Personal Safety

Keep in mind that your personal safety is the most important while you are traveling abroad. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with basic local information of transportation, accommodation, culture and custom, political situation etc. before you leave. Also, knowing where to access help in emergencies is fundamental to ensure a safe experience abroad.

You will need to do some research about the country you are travelling to and consider your options before deciding which method is best for you. For example, is it a cash-based society or can you readily use debit and credit cards?


Managing your money while overseas can be more complicated than at home.

Your first step should be to research your destination – is it a cash-based society? Do most places accept credit cards? Where will you withdraw or exchange money?

Before leaving the country, you should:

  • Notify your bank and credit card company of your travel plans so you don’t get blocked from your account while abroad
  • Confirm fees for withdrawals, transfers, exchange, credit card if you plan on using them while away
  • Plan to bring at least two cards with you in case one doesn’t work
  • Prepare enough currency for the first few days
  • Set up an emergency fund
  • Arrange your accommodation before you leave for your trip so you don’t have to pay in cash when you arrive
  • Plan and book your travel early
  • Having a money belt is helpful, but never treat it like your purse: do not take money out from it in public.
  • Split up your money
  • Keep a decoy wallet
  • Break up your money into manageable amount, e.g. smaller bills and coins
  • Research on the rules about carrying over the borders

Travelers tend to be the targets of cash related scams because of their unfamiliarity with the local currency. For example, the following two scams commonly target travelers:

Slow Change – Cashiers know that foreign visitors are often in a hurry, and that they often don’t recognize currency as well as locals. As a result, it’s easier to give them incorrect change. Watch out for slow counting cashiers, who hope that you will just give up and leave early, or for cashiers who hand you a huge pile of coins in the hopes that you won’t count them. Another trick used by dishonest cashiers is to pretend that you gave them a smaller bill in the first place. Familiarize yourself with local currency, have patience when cashiers are counting, and make sure you count it carefully yourself.

Currency Exchanges – The value of a currency exchange can change pretty frequently between shops, but if there is a place that seems to be offering a deal far better than anybody else, to the point where it’s unbelievably good, it is likely fraudulent. In other cases, currency exchange shops can take advantage of your lack of knowledge to charge you far more than average. Know your exchange rates, check them frequently, and avoid any places that seem completely different from the rate you know.

To avoid being tricked out of your cash, make sure to familiarize yourself not only with what the money looks like, but also its general value when purchasing goods.

While your personal safety is the priority while overseas, it’s also important to ensure your belongings are safe.


While travelling, we are more vulnerable than usual. We are less familiar with the usual patterns of life overseas, tend to be distracted by our surroundings, or lack important information. We also tend to carry larger amounts of money on us, have our cameras or phones with us at all times, and have less understanding of the worth of local currencies.

In short, travelers are easy targets for scam artists and thieves.

While these tips are also applicable in Canada, they are especially important to keep in mind while overseas. Remember, awareness is key to preventing thefts!

 

If you find you are the victim of theft while overseas, you should:

  • Report the theft to the local authorities and to your hosts
  • In an emergency, call International SOS
  • Report the incident to Safety Abroad, and ask for further advice

Pickpocketing is still a fairly common form of theft around the world. While some thieves rely on skill alone to take objects out of your pockets, others will rely on distraction so that you don’t notice what they are doing.

In general, to avoid having your valuables lifted out of your pockets, ensure that your wallet, cellphone, and other objects with monetary value are kept inside bags or in zipped pockets. Even better, leave them at your accommodation. Avoid drawing attention to where your valuables are located (e.g. do not frequently take them out and put them back). As well, do not frequently pat your pockets to check if everything is still there. It’s important to be aware of your belongings, but pickpockets know that someone carefully patting his pocket every time he bumps into somebody is patting something valuable.

Be especially aware of pickpocketing in crowded areas or near tourist attractions. Pickpockets tend to work in groups, passing stolen objects to other thieves so that they can avoid being identified, so large crowds are particularly alluring. Crowded markets, busy train stations, and any kind of public event are especially loved by pickpockets – they know you will be distracted at these places. As locals tend to be aware that there are pickpockets in these areas and know how to avoid them, tourists are usually more popular targets.

