Many people arrested as police clamp down on Olympic Games scams.
In just a few weeks the 2012 Olympic games will be held in London. Law enforcement agencies have issued warnings about the risk of scams. Memories of the phony ticket and package deal scams that hit the games both in Sydney and Beijing have come flooding back. In both events, thousands of victims were tricked into paying for tickets on crooked websites, or paying for packages that either didn’t exist or didn’t include the implied ticket. The 2012 Olympic Games will be opened by Queen Elizabeth on July 27, with an expected audience of 80,000 at the newly built Olympic Stadium. The event will be followed a few weeks later by the Paralympic Games at some of the London venues and the same alert about scam artists has been sounded. The Metropolitan Police of London have even set up a special program, Operation Podium, to counter organized crime. They are particularly concerned about Olympic Games-related scams that target overseas sports enthusiasts. In one bizarre incident, they arrested a man allegedly involved in an online scam that duped one US victim out of more than $200,000. The crooks supposedly claimed to be law enforcement officials and tricked the victim with a bogus contract to provide transportation for police throughout the whole event. At this time, more than 100 people have been arrested for allegedly selling forged tickets and non-existent hotel packages,as well as for running bogus Olympic Games sites. Demand for tickets and hotels is driving up prices, with tickets and hotel rooms selling for more than $1,000 a piece, suggests news reports. According to the London newspaper The Independent, scammers have seized this opportunity to market bogus vacation rentals in and around London, using photographs of genuine properties. Scammers set up promotional websites, take deposits and then shut down and disappear. In some instances,Even legitimate rental agencies have been fooled into accepting scam rentals onto their listings. “It’s an awful state of affairs, and visitors to London must be extremely careful about thoroughly checking the credentials of the agencies they are thinking of booking with, before parting company with their money” stated the owner of one such agency. The fear is that many travelers won’t discover they’ve been scammed until they arrive in London for the 2012 Olympic Games to find the apartment they thought they had rented either doesn’t exist or has been legitimately rented to someone else. In other cases, authorities have warned that even genuine rentals can spring a surprise, when the renter discovers there are a number of hidden charges — like sales tax (VAT), which, in the UK, is currently 20%. The Olympic Games are one of the few events for which people travel from all over the world, often tying in vacations and other tourist activities, so travelers are being warned to be on the lookout for other scams that target tourists. Beware, especially, of pickpockets, who will be out in force in London.