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10 Tourist Scams to Watch Out for When Traveling

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Tourist Scams and Travel Scams

We’d all like think that we are smart enough to spot a scam. But, when we are travelling on business or on a vacation, we are all more susceptible to travel scams. We are in unfamiliar surroundings and we have a lot on our mind. So, we are much more likely than we would be at home to be taken in by a scam. It’s for this reason that dishonest people target tourists. They know that we will be distracted and not on our guard. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of a travel scam is to be aware of the types of scams that shady characters are likely to try to pull. Here’s a list of 10 of the common tourist scams that many, many people do fall for.

1. Free Gifts

This is a very common scam at big tourist attractions. A very friendly looking person will approach and give you a gift. This tourist scam is often targeted at women and children. The scammer might offer you a sprig of flowers or a bracelet. If you have young children with you, they might place a hat on your child’s head. Once you have accepted the gift, they will start to demand money. If you don’t pay up, they will start to cause a scene. Sometimes, they will work with other people who will also join in and demand that you pay.

The best way to avoid this common travel scam is to not let anyone put anything like jewelry or hats on you or your kids. Keep on walking and politely, but firmly refuse any gifts.

2. Fake Law Enforcement Officers

In this travel scam, the scammers are after your passport and wallet. The first scammer will approach and offer you something illegal. This will often be drugs or forged designer gear. While you are talking to this person, one or two smartly dressed people will arrive claiming to be police officers. They will show you their badges or ID cards and demand that you hand over your passport and wallet. They will all then disappear into the crowd and you will be the latest victim of this tourist scam.

To avoid this one, you need to have the courage to refuse the fake police officer’s instructions. Tell them that you will call the police station first to confirm the officer’s identity. Alternatively, tell them that you do not have your passport with you. Tell them that will have to come with you to the hotel to get it, which they will not.

3. Free Tour Guide

This is a scam that is targeted at tourists visiting busy tourist attractions. You’ll be wandering around by yourself admiring the view. Then a friendly local will suddenly begin telling you all about the attraction. The problem is that they won’t stop at only one useful piece of information. If you show any interest in what they are saying, they will stick to you like glue. When the time has come for you to move on somewhere else, they will demand payment for their unwanted services.

This is a hard one to avoid. Especially as sometimes these unofficial guides are quite well-informed and entertaining. If you do want to be left alone, you need to say “no thank you” straight away and walk on.

4. ATM Scammers

Withdrawal fees at foreign ATMs can be very high. So, when a friendly local comes up to you at the ATM and tells you he can help you avoid those fees, you might be interested. Don’t be. He will either direct to another ATM where the fees are even higher, or your card details will be skimmed. Or, he is simply trying to skim your card while he talks to you and catch sight of your PIN as you key it in.

When you use ATMs abroad, always use machines that are located within banks or in your hotel. Never use an ATM if someone standing right beside you, and always cover up the keypad with your hand.

5. Taxi Meter Not Working

This is a scam that can happen in any city in the world, but it is usually targeted at tourists. When you get in a taxi, the driver will tell you that his meter isn’t working. Then, he’ll charge you a fortune for your ride.

The best way to avoid getting scammed in taxis is to agree a price before you start your journey. If they say that the meter isn’t working, or the taxi driver claims it will be cheaper if he doesn’t use the meter, get another taxi.

6. Attractive Women Hitting on You

This is a travel scam for the men to watch out for. If the local women seem to be hitting on you, it might not be down to your charm and good looks. Bars and clubs employ attractive women to entice customers into their establishments. You’ll have a great time and order lots of drinks. Then, you’ll be hit with an unbelievably high bar bill. If you don’t have enough cash to pay the bill, you may be escorted to the nearest ATM to get the money you need to pay for the overpriced drinks.

The way to avoid this tourist scam is simple. Don’t let your newfound attractiveness to women get the better of you!

7. Cheap Tickets

If you are standing in line to buy tickets for anything, don’t get taken in by the fake tickets travel scam. This applies to bus tickets, train tickets, and tickets to get into tourist attractions. If anyone offers you cheap tickets to anything, the chances are that they will be fake tickets. By the time you find out they are fake, the scammer will have disappeared with your money.

Only buy tickets from official sources. Never buy tickets from a guy in the street or from a taxi driver who says he is doing you a favor.

8. I’ll Take That Photo for You

Everyone loves to have vacation photos taken standing in front of famous landmarks. That’s why scammers are only too happy to offer to take those photos for you. But, while you are busy checking your hair and getting your pose right, your friendly local will have run off with your camera or phone.

This is a tricky travel scam to avoid. You want the photos, and some offers will be genuine. The best way to avoid this scam is to not hand an expensive camera over to a stranger. If you want to risk it, buy another cheap or disposable camera and hand that over instead when someone offers to take a photo for you.

9. Disabled and Child Beggars

Whether you should give money to beggars at all is always a tricky question. It’s hard to turn a blind eye to the poverty that you see in some countries. However, you do need to be aware that not all beggars are what they seem. Disabled beggars are sometimes not disabled at all. The babies that some women beggars ask you for food for are sometimes not that woman’s baby. Child beggars are sometimes employed by gangs that take the lion’s share of the money that you hand over.

It’s usually impossible to tell a fake beggar from a genuine one. It’s your choice if you want to give beggars cash. If you do want to help someone, it might be better to buy them food. In some countries, you also must be aware that, if you give cash to one beggar, you may be suddenly surrounded by lots more beggars pleading for money.

10. Sorry, It’s Closed

This is another ticket scam often targeted at tourists. As you approach an attraction, a friendly local will stop you to tell you that the attraction is closed for the day. The scammer will give you a believable reason for the closure. It will be something like a religious holiday, or the attraction is closed for maintenance. The scammer will then be even more helpful. He will offer to direct you or take you to an alternative attraction. That attraction will cost you ten times more to get into and it won’t be anything like as good as the one you had wanted to see.

If you are on your way to a tourist attraction, don’t believe a stranger in the street if they tell you it is closed. Go to the official ticket sales point and find out for yourself. The stranger might have been telling the truth and you might have a wasted journey, but at least you won’t have fallen for this very common tourist scam.


This is not a complete list of the tourist scams that people try, but it will give you a good idea of what to watch out for. The main thing to be wary of is people being overly friendly and helpful. That could be a sign that they are trying to catch you out with a travel scam. If you are traveling soon, you may also be interested in reading our Top 20 Travel Safety Tips. We hope that you found this post helpful. If you did, please do share it on social media so that other people don’t get caught out. If you’d like to receive occasional updates from us, please subscribe to our mailing list. Thanks for reading. Have a great day and enjoy your travels!