If you know you are in an area popular with pickpockets, you may want to consider using a money belt or decoy wallet. With a money belt, you can keep your valuables (including passports, money, credit cards, etc.) inside your clothes and close to your body, carrying only a small amount of cash in your pockets. Having two wallets can also work: have a second wallet with only a limited amount of money inside and refill it from your actual wallet when you are in a safe place, away from other people.

If you are carrying a purse, ensure that the purse has both a flap and a zipper, so that thieves have to get through two safeguards to get to your wallet. If you are carrying a backpack, wear it on your front, or at least make sure that all valuables are deep inside, buried underneath items you don’t mind losing as much.

Finally, ensure that you have copies of all the information you are carrying on you. Make copies not only of your passport, visa, and vaccination documents, but also of any banking information (e.g. debit or credit cards) you may be carrying. This information could be stored digitally, so you can access it anytime, or you can also leave the information with someone you trust.

Wondering if your destination has many pickpockets? Check out the Safety and Security section of the travel advisory for your country.

One common method of theft is to distract a person before stealing their belongings. For this reason, any object left out on a table or hanging off the chair behind you is a temptation for thieves. Consider the following scenarios:

You’re sitting on the patio when a man comes up to your table with a map, asking if you can help him find a place. He spreads out an enormous map across the table. You point to the most famous place in the city, wondering why he can’t figure this out himself. He thanks you and takes the giant map with him. Your camera, which was on the table, goes with him.

A man standing next to you on the bus suddenly stumbles and falls into you. He apologizes profusely and gets off at the next stop. The wallet in your coat pocket is now gone with him.

At the airport, a person drops an entire coin purse. The coins bounce everywhere, and you, along with several other people, help pick them up. The person thanks you gratefully. You turn around and your luggage is gone.

Why did these scenarios work? Because the thieves distracted you from your belongings just long enough for them to take the items and walk away.

How can you avoid these kinds of thefts?

First, keep your belongings, especially high value items like cellphones, cameras, or wallets inside your bags. Are you sitting down? Put your purse or backpack immediately in front of your legs, wrap a strap around your leg, or rest it on your lap. Looking at your phone or camera? If you put it down, put it on your lap. If somebody approaches you, ensure you put one hand on your belongings and keep it there.

Never keep your valuables in coat pockets, backpack pockets, or anywhere else that can be quickly and easily accessed. Store your wallet inside your bag. It may take longer to get out, but that means it takes more effort to steal. If you are travelling somewhere with high levels of theft, considering having two wallets: one with your cash and cards, and another that you use frequently with only a little money in it. You can always refill your second wallet with more cash when you go to the bathroom.

While travelling with suitcases, ensure you are not overwhelmed with the amount of luggage you have to watch. You ideally should have one hand free at all times. Keep a hand, a foot, or even a leg on your suitcase at all times, especially when you are resting or if you are waiting in a line. People may kindly offer to carry your luggage for you – consider taking the elevator instead if that is an option. It’s better to decline than watch someone sprint away with your suitcase.

A fairly new territory for travelers overseas involves ensuring your electronic data is safe. From bank transfers, to credit card information, to passwords, much of our personal information is shared online. However, while overseas, it can be more difficult to ensure our information stays safe.

First, you shouldn’t share your passwords or login information with anyone, including through messaging services. Be aware that instant messenger services (e.g. Facebook) are not necessarily encrypted, so your messages can more easily be read by others. Check the encryption of your message before you send it. If in doubt, wait until you are connected to a more secure WiFi service (e.g. at your hotel or host university), or use a landline telephone, and then call the person with whom you wish to share your information.

In general, you should not provide your credit card or banking information over the phone.

You should also check that you are calling the correct person. Always assume an unknown person asking you for personal information is a scammer, and never hesitate to ask them to prove their identity. If they claim to be from a bank or credit card company, tell them you will call them back, hang up, find the number you would usually call, and call that. If you are unsure if that person is your friend or relative, either ask them a personal question, or hang up and call them back. See the Phone Scams section for more information.

