Travelling abroad is a time to let loose and enjoy yourself, but unfortunately, there are people out there who sense your relaxed behaviour. Scam artists target tourists and travellers and can be very dangerous if you are not prepared. While there are tourist scams all over the world, if you are booking a trip to the United States, here are a five major scams you should be aware of.

Front desk fake out

What happens

Many hotel guests visiting the United States report receiving a phone call in the middle of the night from someone claiming to work at the hotel's front desk. They say that there has been a problem with the guests credit card and ask if they could read the number one more time. Many guests end up giving out their credit card info drowsily by phone to a con-artist.

Where it happens

This scam has increasingly been reported all over the country.

How to avoid it

Hang up and call the front desk directly to make sure the request is legitimate.

Pizza pickpockets

What happens

Guests report finding a pizza delivery menu conveniently slipped under their hotel doors when the return from a long day of touring the parks. They place an order and give their credit card number over the phone, but end up paying for a lot more than just pizza. The phone number given to place an order is not for a pizza parlour, but instead will connect you to identity thieves.

Where it happens

This scam frequently occurs in Disney resorts.

How to avoid it

If you are in the mood for a slice of pizza, ask the hotel for a recommendation.

Times Square thieves

What happens

New Yorkers are famously pushy, but these Times Square thieves take it to a whole new level. Locally referred to as the CD Bullies, someone stands on a corner in this famous New York City tourist attraction and hands tourists a free CD. However, once they try to hand the disk back, the CD Bully refuses to take it and claims they stole it. In order to stop them from making a scene, the scammed tourist must pay at least A$15.

Where it happens

This scam is most common in Times Square, New York City, but different variations exist in major cities across the country.

How to avoid it

If the CD Bully will not take back the CD, simply place it on the ground and walk away.

Cab driver crook

What happens

Many Aussies head to Las Vegas to gamble money, but they may just end up gambling away their luggage, too. Sin City's cab drivers are notorious for pulling scams on tourists. A common scam involves cab drivers who insist on helping passengers unload their bags at the hotel or airport. However, the driver appears to be in a huge rush and quickly hops back into his car and drives off as soon as your luggage is unloaded. Before you know it, the cab driver has driven off with one or more of your bags still in the car.

Where it happens

This scam is most popular in Las Vegas, Nevada, New Orleans, Louisiana, Baltimore, Maryland and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

How to avoid it

Note the driver's name, cab number and the cab company when you get in. This way, in case they do get away with your luggage, you have information to report.

Wi-Fi bandit

What happens

In recent years, wireless hotspots have become opportune times for cyber-thieves to hack onto your computer. This can be especially dangerous when you are travelling with your devices and have to rely on the Wi-Fi from internet cafés or coffee shops. You may just be looking up the museum hours, but at the same time, a cyber-thief could be stealing your banking information, flight itinerary, e-mail password and any other important personal information.

Where it happens

This scam is common at free Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide.

How to avoid it

Use a hard-wired connection whenever possible; they are safer than wireless networks. If a hard-wired connection is not available, only login using a personal Wi-Fi hotspot instead of public wireless networks. Your best bet is to avoid logging into any banking accounts or personal e-mails until after the trip.

The United States has plenty of tourist destinations for you to visit, whether they be major theme parks, amazing beaches or exploring the national parks. However, wherever you travel to in the States, it is important that you stay safe. The best way to avoid any scams is to be aware of your surroundings. Use common sense about keeping you and your belongings secure. Keep copies of important documents in the hotel safe or in your suitcase in case you lose the originals and learn certain key words in the local language before you go in case you need help.

Remember to purchase a travel insurance policy before you depart to ensure any lost or stolen items are covered in the event of an emergency. Enjoy your trip to America, but stay safe with travel insurance.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Pascal Subtll; cropped from original