21 Most Common Travel Scams With Precautionary Measures

By Niyati Shinde on Jan 14, 2016
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Scams are an unfortunate reality- the joy of travelling is affected if one falls prey to a travel scam. Vacationers have always been easy targets for crooks and we are not talking about pickpockets. Pick-pocketing is passé nowadays! Here’s a list of travel scams you should be aware about while vacationing:

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If you are walking around Times Square  in New York, you will definitely come across many fantastic street artists. While most of them are there for promoting their art, there are some who will try pulling the ‘CD trick’ on you! In this scam, an aspiring musician/ singer will hand you what seems to be a free copy of their CD. The musician will then proceed to have a friendly conversation with you. The minute you start walking away with the CD, ‘friends’ of the musician will suddenly surround you and expect you to pay for the CD! The best way to deal with this is to place the CD on the ground and walk away.

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In some parts of the world, if you are wearing a jacket, someone will ‘accidently’ spill some liquid on it. While trying to apologise for their mistake they will put up a show of trying to wipe clean your jacket and then cunningly empty its pockets.

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While sunbathing on the pristine sands of the Playa Blanca beach,Lanzarote (Spain), be aware of the ‘free massages. This generally happens if you are a man. A beautiful lady will approach you seductively and without saying a word, will start giving you a massage. Don’t let your hormones take over! It is only after receiving the massage that you will realise she’s charging you an exorbitant price for it!

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New York cab drivers are notorious for driving away with the passengers’ luggage! The cabbie will insist on unloading your bags at your hotel or airport. He’ll act like he’s in a hurry, quickly unload your baggage and speed away.  Only later will you realize that one or more of your bags are missing. It is always good to note down the cab’s number.

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Taking place on the streets of Paris, Rome and Barcelona, if you are walking around with your girlfriend/wife, please don’t fall prey to the ‘Rose’ trick. Someone will approach you guys and offer a rose to your lady. Out of courtesy, your wife/ girlfriend might accept it. The person will then try to make you pay for the rose! A travel scam that plays on your ego!

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In Rome, be aware of women who approach you with ‘babies’ in their arms. A woman might walk up to you and throw this baby (generally a dressed up doll) at you! While you are figuring out what just happened all the while trying to hold the baby, the woman’s accomplices will rob you off your belongings.   

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Egypt- the land of myth and mystery. Even in this majestic land will you find crooks! A common scam over here involves camels! Often, the trainers standing near the famous pyramids of Cairo coax tourists to mount their camels for photo opportunities and rides. Once you have paid their fees and have mounted the camel, some of the trainers insist that you pay again to disembark and hold you hostage on the camel’s hump till you pay! It is recommended that you stick to camel rides organized by well established tour companies.

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This is such a common travel scam and yet thousands of people fall prey to it- if you are new to a city, the taxi driver will almost definitely take you to your designated place via a longer route. Infact, some taxis and auto rickshaws even use altered meters so that the rates are exaggerated.

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Generally taking place in Rome and Ukraine, while roaming around exploring the city, you will come across a wallet lying on the road. Your first instinct is to check whether you have dropped yours and this is where you will become an easy target. A crook will be hiding in plain sight and he’ll take a note of where you have kept your wallet and later down the road, he’ll rob you off it!

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Taking place on the streets of Istanbul and in many cities in Asia, a person ‘accidently drops’ a shoe shine brush in front of you. After you pick up the brush and return it to the person, he will shine your shoes supposedly as a thank you gesture. Be aware because this is a scam. You will end up having to pay for the shoe polish.

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In Africa, children will approach you and request you to assist them in their education by buying notebooks for them. They’ll even take you to the store from where you’ll purchase the study material for them. Once you leave, the children will go back to the same store and return the study material to the storekeeper in return for a small commission!

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Also be aware of fake room inspectors. A couple of people dressed up as the hotel employees will come over to your hotel room and inform you that they need to conduct a routine inspection. While one person chats up with you, the other one will try stealing your valuables!

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In any part of the world, be aware of the fake policemen. The culprits will be dressed in proper local police uniforms and they’ll approach you by saying that they are investigating the case of fake currency notes being circulated in the neighbourhood. They will then proceed to ask for your wallet to check the authenticity of the currency notes. You would not even realize until much later that few of the notes from your wallet are missing!

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When you are travelling alone or as a couple, always be aware when random strangers offer to take your photographs on your camera. The person might demand money for his services or worse, if you have a kickass camera, the person might run away with it!

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In some parts of Spain, it has come to the notice of tourists that their credit card identity is being stolen. How this happens is, while paying at the counter of a store, if you offer to pay by your credit card, the cashier might seem like he/she is busy texting on the phone. What they are actually doing is taking photographs of your card so as to replicate it later.

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The opposite of the above point is where if you pay by cash, the cashier will count your change excruciatingly slowly. The cashier will even make a show of being weak in maths. This all is done in the hope of you losing your patience and accepting whatever change is handed out to you, which is often lesser than what you should have received. 

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In some parts of the world, you will come across poor children on the streets collecting donations for their education. They might guilt trip you into giving money to them. Please be assured that the money you give is definitely not being used for their education! If at all you feel like donating, donate in NGOs and aid providing organizations.

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If you receive a call in the middle of the night on your hotel room telephone with the front desk executive’ asking for your credit card details, hang up immediately and go downstairs to talk in person. More often than not, it won’t be the executive on the other side of the call but an identity thief.  

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Other scams might be less obvious- one such being taxi drivers who offer drugs to party goers. Once they accept the drugs, suddenly, as if on cue, fake police appear demanding a bribe to avoid arrest.

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A common scam on the streets of London, be aware of this one- a person performing street magic will leave you enthralled. While you are busy admiring the magic show, the performer’s accomplice will pickpocket! 

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Some disreputable hotels in Europe copy the names of more popular hotels. They then tie up with taxi drivers who will convince you that you have arrived at the correct venue when, infact, you haven’t!

Following a few precautions will help make your journey a hassle free one. To make it memorable, plan your itinerary using our incredible trip planner. Have you come across any other scams that you would like our readers to know about? Inform us by commenting below.

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