Similarly to phone numbers, websites can also be faked. Avoid clicking through links on unexpected emails claiming to be from your financial institution or an authority, especially if they ask you to enter personal information once on the website. You should check if the website address is correct before entering any information, or access the website without clicking through the link.

You should also ensure that you have a secure connection for WiFi.  As you travel, you will connect to many different WiFi networks in public places, many labelled “public”. How much do you know about these networks? If you need to access sensitive information, using public networks is a huge security risk. These networks are open to “man-in-the-middle” attacks, where a hacker redirects your search to a fake website that looks like the one you are searching for.

Some tips for avoiding insecure networks:

  • Use a VPN to secure your network connection
  • Check if the website address starts with HTTPS (many websites use SSL certificates to encrypt your data) – don’t send credit card information via a non-encrypted site
  • Use a hard-wired connection (e.g. an Ethernet cable)
  • Rely on a cellular network, which will likely be more secure than WiFi

If you realize that your passwords have been accessed, immediately create new login information for all accounts connected with that username/email address and/or password.

If your credit card information is stolen, or if you notice any odd transactions on your bank account, call your financial institution immediately to report the issue.

While we are somewhere we know well, we tend to know all the scams in that area, but while travelling, we are less aware of local scams. The following are some examples of common scams targeting travelers:


It’s Closed – this scam is usually carried out by taxi drivers, who will tell you that the hotel to which you want to go, or the attraction, is closed. However, they will say, they know another one – a high priced alternative that will give a portion of the profits to the taxi driver.
Prevention: Insist the taxi driver take you to your original destination. If they refuse, get out and take a different taxi.


English Practice – it’s quite common to be approached overseas by people interested in practicing their language skills, and many are not trying to trick you. However, if the person suggests going to an attraction or to a restaurant together, you may want to reconsider. If you do choose to go, make sure that you are aware of the costs of all items on the menu before you order, and beware that your language exchange partner may suddenly leave you with the bill.
Prevention: Refuse the person’s first suggestion for a place to chat, or choose a place yourself. Familiarize yourself with local prices. Do not have an open tab at bars, and pay as you order.


Found Item – A person in front of you “finds” a valuable object (e.g. jewelry) in the street. They declare that it is really expensive and offer to sell it to you at a highly discounted price. The item is fake.
Prevention: If somebody is offering you a ridiculously good deal…”If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.


Fake Authorities – some official-looking people stop you on the street and ask for your ID, before issuing you with a fine for some reason or demanding money before returning your ID.
Prevention: Show your ID, but do not let it leave your hands. If they try to fine you, suggest that you go together to the police station to sort it out.


A Gift for You – Someone approaches you and seemingly offers you a gift. You take it in delight. The person then asks you for money, and claims you can’t refuse now that you have accepted it.
Prevention: Don’t accept gifts from complete strangers. If you find yourself holding it, try to give it back. If they refuse, place it on the ground and walk away.


Amazing Deal! – Someone offers you an amazing deal on tickets, luxury goods, or currency exchange. You eagerly agree, only to find out later that the deal wasn’t as good as you originally thought (e.g. fake tickets/goods/currency).
Prevention: Avoid purchasing tickets, goods, or currency from pushy sellers. Instead look for actual ticket counters or machines, luxury storefronts, or currency exchange outlets.


Much as with local culture, each region also tends to have its own common scams. It’s a good idea to search online for common scams in your region before you visit. Knowing how these scams work will greatly decrease your chances of losing money to scam artists.

Any phone call in which someone demands immediate payment of a fee should be treated as suspicious.

Phone scams can run from “Emergency” calls in which the scammer claims to need money to help one of your friends or family members, to “Government” calls demanding payment of an overdue fee or threatening your visa status, to the globally popular “You’ve Won the Lottery” call, asking for your banking information to give you a prize. These kinds of calls can easily trick people into giving up thousands of dollars.

