Tourists beware: Top 10 travel scams
Travel is one of life's great pleasures, so it is little wonder travelers are more interested in researching which sites to see and which restaurants to visit than finding out what scams they have to watch out for.
In a foreign country or city, people let their guard down, relax and often behave in a way they never would back home, leaving them open to highly organized tourist scams.
That's why online travel consultants Cheapflights.com (www.cheapflights.com) have put together a list of the top 10 travel scams to watch out for around the world. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. Fake Police
If, as a traveler, you find yourself being accused of a crime you didn't commit, chances are you're dealing with a counterfeit cop. For example, fake police might charge an over-the-top, on-the-spot fine for putting out a cigarette in public. Always check the officer's ID and contact the real police if you have any doubts.
2. Faux Gems
En route to their official destination, dodgy tuk-tuk or taxi drivers take travelers to stores where they are offered deals that are literally too good to be true. The so-called 'Gem Scam' can actually involve any high-priced or desirable item such as leather goods or "authentic" carpets. Victims soon discover their "jewels" may be nothing more than polished glass and those larger items, well, they never make it back home.
This can be anything from a child waving a newspaper in your face to an old woman needing assistance or a local helping you wipe a mess off your shirt. While you are distracted, a second crook comes in and swipes your stuff. The key to making it out with all your valuables intact is to pay careful attention to your belongings and others around you.
4. Bar Scams
These can take a variety of forms, but the basics involve a traveler, usually male, being approached by local women (sometimes a group of seemingly friendly men) who invite him for a round of drinks at a local bar. After a few beverages the locals are gone and the traveler is left with a ridiculously large bill!
5. Tricky Taxi Drivers
Unfortunately for all the good ones, cab drivers have a bad rep for ripping off travelers, but they do have a lot of tricks associated with their profession. Some of the most common cons are inflating fares or telling passengers their selected hotel/bar/restaurant is closed, but never fear, they know a better one just down the road. Always travel in licensed cabs and, if possible, agree on a fixed fare. Also, insist on going to your original destination and see if it is actually closed for yourself.
6. The Struggling Musician
They can pop up anywhere, but are most often found around New York City's Times Square or on the Las Vegas Strip. CD bullies approach passers-by asking them to check out their music, handing over what appears to be a free copy of their CD. However, once the disc is in your hands, the aspiring superstar (often surrounded by friends) refuses to take it back and expects you to pay for the pleasure of listening to their unsigned gem. Try to ignore these guys, but if one of the 'musicians' does manage to get a CD in your hand and refuses to take it back, gently put it on the ground and walk away.
7. Photo Ops
You've just arrived at an amazing site and are happily snapping away, trying to get that winning shot, when a local in costume or with an intriguing prop shows up and offers to pose for a photo. This person isn't just doing this for a bit of fun. The costumed conman is after your cash. Once the photo has been taken he or she will demand a crazy amount of money from you. Even worse, if the person in costume has a partner who took the picture he might not return your camera until you've paid up big time.
8. Packed Trains
All ideas of personal space are thrown out the window when riding a train crowded with people. You tend to ignore passengers bumping and knocking into you and it's in this environment where you have to pay extra attention to your belongings - was that an accident or someone going for your wallet?
The busy public transport networks of New York, Paris and London are particular hotspots, but light-fingered thieves can be found around the world.
One particular scam is common in certain parts of Italy. Your train pulls into the station so you jump aboard; but there are a few minutes to wait until it is due to depart. In this time, dozens of what seem like passengers squeeze their way into the carriage, but just before the doors close and the train leaves the platform, they jump off taking the valuables of unsuspecting travelers with them.
9. Where Are You From?
When wandering through an exotic marketplace, you know there's going to be haggling in store. However, what you might not know is that store keepers start working out how much to charge you from the moment you open your mouth.
Almost every shop owner will start a conversation with 'Where are you from?' and you need to be careful with your answer.
If you say something obvious like England, America or Australia, they will assume you have a lot of money and, as a result, will instantly push up the price of their stock.
The best answer to give is something a little obscure such as the name of your city or suburb. This will throw off the seller and leave you to haggle on a level playing field.
10. Bracelet Scheme
A charming person comes up to you offering directions or sightseeing advice when, suddenly, he or she ties a woven bracelet around your wrist in a double knot then demands payment. If you refuse, the scammer starts yelling that you're stealing the bracelet. Victims are often so shaken by the experience that they end up paying the perpetrator.
Be wary of overly friendly people offering services you neither want nor need and tell them to remove the bracelet before you call the police. (Editing by Paul Casciato)
Frederick police look to diversify
by Brian Englar
The Frederick Police Department is not only looking for qualified men and women to serve as officers, leaders in the department hope those officers will increasingly reflect the face of the community they serve.
