Scams in Europe

You have meticulously planned your holiday in Europe and are sure to have an experience of a lifetime. But nothing will dampen your mood more than being victim to petty crime and returning with a distrusting attitude to an entire people. Before you head out for your dream vacation bear in mind that pickpockets and muggers are not just restricted to the third world countries.

In the architecturally and economically bountiful Europe can one find thieves who have perfected their craft on many tourists oblivious to their menace. Barcelona is said to be the worst city for tourist scams with Paris and Rome not far behind in their notoriety.

The Streets

On the streets of Europe, you will often find yourself spellbound by the talent you will witness. A portrait of a tourist drawn within minutes, a neat soccer trick, some amazing juggling. Attempting to capture the nuances of your trip with your camera or appreciating the talent with a few coins, you give away valuable address to your wallet and camera. Many times a crowd forms around such shows and an accomplice of the talented performer will perform a neat job on your belongings.

Another trick the thievery team can play on you is in crowded museum entrances or any place with a bottleneck. It will be hard to differentiate between a push and someone picking your pocket when so many humans press from all sides. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket and hold tight to your valuables when in a sea of people.

Thieves are very aware of under the shirt wallet. They will not hesitate to use a razor to part you from your valuables. So wear a baggy shirt to not give away the presence of a pouch and better still wear it under your pants.

ATMs and Unscrupulous Money Changers

It is very common to find friendly people in Europe trying to strike up a conversation. An ATM vault is not a place to be making friends. If an over friendly person insists on watching you operate your ATM card for he isn’t familiar with the process, don’t entertain that request.

He will not only memorise your pin but also know the location of your wallet once you have pocketed your money. Once you are outside, one of his accomplices will pick your pocket and your ATM card to be wiped clean soon enough!

Thinking in a foreign currency is difficult. Often when collecting your change at a counter or from a money changer abroad, you could be deliberately be handed less money by the cashier. Be sure to count your currency in front of the cashier for easy resolution in case of any dispute.

Also, be familiar with the exchange rates before you head abroad for easier mental conversions. Best is to use travel cards preloaded by at the most competitive rates.


Always go for authorised taxi drivers preferably pre-booked even if it costs you more. Run in the opposite direction if you are solicited for a cab at ‘great’ rates. It could cost you dearly.

Also over helpful cabbies who are more than willing to unload your luggage should raise suspicion. They will hurriedly unload your baggage from the trunk and leave a small bag inside deliberately. Such drivers whizz off so quick that you will not be able to count your luggage in the hurried frenzy he created.

If any taxi driver is engaging in activities like offering drugs before dropping you off to a club flat out refuse and get out. Usually, this exchange is followed by fake police coming and nabbing you for possession of drugs. These “police” will levy a heavy fine on you and even confiscate your passport.

Helpful Strangers

Beware of overly helpful strangers as their smiles and friendly ways are just a distraction from their mischief. One such  example is a friendly samaritan telling you that a pickpocketing incident just happened in the neighbourhood and that you should check your valuables.

This is just to know the location of your wallet and how much money you are carrying as you go through your stuff. Predictably your pocket will be picked soon enough in that neighbourhood!

Police Scams

A new scam emerging these days is the fake police approaching tourists and demanding to show them their money as counterfeit currency is in circulation. Firstly always ask for an identification badge when approached by police. Secondly, do not hand over any documents or passport to them. Always insist on going to the police station to settle such situations.

Airport Scams

One of the most rampant airport scams is at the security check. In this kind of fraud, you are usually preceded by a team of two. One will quickly pass through the security. As soon as you place your laptop bag or purse on the conveyor belt, the second person will sound off the metal detector with coins in his pocket and very slowly extract all his belongings to show the security officer.

In the meanwhile, his accomplice will be long gone with your hand baggage. To avoid such a situation only put your bag on the belt when the metal detector is clear for you to pass through.

Villa Fraud

Always book rental homes and villas from trusted sites such as Airbnb. Do ample research on the owner and read reviews and ratings. The longer the person has been listed on the website the more reliable he/she can be taken to be. Do not be eager to pay up front and always ask for paperwork. And don’t always trust good reviews as they can be fake. The bad reviews are more informative!

Hotel Reception Scam

Do not give away your credit card/passport to a staff who comes to your room asking to make copies. For all you know they might not even be hotel staff. Always give your documents at the hotel reception and promptly take back your documents. Also, do not give your credit card details over the hotel intercom.

These are just some of the common scams found in Europe. Be aware of your surroundings and stay on the alert in public places. An over-friendly passerby should ring a warning bell in your head. Be safe and have a great holiday.