In general, when receiving an unexpected phone call, be suspicious. Do not hesitate to ask for proof of identity. If you think it might be a scam call, hang up and call back from a number that you know or find yourself. Keep in mind that call numbers are easily faked. Finally, never feel pressured to immediately act on the phone call by providing personal information or money. If the caller demands immediate action (e.g. so you don’t get deported or arrested), tell them you will contact the office yourself and hang up.

In general, NEVER feel pressured to send money to someone you have only spoken to on the phone. And DON’T PANIC.  The reason these kinds of scams work is because people tend to panic when hearing that there is a deadline. Scammers know that people who are panicking cannot think clearly, and take advantage of it. If you begin to feel stressed, tell them you will call them back, hang up, take a deep breath, and call somebody who would know more information (e.g. your host university, the visa office, the Canadian consulate, International SOS, Safety Abroad, etc.).

If you are unsure about the information in the phone call, you can always reach out to your hosts, or contact International SOS (215-942-8478) or Safety Abroad for advice. If you are on exchange, you can always contact the exchange students’ office to ask for advice as well.

If you find you are the victim of theft while overseas, you should:

  • Report the theft to the local authorities and to your hosts
  • In an emergency, call International SOS
  • Report the incident to Safety Abroad, and ask for further advice

Travel standards are different around the world. Road conditions, car care and driving culture may vary. In some regions, there may not be reliable public transportation. Never assume the transportation would function the same as home!


Note: Students travelling on University of Toronto international activities are not permitted to drive.

  • Unregistered taxis sometimes overcharge customers, do not maintain vehicles, or bring you to a completely different destination then you asked.
  • For these reasons, use registered taxis, but always do a small risk assessment before climbing in the cab. Is the vehicle in good condition? Is there a meter scale or should you negotiate a price? Keep in mind that a registered taxi uses a scale instead of negotiating.
  • Research the destination’s public transportation system: How much does it cost for one fare? Are there transfer policies? Will you receive a proof of payment each time on a ride? What kind of transit pass works best for you?
  • Do not assume you can use ride-sharing apps like Uber everywhere you travel. Some places, such as London, Copenhagen, Austin and Vancouver have banned the Uber ride-sharing app.
  • If you’re traveling to a higher risk region, have a budget for registered taxis.

While travelling, you should be aware of potential scams involving transportation, especially involving drivers. The following are common scams involving transportation:


Taxi Without a Meter – This is perhaps the most common scam in the world. In these cases, either the driver will claim that they don’t have a meter or it’s not working, or they will offer you a “better deal” than it would be if the meter was working. In these cases the driver knows you don’t know the local prices, and takes advantage of your lack of information to charge you much more than usual.


Taking a Long Route – Perhaps the second most common scam in the world! The driver is on the meter, but takes a longer route than he could have taken, thus ensuring you pay more. After winding through the town, passing the same places multiple times, and taking hours to get somewhere that was supposed to be close by, you receive a bill that shocks you.


Avoiding the Scams:

The best way to avoid these kinds of scams is to be prepared. Look for registered taxi drivers – If you don’t know, ask staff at hotels, universities, conference centers, airports, etc. to call a taxi for you, or to recommend a company. Avoid drivers who approach you and instead approach drivers yourself. If you get inside the cab, check for the meter before closing the door, and ask the driver to use it. If he refuses or claims to give a better price without it, get out and find another taxi driver.

Before setting off, make sure to check the route on a map. Ask the driver how long he thinks it will take to get there, and compare the time with your map. While on route, keep looking out of the windows. See the same landmark twice? Ask the driver if he is lost and perhaps choose another taxi. Route not lining up with the map? Question the driver and consider getting out or calling a friend.

Sexual harassment is uninvited and unwanted sexual attention. It could be both direct or indirect, obvious or subtle. It also varies from culture to culture. For example, a sign of friendliness in North America might be seen as sexual invitation in other cultures. To prevent sexual harassment and protect yourself, do your research.