The department is looking to boost diversity in its ranks, something Chief Thomas Ledwell said is vital to its efforts to build relationships and trust within the community.
"Diversity I think promotes a lot of positive things in the workplace," Ledwell said. "The community at large sees us in the police department as representatives of the community. Sometimes it's easier to relate when members of the community see people in the police department who are similar to them."
Of the 127 officers now on the force, 11 are African-American, one is of Asian descent, five are Latinos and 18 are women, Ledwell said.
The department is approved for 141 officers, and Ledwell said he hopes to be able to fill the remaining 14 positions by the end of the year, including hires from other agencies. A police academy has been planned for April, and Ledwell hopes to have another in November. He will soon review applications for the upcoming academy.
The department is placing notices in what Ledwell said is a wide range of publications and websites, including BlackFrederick .com, with the intent of reaching members of minority groups, as well as increasing the pool of applicants as a whole. The latter goal has been a challenge, given competition with other agencies both within and outside the county for applicants, he said.
"When we increase our total application pool, it's going to mean a more diverse group of applicants," he said.
Angela Spencer, chairwoman of the Frederick County Human Relations Commission, said her group met with Ledwell this week and discussed ways to help make the department more diverse. Spencer said the commission is trying to do its part through its community outreach efforts by encouraging a diverse range of applicants to apply, as well as making clear the qualifications so those people are more likely to make it through the process.
"Communication and education are key, and if people are aware of what is expected of them in the process, they may be more likely to apply," she said.
Spencer sees the role of the Human Relations Commission, as well as other advocacy groups, as not only bringing issues to light but also helping come up with solutions, she said.
"When a person points their finger and tries to pinpoint problems, if you don't have a suggestion, then what's the purpose?" she said. "Is there more to do? Absolutely, but I feel that they are trying to make positive strides."
Spencer said she is confident in Ledwell's commitment to continue the work of former Chief Kim Dine, who is credited with transforming the public face of the department by reaching out to the entire community, including traditionally underserved groups, in an unprecedented way.
"We told (Ledwell) we hoped to see the same level of transparency and the same level of involvement in the community," she said. "He seems very committed."
One of the most important things the department can do to increase diversity, Ledwell said, is to help residents see law enforcement as an honorable, worthwhile profession. That can be reinforced in large part by example, he said, as his officers continue to build relationships in the spirit of community policing, which he hopes will reap long term benefits in the recruitment of a more diverse force.
"We want the community to see us as partners, as opposed to the us-versus-them mentality," he said.
Memo: Cuts Will Mean Fewer Cops at Community Functions
Proposed county budget cuts would mean fewer police officers available for neighborhood meetings and events and a reduction in “quality of life” community policing.
As we previously reported, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan's proposed FY 2014 includes the elimination of seven police officer positions by attrition. A new police memo details the potential impacts of those cuts.
“Until now, the Police Department has been able to make reductions without significantly affecting important programs,” says the memo. “That is no longer possible.”
The memo, which was written by three ACPD captains and sent to community groups, is below.
I wanted to share with you the latest news on the County's Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, and how it will affect policing in Arlington.
As you may know, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recently presented her Proposed Budget to the County Board. She explained that Arlington faces a $22 million budget gap, and proposed closing that gap with a mix of service cuts and a tax rate increase. All County departments have been asked to make cuts.
When asked to identify potential areas for reduction, the police department examined many potential options for reductions including:
- Responding to calls for police service
- Follow-up investigations
After evaluating potential options, the decision has been made to propose reductions in staffing levels to the current District Policing Teams. I can assure you that we remain committed to working with the community to ensure that Arlington remains a great place to live, work and visit, but these staff reductions will impact the manner in which the teams currently do business. We truly value our partnerships with the Arlington Community and will work diligently to continue these strong relationships. Here are some details about the proposed reductions and how they will change the way we do community policing.
District Policing Team reductions
Twenty officers are currently assigned to the three District Policing Teams. The proposed reduction would ultimately trim that number to 13 sworn staff members. In addition, we will re-assign one captain position currently assigned to the District Teams to form an Operational Support Unit. The Operational Support Unit will be responsible for most of the ancillary duties currently assigned to the district captains and patrol commanders, allowing them to focus on core functions. We will reorganize our District Policing in two phases.
Should the Board accept the reductions as proposed, we will reorganize from three to two Community Policing Teams. These teams will still be geographically assigned. The exact geographic boundaries have yet to be determined, but our initial plan is to use Route 50 as a dividing line. Any civic associations which exist on both sides of Arlington Boulevard would be assigned to one team, for consistency. In this phase, each team will have one captain, one sergeant, one corporal and three officers.
Through attrition, the two teams will eventually be further consolidated to one large team. This single team will include one captain, two sergeants, two corporals and eight officers. We anticipate that this phase will occur sometime in the next 18 months.
