Travel Scams Around the World

Around the world, an estimated 400,000 incidences of pick pocketing will occur in one day.  400,000!!! Yikes!

The major cities in Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, France, Argentina, Amsterdam, India and Vietnam, are usually hit hard by travel scams.  On the flip side, statistics do show there are also some countries that are regarded as “safe’ when you are talking about tourist robbery and crime. Iceland, Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland have a shinny gold star for ‘safeness’. But really, robbery, pick pocketing, theft, can happen anywhere, even in your own neighbourhood.

Whilst travelling, they key is to blend in and not advertise yourself as an easy target. Keep your wits about you and be sure to take in your surroundings and most importantly, know how to read potential robbery signs.

So, if you are planning to travel the world, or parts of it, it’s a good idea to read up on some knowledge about possible travel scams and shams. Here are the most commonplace scams on the street you are likely to see in your world travel adventure.


The most popular form of theft on the streets, pickpockets can operate anywhere, but these thieves mainly use crowded areas to their advantage. Entrances and exits to train stations and shopping centres, markets or concerts, tourist attractions or crowded train, trams or busses all are potential pick pocket territory. Be aware of anyone in your personal space.  If there is a jostle or you or someone near you is knocked down, naturally you’ll feel the need to help, but this could be a moment where you have your wallet stolen. If there is a distraction of sorts where attention may be diverted elsewhere, this a perfect opportunity for someone else for the opposite direction to put their hand in your bag.

Tips – Keep your valuables close to the skin, either on an inside pocket of your jacket or coat, use a money belt or fanny pack. If you have a backpack, wear it on the front for those crowded train trips or escalator rides. Turn the opening of your handbag or over the shoulder strap bag, towards your body, much harder for hands to get in and its more likely you’ll feel something against your body this way.

‘Excuse me there’s something on your……..’

Popular in train stations in Europe this is a craft trick. Someone will come up to you to make you aware of a stain or mark on your coat or pants, a mark they will have quickly and stealthily put there themselves. Whilst you bend down to look or rub it away, even at times with this ‘kind’ persons assistance, someone else, who will be your current kind Samaritan’s partner in crime, will be either dipping their hand in your bag if its accessible, or taking the whole thing completely.

Tips – If you are travelling alone, with luggage in a crowded transit station, never, ever let go of your bags, make sure they are all done up properly and if possible intertwined together by their straps or a separate strap.

Money for charity

Good weather and large tourists attractions are perfect company for the money for charity scam. This includes beggars, often with children they use as a distraction. But most often it will be a ‘money for charity’ petition. These people will approach you and put a clipboard in front of your face wanting you to sign the paper and/or donate money. Whilst you are distracted by the information on the paper, another of the group may be going for what is in your bag or purse.

Tips No need to freak out, but always approach these situations with caution and be super aware of those in the group and where they are placed around you. Say a swift no thank you and goodbye and head straight on down the street.

Fake WiFi hubs

This is an easy one to get caught in.  Connecting to an unfamiliar free WiFi hot spot gives a hacker complete access to your on line activities. This may lead to seeing to your pin numbers and gaining entry to your bank accounts. All this whilst you are completely unaware, until it’s too late!

Tips -When you are connecting to a WiFi station at a coffee shop or hotel, even in your privately rented apartment or Air B’n’B. Make sure the address you are using is legitimate. The hub name, address and code/pin should come directly from the establishment. Don’t connect to any unlocked WiFi addresses, as these tend to be the ones who will hurt you the most!

Broken taxi Meter

Popular in South America, this scam can happen wherever there are cabs, which is practically everywhere. The driver will inform you after you leave that his meter is currently broken, but not to worry its probably cheaper without it and he’ll charge you a flat fee.  No, no, no! It’s easy to give the benefit of the doubt but this is obviously a way to get more money out of you. Especially if you’ve come from the airport or train station, are new to the city and don’t know the area. Your final flat fee will be a considerable amount, which the driver will demand you pay for his time.

Tips – Give the meter a quick check before you get in, or ask the driver. If its turned on and working you should have no problems. If its not, or he refused to turn it on, get out, hail another cab, not all taxi drivers want to scam you. Alternatively you can negotiate a flat rate ahead of time, before you start to drive away.

There are SO many scams around the world, and would highly recommend to watch the Nat Geo series “Scam City” for major scams in cities around the world including the “ring” scam in Paris, Indian tourist guides, street card games and more. Fascinating show!

Travel safe and have a great time everyone!

With thanks to The Trip Guru Contributor writer Charmaine K for this article.


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