  • Different cultures may handle harassment differently; different governments may not have the same laws and policies.
  • If you find yourself in a difficult situation, contact U of T Safety Abroad In an Emergency or your host organization for support.
  • Do research on the cultures and customs of your destination before you leave
  • For women, refer to GAC’s “Her own way – a woman’s safe-travel guide
Money

You will need to do some research about the country you are travelling to and consider your options before deciding which method is best for you. For example, is it a cash-based society or can you readily use debit and credit cards?


Managing your money while overseas can be more complicated than at home.

Your first step should be to research your destination – is it a cash-based society? Do most places accept credit cards? Where will you withdraw or exchange money?

Before leaving the country, you should:

  • Notify your bank and credit card company of your travel plans so you don’t get blocked from your account while abroad
  • Confirm fees for withdrawals, transfers, exchange, credit card if you plan on using them while away
  • Plan to bring at least two cards with you in case one doesn’t work
  • Prepare enough currency for the first few days
  • Set up an emergency fund
  • Arrange your accommodation before you leave for your trip so you don’t have to pay in cash when you arrive
  • Plan and book your travel early
  • Having a money belt is helpful, but never treat it like your purse: do not take money out from it in public.
  • Split up your money
  • Keep a decoy wallet
  • Break up your money into manageable amount, e.g. smaller bills and coins
  • Research on the rules about carrying over the borders

Travelers tend to be the targets of cash related scams because of their unfamiliarity with the local currency. For example, the following two scams commonly target travelers:

Slow Change – Cashiers know that foreign visitors are often in a hurry, and that they often don’t recognize currency as well as locals. As a result, it’s easier to give them incorrect change. Watch out for slow counting cashiers, who hope that you will just give up and leave early, or for cashiers who hand you a huge pile of coins in the hopes that you won’t count them. Another trick used by dishonest cashiers is to pretend that you gave them a smaller bill in the first place. Familiarize yourself with local currency, have patience when cashiers are counting, and make sure you count it carefully yourself.

Currency Exchanges – The value of a currency exchange can change pretty frequently between shops, but if there is a place that seems to be offering a deal far better than anybody else, to the point where it’s unbelievably good, it is likely fraudulent. In other cases, currency exchange shops can take advantage of your lack of knowledge to charge you far more than average. Know your exchange rates, check them frequently, and avoid any places that seem completely different from the rate you know.

To avoid being tricked out of your cash, make sure to familiarize yourself not only with what the money looks like, but also its general value when purchasing goods.

Theft Prevention

While your personal safety is the priority while overseas, it’s also important to ensure your belongings are safe.


While travelling, we are more vulnerable than usual. We are less familiar with the usual patterns of life overseas, tend to be distracted by our surroundings, or lack important information. We also tend to carry larger amounts of money on us, have our cameras or phones with us at all times, and have less understanding of the worth of local currencies.

In short, travelers are easy targets for scam artists and thieves.

While these tips are also applicable in Canada, they are especially important to keep in mind while overseas. Remember, awareness is key to preventing thefts!

 

If you find you are the victim of theft while overseas, you should:

  • Report the theft to the local authorities and to your hosts
  • In an emergency, call International SOS
  • Report the incident to Safety Abroad, and ask for further advice

Pickpocketing is still a fairly common form of theft around the world. While some thieves rely on skill alone to take objects out of your pockets, others will rely on distraction so that you don’t notice what they are doing.

In general, to avoid having your valuables lifted out of your pockets, ensure that your wallet, cellphone, and other objects with monetary value are kept inside bags or in zipped pockets. Even better, leave them at your accommodation. Avoid drawing attention to where your valuables are located (e.g. do not frequently take them out and put them back). As well, do not frequently pat your pockets to check if everything is still there. It’s important to be aware of your belongings, but pickpockets know that someone carefully patting his pocket every time he bumps into somebody is patting something valuable.

Be especially aware of pickpocketing in crowded areas or near tourist attractions. Pickpockets tend to work in groups, passing stolen objects to other thieves so that they can avoid being identified, so large crowds are particularly alluring. Crowded markets, busy train stations, and any kind of public event are especially loved by pickpockets – they know you will be distracted at these places. As locals tend to be aware that there are pickpockets in these areas and know how to avoid them, tourists are usually more popular targets.