The positions eliminated from the current District Team configuration will be re-assigned to core function areas within the Department.
We realize that some in the community may be concerned about these proposed changes. As you know, communities across the nation have faced years of constrained budgets, the result of the financial crisis, subsequent recession and slow economic recovery. We in Arlington remain very fortunate – we have been able to preserve our core services. Until now, the Police Department has been able to make reductions without significantly affecting important programs. That is no longer possible.
We remain committed to continuing our community partnerships and community policing efforts. While the staff reductions will certainly limit our ability to continue to provide community policing services at current levels, I can assure you that we will do our best to provide the community with the highest level of service possible. Our initial assessment of areas where the community may realize a reduction in service from the community policing teams could include the following:
- Fewer community, civic, business, security meetings/workgroups attended
- Less participation in general and safety presentations
- Less opportunity to participate in community events such as picnics, parades, etc.
- Fewer staff to focus on quality of life issues in a specific community
We will work collaboratively to facilitate a smooth transition into this new structure, should it be adopted. At this point, no decisions have been made regarding staff assignments, but should the County Board adopt the proposed reductions we will make assignments quickly and ensure that you are kept informed.
From the Department of Justice
President Barack Obama Grants Pardons
Today President Barack Obama granted pardons to the following seventeen individuals:
- Robert Leroy Bebee – Rockville, Md.
Offense: Misprision of a felony, 18 U.S.C. § 4.
Sentence: Two years probation.
- James Anthony Bordinaro – Gloucester, Mass.
Offenses: Conspiracy to restrain, suppress, and eliminate competition in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1; conspiracy to submit false statements, 18 U.S.C. § 371.
Sentence: 12 months imprisonment, three years supervised release and a $55,000 fine.
- Kelli Elisabeth Collins – Harrison, Ark.
Offense: Aiding and abetting a wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 2.
Sentence: Five years probation.
- Edwin Hardy Futch Jr. – Pembroke, Ga.
Offense: Theft from an interstate shipment, 18 U.S.C. §§ 659, 2.
Sentence: Five years probation, $2,399.72 restitution.
- Cindy Marie Griffith – Moyock, N.C.
Offense: Distribution of satellite cable television decryption devices, 47 U.S.C.
§ 605(e)(4), 18 U.S.C. § 2.
Sentence: Two years probation with 100 hours of community service.
- Roy Eugene Grimes Sr. – Athens, Tenn.
Offenses: Falsely altering a United States postal money order, 18 U.S.C. § 500; passing,
uttering, and publishing a forged and altered money order with intent to defraud,
18 U.S.C. § 500.
Sentence: 18 months probation.
- Jon Christopher Kozeliski – Decatur, Ill.
Offense: Conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods, 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 2320.
Sentence: One year of probation with six months of home confinement, $10,000 fine.
· Jimmy Ray Mattison – Anderson, S.C.
Offenses: Conspiracy to transport and cause the transportation of altered securities in
interstate commerce, 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 2314; transporting and causing the transportation
of altered securities in interstate commerce, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2314, 2.
Sentence: Three years probation.
Offense: Conspiracy to defraud the Immigration and Naturalization Service,
18 U.S.C. § 371.
Sentence: Two years probation, $2,000 fine.
- Michael John Petri – Montrose, S.D.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled
substance (cocaine), 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a), 846.
Sentence: Five years imprisonment, three years supervised release.
- Karen Alicia Ragee – Decatur, Ill.
Offense: Conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods, 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 2320.
Sentence: One year of probation with six months of home confinement, $2,500 fine.
- Jamari Salleh – Alexandria, Va.
Offense: False claims upon and against the United States, 18 U.S.C. §§ 287, 2.
Sentence: Four years probation, $5,000 fine, $5,900 restitution.
- Alfor Sharkey – Omaha, Neb.
Offense: Unauthorized acquisition of food stamps, 7 U.S.C. § 2024(b)(1).
Sentence: Three years probation with 100 hours of community service, $2,750 restitution.
- Donald Barrie Simon Jr. – Chattanooga, Tenn.
Offense: Aiding and abetting in the theft of an interstate shipment, 18 U.S.C. §§ 659, 2.
Sentence: Two years imprisonment, three years probation.
- Lynn Marie Stanek – Tualatin, Ore.
Offense: Unlawful use of a communication facility to distribute cocaine,
21 U.S.C. § 843(b).
Sentence: Six months in jail, five years probation conditioned on residence in a
community treatment center for a period not to exceed one year.
- Larry Wayne Thornton – Forsyth, Ga.
Offense: Possession of an unregistered firearm, 26 U.S.C. §§ 5861(d), 5871; possession
of a firearm without a serial number, 26 U.S.C. §§ 5861(i), 5871.
