Europe is a fantastic continent to catch the travelling bug and experience a huge variety of diverse cultures. Unfortunately, no continent is perfect and there have been a significant increase on scams targeting tourists, especially non-European tourists. Even the most diligent can be caught unaware, so be sure to study these tips carefully.
1. Wallet Scams
Wallets are often the centre of attention when it comes to tourist scams, so the first thing to do before you leave the hotel is to limit the amount of cash you bring with you and avoid taking your card. Once a thief has your wallet they could have access to your personal details, your card, your cash, and anything else you keep with it.
There are many ways a scammer may steal a wallet. One method may be to ironically inform the tourist that there are wallet scammers about and to be sure to check whether they have their belongings. They will take note of where the tourist keeps their wallet when they check and will revisit the tourist later.
Another scam is for someone to dress up as an official person who needs to examine your wallet for counterfeit money. Should you receive your wallet back, you will notice the wallet is a few notes lighter. You should never, ever, give an official your wallet. Many public services are aware of these scams and so will use other methods to check for counterfeit cash.
Alternatively, you may wish to avoid purchasing wallets in crowded areas, especially if the wallet is commonly sold in the markets. If you do purchase a new wallet, don’t start using it until you get home. Someone may accidently fall into you, knocking your wallet out of your hand. They will apologise, pick up your wallet and hand it back, before walking away. Only then, will you realise that it wasn’t your wallet they handed it back, it was a fake!
2. Friendship/Date Scams
These scams can be heart-breaking for tourists who get caught in this horrible practice. Scammers will target tourists who appear to be travelling alone. They may appear to be very friendly to the target and offer to take them around the city. If a traveller accepts the tourist will take them to particular shops where they have a deal with the merchant, with restaurant managers or café owners. After a long day shopping, the tourist may find out that their new ‘friend’ suddenly disappears when the bill from the restaurant or the café arrives at an extortionate price!
This can be a very common scam in Greece and Turkey, but it is also common place in many other European countries.
There are many locals who genuinely are hoping to make friends and have good intentions. In order to tell whether you could be facing a scam, always be sure that you are the one choosing where to eat and where to shop. If they are not a scammer they should not have a problem with this. Do note that it is a Turkish custom to invite new friends for tea and refreshments. In Turkish culture it is a popular custom to generously feed and cater for guests. While it is good to be cautious, if a Turkish local invites you to lunch it does not necessarily mean that they are trying to scam you. Just make sure that the first couple of teams you eat out together, you choose where to go and that if you ever go to someone’s house that you are never alone and go with a trusted travelling friend.
3. Street Scams
Street scams are possibly the most common kind of scam in Europe, especially busy European capitals such as London and Paris. These scammers come in all shapes and sizes but the general theory is the same. They seek to distract you for profit.
Some scammers will do this by encouraging people to play and participate in chance games, which are secretly fixed. These scammers are known to target tourists from Asia or countries which are less likely to have chance games played on the street or are less likely to have chance scammers in their area. There could even be many scammers involved in the scam, some of which may be posing as tourists and join the crowd. They may pretend to have won a couple of games themselves and will aim to make the atmosphere an exciting place to be. These posing tourists could also try to pickpocket real tourists while they are distracted with watching the game.
Other street scammers will approach you and put a ‘friendship’ bracelet on your wrist or will give you a flower. While you are surprised they will then ask for money. This is a hugely common scam that can be found in nearly every country in Europe, especially in the capitals. The friendship bracelets can be difficult to remove, which will distract you from your bag and your wallet. If you accept and pay for the bracelet it will mean that you are wearing a symbol to say you are a profitable target.
Similar scams include ‘the lost ring’, where a scammer will drop a ring on the floor for you to pick up. If you do, they will thank you kindly then announce how the ring is real gold and offer it to be yours for a cheap price. Of course, the ring is not real gold at all. There are many different versions of this scam, but the best way to keep yourself safe is to avoid purchasing items from friendly people who approach you. Only purchase items at markets and shops.
4. False Document Scams
There are many companies both online and offline that will charge you for documentation that should free to receive or should be much cheaper than their fees. Documentation such as travel passes, visas and driving licences should always be handled by official sources. Always double check the company before giving them your details. If there are any grammar mistakes on the website, unofficial email addresses (i.e, using yahoo or Hotmail accounts) or if you came across the website through adverts, you should be very suspicious.
5. Taxi Scams
Finally, taxi scams in Europe have been an old method of scamming tourists yet still remain an issue in some countries. You will find that across Europe, prices for taxis dramatically change. Before travelling, always be sure to check prices. You can find average price costs online and you may even find that there are cheaper public routes you can use. While Eastern European countries such as Poland and Romania have outstandingly cheap taxis available, other countries such as France and the United Kingdom can have very expensive fares.
Most countries will allow tourists to pre-agree on a total fare before entering a taxi. You should always attempt this, whether you are calling the taxi on the telephone or if you are using a taxi that is parked at a taxi rank. Don’t be afraid to barter either. Many taxis also clearly display their fees on their taxi, often outside the window. Taxis should never charge more than this. Warsaw in Poland has many taxis who are very good at having an easy to understand service, displaying their ‘day’ fee, and their ‘night’ fee.
Consider asking your hotel or local airport to recommend or book a taxi for you. They are often very good at recommending good quality taxi services and should not recommend taxi services that have caused problems for their customers in the past.
Most European countries enforce taxis to clearly display an official taxi logo and some should carry ID badges with themselves. Don’t forget to do your research and keep yourself safe.