If you know you are in an area popular with pickpockets, you may want to consider using a money belt or decoy wallet. With a money belt, you can keep your valuables (including passports, money, credit cards, etc.) inside your clothes and close to your body, carrying only a small amount of cash in your pockets. Having two wallets can also work: have a second wallet with only a limited amount of money inside and refill it from your actual wallet when you are in a safe place, away from other people.

If you are carrying a purse, ensure that the purse has both a flap and a zipper, so that thieves have to get through two safeguards to get to your wallet. If you are carrying a backpack, wear it on your front, or at least make sure that all valuables are deep inside, buried underneath items you don’t mind losing as much.

Finally, ensure that you have copies of all the information you are carrying on you. Make copies not only of your passport, visa, and vaccination documents, but also of any banking information (e.g. debit or credit cards) you may be carrying. This information could be stored digitally, so you can access it anytime, or you can also leave the information with someone you trust.

Wondering if your destination has many pickpockets? Check out the Safety and Security section of the travel advisory for your country.

One common method of theft is to distract a person before stealing their belongings. For this reason, any object left out on a table or hanging off the chair behind you is a temptation for thieves. Consider the following scenarios:

You’re sitting on the patio when a man comes up to your table with a map, asking if you can help him find a place. He spreads out an enormous map across the table. You point to the most famous place in the city, wondering why he can’t figure this out himself. He thanks you and takes the giant map with him. Your camera, which was on the table, goes with him.

A man standing next to you on the bus suddenly stumbles and falls into you. He apologizes profusely and gets off at the next stop. The wallet in your coat pocket is now gone with him.

At the airport, a person drops an entire coin purse. The coins bounce everywhere, and you, along with several other people, help pick them up. The person thanks you gratefully. You turn around and your luggage is gone.

Why did these scenarios work? Because the thieves distracted you from your belongings just long enough for them to take the items and walk away.

How can you avoid these kinds of thefts?

First, keep your belongings, especially high value items like cellphones, cameras, or wallets inside your bags. Are you sitting down? Put your purse or backpack immediately in front of your legs, wrap a strap around your leg, or rest it on your lap. Looking at your phone or camera? If you put it down, put it on your lap. If somebody approaches you, ensure you put one hand on your belongings and keep it there.

Never keep your valuables in coat pockets, backpack pockets, or anywhere else that can be quickly and easily accessed. Store your wallet inside your bag. It may take longer to get out, but that means it takes more effort to steal. If you are travelling somewhere with high levels of theft, considering having two wallets: one with your cash and cards, and another that you use frequently with only a little money in it. You can always refill your second wallet with more cash when you go to the bathroom.

While travelling with suitcases, ensure you are not overwhelmed with the amount of luggage you have to watch. You ideally should have one hand free at all times. Keep a hand, a foot, or even a leg on your suitcase at all times, especially when you are resting or if you are waiting in a line. People may kindly offer to carry your luggage for you – consider taking the elevator instead if that is an option. It’s better to decline than watch someone sprint away with your suitcase.

A fairly new territory for travelers overseas involves ensuring your electronic data is safe. From bank transfers, to credit card information, to passwords, much of our personal information is shared online. However, while overseas, it can be more difficult to ensure our information stays safe.

First, you shouldn’t share your passwords or login information with anyone, including through messaging services. Be aware that instant messenger services (e.g. Facebook) are not necessarily encrypted, so your messages can more easily be read by others. Check the encryption of your message before you send it. If in doubt, wait until you are connected to a more secure WiFi service (e.g. at your hotel or host university), or use a landline telephone, and then call the person with whom you wish to share your information.

In general, you should not provide your credit card or banking information over the phone.

You should also check that you are calling the correct person. Always assume an unknown person asking you for personal information is a scammer, and never hesitate to ask them to prove their identity. If they claim to be from a bank or credit card company, tell them you will call them back, hang up, find the number you would usually call, and call that. If you are unsure if that person is your friend or relative, either ask them a personal question, or hang up and call them back. See the Phone Scams section for more information.

