Jessica Festa a RoamRight Blog Author

Common Travel Scams In Europe


Traveling through Europe is an enriching experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. That being said, the continent is unfortunately home to a number of travel scams one should be aware of. While it's possible to have a hassle-free trip without encountering a single con artist, it's a good idea to keep the following common travel scams in mind just in case.

The Good Samaritan

Unfortunately, not all acts of kindness are genuine when traveling through Europe. Be wary of locals who go out of their way to do something nice for you, as it's sometimes part of a hoax. For example, if someone offers to pick something up that you've dropped–which is typically something they've actually planted on the floor–don’t lose sight of your wallet. Moreover, if said thing is a ring or something of possible value don’t be surprised if the good Samaritan offers to purchase it from you for a “good price,” even if it wasn't yours to begin with. Typically, it's an attempt to rip you off. Additionally, if a local offers to show you to the nearest ATM, politely decline. This is a common scam to steal your pin number. These are just a few of the many Good Samaritan scams, so stay alert when favors are offered out of nowhere.

Fake Police

One popular scam travelers to Europe should be wary about thieves posing as fake police officers. Typically these people hang out near popular tourist sites, and will ask to check your wallet for counterfeit money. Once you hand over your cash, they'll confiscate it and possibly take your entire wallet. If a police officer approaches you while you're traveling through Europe politely ask them to see their official identification to help protect yourself from this ruse.

The Distraction

Many times, those trying to steal your valuables will try to create a diversion so you switch your focus from yourself to something else. For these skilled scammers, it takes less than a second to pick your pocket. Spontaneous fights, attractive locals with flirty demeanors, and groups of chatty children are a few of the many possible distractions. In some cities–particularly Rome–you may also see a local woman stumble and throw a "baby," which is actually a doll meant to distract potential scam victims. 

The Bag Cut/Snatch

Pickpockets in Europe have some interesting ways of snatching your bag. For example, never keep your purse on the floor between your legs at a restaurant, or there's a good chance it won't be there when you leave. Additionally, it's relatively common on subways and in crowded places for pickpockets to cut the bottom of a purse and snatch your valuables that way. To avoid having this happen to you it's important to be extra vigilant with your purse, or if possible leave it at home and wear a money belt or pickpocket-proof clothing so thieves don’t know you have money on you. Also refrain from showing off your valuables, as this makes you a prime target.

Card Cloning

You most likely won't be able to tell which shops and restaurants are using a card cloning machine as they look like a typical card reader, making it difficult to prevent this from happening. That being said, there are precautions you can take. For one, keep an eye on your bank and credit card activity to catch any unusual charges right away. Moreover, pay cash or use a credit card as much as possible, as thefts from a debit account are much more difficult to dispute.

ATM Scams

Another card-related scam has to do with ATMs. Sometimes, scammers will put tape in the card slot so when you insert it, the card gets stuck. Afterwards, they'll come by and use tweezers to pull it out. If a machine eats your card call your bank and cancel it immediately.

Taxi Scams

Dealing with taxis is sometimes a necessary evil when traveling through Europe, although subways and buses are usually reliable. Ask your hotel how much the going rate for a taxi is from Point A to Point B so you don't get overcharged. If a taxi claims their meter is broken, find another one or haggle with them for a fair price. Ask beforehand if they have small change, as many will claim they don't in order to make more money. And if possible avoid leaving your bags in the trunk, as a disgruntled taxi driver may drive away with them if he/she feels they deserve more money.

The Handmade Bracelet

Handmade accessories make great souvenirs–as long as you're the one seeking them out. A common scam in Europe is for a local to approach you offering to show you a “bracelet-making demonstration." Once they finish creating the jewelry around your wrist, they’ll try to get you to buy it, of course for an expensive price. Keep in mind this person is playing on the idea you'll feel obliged to buy the bracelet he/she just created for you. Stand your ground and politely decline. Throughout the exchange keep your valuables in sight, as the bracelet making is sometimes used as away to distract you so an accomplice can pickpocket you.

Don't let these scams scare you; Europe is overall a safe place to travel but it is important to be vigilant and keep these scams in mind.

Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.

About the Author

Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa, a RoamRight Blog Author Jessica Festa is a full-time travel writer who is always up for an adventure. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and doing orphanage work in Ghana. You can follow her adventures on her travel websites, Epicure & Culture and Jessie On A Journey. You can also connect with Jessica directly on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, or follow her epicurean adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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