Sentence: Four years probation.
- Donna Kaye Wright – Friendship, Tenn.
Offense: Embezzlement and misapplication of bank funds, 18 U.S.C. § 656.
Sentence: 54 days imprisonment, three years probation conditioned on performance of six hours of community service per week.
From the FBI
The Cyber Threat --
Planning for the Way Ahead
Denial of service attacks, network intrusions, state-sponsored hackers bent on compromising our national security: The cyber threat is growing, and in response, said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, the Bureau must continue to strengthen its partnerships with other government agencies and private industry—and take the fight to the criminals.
“Network intrusions pose urgent threats to our national security and to our economy,” Mueller told a group of cyber security professionals in San Francisco today. “If we are to confront these threats successfully,” he explained, “we must adopt a unified approach” that promotes partnerships and intelligence sharing—in the same way we responded to terrorism after the 9/11 attacks.
The FBI learned after 9/11 that “our mission was to use our skills and resources to identify terrorist threats and to find ways of disrupting those threats,” Mueller said. “This has been the mindset at the heart of every terrorism investigation since then, and it must be true of every case in the cyber arena as well.”
Partnerships that ensure the seamless flow of intelligence are critical in the fight against cyber crime, he explained. Within government, the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, which comprises 19 separate agencies, serves as a focal point for cyber threat information. But private industry—a major victim of cyber intrusions—must also be “an essential partner,” Mueller said, pointing to several successful initiatives.
The National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance, for example, is a model for collaboration between private industry and law enforcement. The Pittsburgh-based organization includes more than 80 industry partners—from financial services, telecommunications, retail, and manufacturing, among other fields—who work with federal and international partners to provide real-time threat intelligence.
Another example is the Enduring Security Framework, a group that includes leaders from the private sector and the federal government who analyze current—and potential—threats related to denial of service attacks, malware, and emerging software and hardware vulnerabilities.
Mueller also noted the Bureau's cyber outreach efforts to private industry. The Domestic Security Alliance Council, for instance, includes chief security officers from more than 200 companies, representing every critical infrastructure and business sector. InfraGard, an alliance between the FBI and industry, has grown from a single chapter in 1996 to 88 chapters today with nearly 55,000 members nationwide. And just last week, the FBI held the first session of the National Cyber Executive Institute, a three-day seminar to train leading industry executives on cyber threat awareness and information sharing.
“As noteworthy as these outreach programs may be, we must do more,” Mueller said. “We must build on these initiatives to expand the channels of information sharing and collaboration.”
He added, “For two decades, corporate cyber security has focused principally on reducing vulnerabilities. These are worthwhile efforts, but they cannot fully eliminate our vulnerabilities. We must identify and deter the persons behind those computer keyboards. And once we identify them—be they state actors, organized criminal groups, or 18-year-old hackers—we must devise a response that is effective, not just against that specific attack, but for all similar illegal activity.”
“We need to abandon the belief that better defenses alone will be sufficient,” Mueller said. “Instead of just building better defenses, we must build better relationships. If we do these things, and if we bring to these tasks the sense of urgency that this threat demands,” he added, “I am confident that we can and will defeat cyber threats, now and in the years to come.”
From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS 10 Year Anniversary
March 1, 2013
Ten years ago today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began its operations, unifying 22 legacy agencies within a single department with a common mission: to safeguard America and integrate our Nation's capabilities to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from threats and disasters of all kinds.
DHS has helped transform the way we secure our Nation over the last ten years, making our efforts more agile, proactive, and coordinated. Today, we are also smarter about how we assess risks, and how we mitigate them.
And a decade after the creation of a Cabinet-level agency bearing that name, homeland security has come to mean much more. It means the coordinated work of hundreds of thousands of dedicated and skilled professionals, and more than ever, of the American public: our businesses and families, communities and faith-based groups. We are safer and more secure than ever before, and DHS stands ready to confront our future challenges.
During March, we will recognize and celebrate the work of DHS employees from across the country and around the world through a number of initiatives. Earlier this week, I delivered the State of Homeland Security at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. It summarizes the past (DHS 1.0), the present (DHS 2.0) and the future of the Department (DHS 3.0).
I encourage you to learn more about the Department, and to stay tuned for additional updates as you share with us in the celebration of our ten year anniversary.
On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of men and women … the Coast Guardsman who rescues a sailor; the TSO who keeps a loaded gun off a plane; the cyber expert who prevents harm to our banking system; the FEMA worker who comforts a destitute family; the Border Patrol agent who spends days and weeks in 100 degree plus temperatures patrolling our border; the scientist who figures out a better way to protect a plane; we commemorate our beginnings; our maturation; and our future. This is not a day just to look back and pat ourselves on the back. It's a day to re-commit and to move forward.