Similarly to phone numbers, websites can also be faked. Avoid clicking through links on unexpected emails claiming to be from your financial institution or an authority, especially if they ask you to enter personal information once on the website. You should check if the website address is correct before entering any information, or access the website without clicking through the link.

You should also ensure that you have a secure connection for WiFi.  As you travel, you will connect to many different WiFi networks in public places, many labelled “public”. How much do you know about these networks? If you need to access sensitive information, using public networks is a huge security risk. These networks are open to “man-in-the-middle” attacks, where a hacker redirects your search to a fake website that looks like the one you are searching for.

Some tips for avoiding insecure networks:

  • Use a VPN to secure your network connection
  • Check if the website address starts with HTTPS (many websites use SSL certificates to encrypt your data) – don’t send credit card information via a non-encrypted site
  • Use a hard-wired connection (e.g. an Ethernet cable)
  • Rely on a cellular network, which will likely be more secure than WiFi

If you realize that your passwords have been accessed, immediately create new login information for all accounts connected with that username/email address and/or password.

If your credit card information is stolen, or if you notice any odd transactions on your bank account, call your financial institution immediately to report the issue.

While we are somewhere we know well, we tend to know all the scams in that area, but while travelling, we are less aware of local scams. The following are some examples of common scams targeting travelers:


It’s Closed – this scam is usually carried out by taxi drivers, who will tell you that the hotel to which you want to go, or the attraction, is closed. However, they will say, they know another one – a high priced alternative that will give a portion of the profits to the taxi driver.
Prevention: Insist the taxi driver take you to your original destination. If they refuse, get out and take a different taxi.


English Practice – it’s quite common to be approached overseas by people interested in practicing their language skills, and many are not trying to trick you. However, if the person suggests going to an attraction or to a restaurant together, you may want to reconsider. If you do choose to go, make sure that you are aware of the costs of all items on the menu before you order, and beware that your language exchange partner may suddenly leave you with the bill.
Prevention: Refuse the person’s first suggestion for a place to chat, or choose a place yourself. Familiarize yourself with local prices. Do not have an open tab at bars, and pay as you order.


Found Item – A person in front of you “finds” a valuable object (e.g. jewelry) in the street. They declare that it is really expensive and offer to sell it to you at a highly discounted price. The item is fake.
Prevention: If somebody is offering you a ridiculously good deal…”If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.


Fake Authorities – some official-looking people stop you on the street and ask for your ID, before issuing you with a fine for some reason or demanding money before returning your ID.
Prevention: Show your ID, but do not let it leave your hands. If they try to fine you, suggest that you go together to the police station to sort it out.


A Gift for You – Someone approaches you and seemingly offers you a gift. You take it in delight. The person then asks you for money, and claims you can’t refuse now that you have accepted it.
Prevention: Don’t accept gifts from complete strangers. If you find yourself holding it, try to give it back. If they refuse, place it on the ground and walk away.


Amazing Deal! – Someone offers you an amazing deal on tickets, luxury goods, or currency exchange. You eagerly agree, only to find out later that the deal wasn’t as good as you originally thought (e.g. fake tickets/goods/currency).
Prevention: Avoid purchasing tickets, goods, or currency from pushy sellers. Instead look for actual ticket counters or machines, luxury storefronts, or currency exchange outlets.


Much as with local culture, each region also tends to have its own common scams. It’s a good idea to search online for common scams in your region before you visit. Knowing how these scams work will greatly decrease your chances of losing money to scam artists.

Any phone call in which someone demands immediate payment of a fee should be treated as suspicious.

Phone scams can run from “Emergency” calls in which the scammer claims to need money to help one of your friends or family members, to “Government” calls demanding payment of an overdue fee or threatening your visa status, to the globally popular “You’ve Won the Lottery” call, asking for your banking information to give you a prize. These kinds of calls can easily trick people into giving up thousands of dollars.

In general, when receiving an unexpected phone call, be suspicious. Do not hesitate to ask for proof of identity. If you think it might be a scam call, hang up and call back from a number that you know or find yourself. Keep in mind that call numbers are easily faked. Finally, never feel pressured to immediately act on the phone call by providing personal information or money. If the caller demands immediate action (e.g. so you don’t get deported or arrested), tell them you will contact the office yourself and hang up.

