abroad like other travelers are bound to fall victim of scams. There are people who are out there looking for ways to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers. They come up with lies and scams to steal money from volunteers who are abroad.
As an international volunteer it is wise to be aware of the scams are out there and to avoid them. This article is to help current and potential volunteers to avoid being scammed or taken advantage of while they are abroad.
Here are common scams and how to avoid them when the volunteers are going abroad:
Volunteer service organizations
Volunteer service organizations; companies; ethical travel companies; travel agents are all great organizations that help individuals to go to volunteer abroad. They take care of everything for the volunteers, from accommodation, meals to the project they will be working in. For the volunteers who agree to use these organizations should be cautious as there are organizations out there that run scams. These organizations come up with volunteer programs or projects that have no value to the volunteers. They charge volunteers high fees and they leave the volunteer to take care of themselves. The volunteers find themselves in a host country without any support, poor services and dealing with unprofessionalism. To avoid such scams, the volunteers should vet each organization that they choose to use carefully, talk to past volunteers and listen to other peoples recommendations.
Every traveler has fallen victim to this scam. This scam is common because many of the volunteers are new to the country and they are not aware of the fares. This normally happens when they board a taxi and they are overcharged by the driver. The common lies the taxi driver tells volunteers are the meter is broken; doesn’t take the volunteer to his destination claiming that they have forgotten where the place is; and they inflate the taxi fare. To avoid these scams: use a reputable company; use taxi stands; go by the meter; ask a tourist or a hotel, hostel for fares and recommendations; get the price upfront before boarding; and carry small bills. Apart from taxi scams, volunteers might have problems paying for fares in public or private buses. The conductors and the drivers conspire to overcharge the volunteers. To avoid this before the volunteers boards the bus they should find out how much it costs and carry small bills only.
Credit card scams
This happens everywhere but it is more common in Europe. These scams occur when the volunteer swipes his credit card on a tiny machine which records information from the cards magnetic strip. These machines are cheap and easy to buy. With the volunteers’ information fraudsters or scammers wait for a couple of months and they start swindling money from the volunteers or in some cases they start swindling money as soon as possible. The people who are behind the scams are waiters and shopkeepers. Other ways of credit card scams are through: stolen credit cards, ATMs which swallow credit cards; and fraudulent people who stand by ATMs claiming to be bank officials. To avoid being scammed this way, the volunteers should use credit cards as opposed to debit cards because it is easier to recover the money that has been lost. In addition, the volunteers should immediately report any stolen cards and suspicious activity of their bank accounts.
When the volunteer is about to buy an item they should realize that the seller will try to take advantage for them because they are foreigners. The shopkeepers normally inflate the price up to four times because they know the volunteers do not know the actual price. As a result the volunteers should always haggle or negotiate to get the best price. As a principle the volunteers should ask for a quarter of the asking price this way the seller will know they are not new to that place. Also the volunteer should say they have been to that country a number of times and that they are new to the area.