The Legal Insider

August 2014

How to Avoid Travel Scams

When traveling, it's important to be extra vigilant of possible scams. Common travel scams can result in theft, credit card fraud, or even identity theft. This article highlights essential do's and don'ts when traveling. It also provides information on what to do if you find yourself the victim of a travel scam.

Theft Scams

Pickpocketing, a form of larceny, is among the most pervasive crimes faced by travelers. Pickpockets often target crowded locations such as festivals, outdoor markets, or public transportation. They also target people who are distracted, such as spectators to a street performance. Sometimes pickpockets create the distraction themselves by enlisting an accomplice to try to sell you a souvenir, offer you some type of service, or even collect your signature for a petition.

If you are staying in hostels, or at a hotel without a private safe, you should invest in a money belt. If your hotel is secure, then leave your passport in your room when simply walking around or using local transportation. When you are carrying your passport and valuables, never let your bags out of your site and avoid, for example, hanging your purse on the back of a chair.

Silence as Acceptance Scams

A common travel scam occurs when someone offers unrequested goods or services. After accepting the offer, you may be faced with a demand for payment, even if there had been an implication that the goods or services were free. There are many variations of this scam, from shoe shines or roses to unrequested drinks at restaurants.

This scam places the burden on the traveler to make it clear they are not interested. If someone offers you something with the implication that it will be free of charge, make sure to find out how much they really want for that service or item before you take it. If someone begins to perform a service for you that you did not request, decline politely but make it clear that you are not interested.

It is also important to be aware that cashiers and waitresses will often view tourists as easy targets for "accidentally" giving back incorrect change. Never pocket your change without first counting it out for yourself.

Taxi Scams

If you are planning to take taxis when you travel, you should definitely do your research. Find out if taxis pick up off the street or only at designated stands. Find out if there is an official logo or decal for licensed, regulated taxis. Beware of unregulated taxis, which often have no meter, a broken meter, or a meter that has been tampered with to run up much faster than normal. Even when taking a regulated taxi, beware of drivers taking long routes to try to run up the meter. When you get out, make sure all of your bags have been unloaded before the taxi drives off.

Credit Card Fraud Scams

Keep an eye on your credit card when you hand it to a cashier. Credit card theft can occur when unscrupulous shopkeepers photograph or scan the card and create duplicates. You should also be wary of credit card telephone scams, a type of phishing scam.

For example, scammers will hand out phony take-out menus and obtain people's credit card information when they call to order food. Scammers have also been known to call hotel rooms posing as front desk employees, claiming there is a payment issue and asking you to confirm your credit card details. If you receive such a call, go down to the front desk to deal with the issue in person.

Police Extortion Scams

Extortion can be quite common abroad. Police, and sometimes criminals posing as police, will demand a bribe for not arresting you. The threat of being arrested in a foreign country is usually enough to elicit payment from most tourists.

To avoid extortion, you should be very careful about how you conduct yourself abroad. Do not sneak onto the train or other public transportation without paying. Do not purchase or otherwise accept illegal drugs. Do not attempt to solicit a prostitute. All of these things have a strong likelihood of ending with you either paying a large "fine" not to be taken to jail, or with you actually being taken to jail.

What to Do If You Fall Victim to a Travel Scam

If you become the victim of theft, fraud, or extortion while you are traveling, you should report the crime as soon as possible. (Scams such as overcharging tourists and silence as acceptance scams are difficult to prove and probably not worth reporting.) If you are traveling within the United States, contact the local police department and ask to file a report.

If you fall victim to a scam while you are traveling abroad, you should contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Consular officers can help explain the local criminal justice process, help you file a report with local police, and refer you to local resources for victims of crime. If you are the victim of theft that has left you destitute while abroad, consular officers can also help you contact friends or family members in the U.S., help them wire money to you, and help you deal with your bank or credit card company.

Online Business Ideas

Starting an online business can be an exciting way to venture into a new professional field. Proprietors of Internet-based institutions can work from home, set their own hours, and invest less capital up-front than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

What Type of Business Will You Start?