In general, NEVER feel pressured to send money to someone you have only spoken to on the phone. And DON’T PANIC.  The reason these kinds of scams work is because people tend to panic when hearing that there is a deadline. Scammers know that people who are panicking cannot think clearly, and take advantage of it. If you begin to feel stressed, tell them you will call them back, hang up, take a deep breath, and call somebody who would know more information (e.g. your host university, the visa office, the Canadian consulate, International SOS, Safety Abroad, etc.).

If you are unsure about the information in the phone call, you can always reach out to your hosts, or contact International SOS (215-942-8478) or Safety Abroad for advice. If you are on exchange, you can always contact the exchange students’ office to ask for advice as well.

If you find you are the victim of theft while overseas, you should:

  • Report the theft to the local authorities and to your hosts
  • In an emergency, call International SOS
  • Report the incident to Safety Abroad, and ask for further advice
Transportation

Travel standards are different around the world. Road conditions, car care and driving culture may vary. In some regions, there may not be reliable public transportation. Never assume the transportation would function the same as home!


Note: Students travelling on University of Toronto international activities are not permitted to drive.

  • Unregistered taxis sometimes overcharge customers, do not maintain vehicles, or bring you to a completely different destination then you asked.
  • For these reasons, use registered taxis, but always do a small risk assessment before climbing in the cab. Is the vehicle in good condition? Is there a meter scale or should you negotiate a price? Keep in mind that a registered taxi uses a scale instead of negotiating.
  • Research the destination’s public transportation system: How much does it cost for one fare? Are there transfer policies? Will you receive a proof of payment each time on a ride? What kind of transit pass works best for you?
  • Do not assume you can use ride-sharing apps like Uber everywhere you travel. Some places, such as London, Copenhagen, Austin and Vancouver have banned the Uber ride-sharing app.
  • If you’re traveling to a higher risk region, have a budget for registered taxis.

While travelling, you should be aware of potential scams involving transportation, especially involving drivers. The following are common scams involving transportation:


Taxi Without a Meter – This is perhaps the most common scam in the world. In these cases, either the driver will claim that they don’t have a meter or it’s not working, or they will offer you a “better deal” than it would be if the meter was working. In these cases the driver knows you don’t know the local prices, and takes advantage of your lack of information to charge you much more than usual.


Taking a Long Route – Perhaps the second most common scam in the world! The driver is on the meter, but takes a longer route than he could have taken, thus ensuring you pay more. After winding through the town, passing the same places multiple times, and taking hours to get somewhere that was supposed to be close by, you receive a bill that shocks you.


Avoiding the Scams:

The best way to avoid these kinds of scams is to be prepared. Look for registered taxi drivers – If you don’t know, ask staff at hotels, universities, conference centers, airports, etc. to call a taxi for you, or to recommend a company. Avoid drivers who approach you and instead approach drivers yourself. If you get inside the cab, check for the meter before closing the door, and ask the driver to use it. If he refuses or claims to give a better price without it, get out and find another taxi driver.

Before setting off, make sure to check the route on a map. Ask the driver how long he thinks it will take to get there, and compare the time with your map. While on route, keep looking out of the windows. See the same landmark twice? Ask the driver if he is lost and perhaps choose another taxi. Route not lining up with the map? Question the driver and consider getting out or calling a friend.

Sexual Harrassment
&
Violence

Sexual harassment is uninvited and unwanted sexual attention. It could be both direct or indirect, obvious or subtle. It also varies from culture to culture. For example, a sign of friendliness in North America might be seen as sexual invitation in other cultures. To prevent sexual harassment and protect yourself, do your research.


  • Different cultures may handle harassment differently; different governments may not have the same laws and policies.
  • If you find yourself in a difficult situation, contact U of T Safety Abroad In an Emergency or your host organization for support.
  • Do research on the cultures and customs of your destination before you leave
  • For women, refer to GAC’s “Her own way – a woman’s safe-travel guide