The first step is determining what type of business you would like to start. Internet-based businesses typically provide at least one of the following:

  1. Goods An online retailer pays a fraction of the start-up costs of a store owner and can reach a wider customer base. Whether you create your retail website or join an e-commerce site, like Etsy, your online business can quickly become a profitable, full-time endeavor.
    In addition, many online craftsmen and retailers have found success blending an online presence with a physical one. Most businesses with a physical store location also have a website. It is also becoming increasingly common for primarily Internet-based sellers to appear at craft fairs, flea markets, and trade expositions to present their goods in person.
  2. Services As the Internet has grown increasingly ubiquitous, a growing market has developed for new, web-based services. Website development, social media consulting, web-based marketing, and remote tech support are just some examples of online services that are in demand right now. You can do this type of work in-house for a large company, or on a contract basis for smaller businesses.
  3. Creative Content If you enjoy writing, the Internet can be a place to turn your would-be hobby into a profitable endeavor. Blogging, or even self-publishing an eBook, can be a great way to turn your creative writing into a business asset. You can apply to write for an established website, or you can start your own blog and earn revenue by the page-view from advertisers and sponsors.

What's the Legal Angle?

Nothing can tank a fledgling business faster than a legal claim. Legal troubles bring bad publicity as well as attorney's fees, court costs, and the potential for an adverse judgment. Two of the major upsides to Internet-based business endeavors are low costs and minimal risk, but you will only be able to enjoy these benefits if you take precautions to shield yourself from liability. You should make sure that you are aware of any:

  • Licensing and certification requirements
  • Copyright, trademark, patent, domain name, piracy, or plagiarism issues
  • Defamation issues and how they affect online creative content
  • Import, export, and sales tax laws and how they apply to online commerce
  • Internet privacy laws
  • Internet fraud laws
  • Potential product liability or breach of contract claims

If you have an idea for an online business or any questions about starting an online businesses, a qualified business law attorney can provide you with advice and guidance, help you register your company, file legal documents, and help resolve any legal conflicts or disputes.

Tips for Starting a Small Business

Starting a small business can be an exciting and rewarding project. Many great businesses and companies got their start from very humble beginnings. In order for a business startup project to succeed, it's important to consider the following:

  • Business Structure. Understand the various ways you can structure your business. Each type of business structure has different filing requirements as well as benefits. For instance, the tax implications of a small business partnership may be radically different from those of an LLC.
  • Financing. Think outside the box when it comes to financing your small business. The money to start a business can come from many different sources. For instance, many business owners may be unaware of financial options that exist through business grants.
  • Business Name. Choose the business name carefully. A business name can make or break your business. The same can be said of other factors such as logos, location, and overall appearance of the business. Remember that in today's digital age, many of these factors have to do with online appearance.
  • Tax Requirements. Consider the different tax forms and requirements that will apply to your business. Depending on the type of business you form, you'll need to fill out different tax-related forms, such as S-corp. treatment, employment identification number forms (EID), and other required forms.
  • You should also formulate a comprehensive business plan. This plan should be detailed and should address issues that might arise during the startup procedure. For instance, the plan should include information on funding, obtaining an employee and client base, and details regarding the overall purpose of the business.

      Business Startup Laws

      In addition to federal business laws, each jurisdiction may have its own particular business laws. Be sure that your businesses is in compliance with all federal, state, and local laws. You can hire a compliance specialist or an attorney to help ensure that your business in on the right track during the startup process. You can visit to get matched with an experienced business attorney in your area.

3 Employment Discrimination Stories

Employment discrimination creates hostile work environments and perpetually locks out disadvantaged groups. Here are three employment discrimination stories which vindicate the need for employment discrimination lawyers:

1) Mia Macy -Transgender Discrimination

Macy is a military veteran who identifies as a woman. She applied as a man for a position with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), but informed the ATF she identified as female before the final hiring decision was made. A week later, ATF told her the position no longer existed, but later found out that the job was offered to someone else.

Verdict: The Department of Justice, which oversees the ATF, ordered the Bureau to offer Macy the position. In addition, the ATF was to cover back pay, benefits, interest, and legal expenses.

2) Ali Aboubaker - Religious Discrimination

Aboubaker worked for Washtenaw County, Michigan for seventeen years. Aboubaker worked his way up from bus driver to maintenance technician until he was terminated in 2008 for refusal to come into work five minutes early. Aboubaker alleged he was harassed and subject to racial slurs in the years prior to his termination.

Verdict: The jury awarded him $1.2 million.

3) Peggy Young - Pregnancy Discrimination

Young was a part-time early morning driver for UPS. She picked up and delivered packages which often weighed up to 70 pounds. When Young became pregnant, her doctor asked that she take time off. Upon her return a few weeks later, the doctor recommended she not lift more than 20 pounds. UPS put her on unpaid leave instead. The union agreement only covered work-related injuries, so Young was not given an accommodation.

Verdict: Arguments pending before the United States Supreme Court. President Obama is urging Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Even if Young does not win, her case is promoting pregnancy discrimination as a real issue in the halls of Washington D.C.

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