15 Common Travel Scams in 2024 (And How To Avoid Them)

Travel Scams

Common Travel Scams (And How To Avoid Them)Travel scams are commonplace. As a Westerner, we know that this is the game. I share here the most famous scams.

If you have already traveled a little, then you may have realized that certain people with bad intentions sometimes tend to want to scam tourists.

It must be said that when you arrive in a country about which you know nothing, you become an easy victim.

To avoid this type of bad experience, I have made a list of the 15 scams most frequently encountered while traveling . I’ve been a victim of some of them myself, so I speak from experience!

The most common travel scams of 2020

Being scammed by a stranger while on vacation is really unpleasant. And even after almost 10 years of continuous travel, I still get fooled.

I’m talking here about scams that I’ve been a victim of myself, and others that I haven’t personally experienced but that other travelers I’ve met have told me about during my adventures.

1: THE TAXI METER OUT OF SERVICE

This is a very well-known scam, particularly around train stations and airports . You get in a taxi, the driver starts driving then informs you that the meter is out of service . So, at the end of the trip, you find yourself paying much more than the normal fare.

My experience:
This scam is very present in Central America, but also in Eastern Europe. I remember once I had to go to Sofia airport. On the road, I realized that the driver was half covering the meter. Impossible to see exactly how much the race was. As soon as he arrived he pressed the reset button and got out of the car to collect my luggage from the trunk. When he gave me my bag back, he simply told me a price out of his hat. Of course I refused to pay, explaining to him that I had seen his ploy.

How to avoid this scam?
Never board a taxi without agreeing on a price or checking with the driver that his meter is working. If you can’t find it, turn around and look elsewhere. Not all taxi drivers are scammers.

2. A FULL OR CLOSED HOTEL

Another scam taking place in taxis. You give the address of a hotel that you spotted in your guide and, on the way, the driver tells you that the hotel is either full or closed. His goal: to take you to a more expensive hotel where he will earn a nice commission.

My experience:
This has never happened to me, but I know travelers who have had it. The driver told them their hotel was run down and poorly attended when that was not the case.

How to avoid this scam?
Call your hotel before you go there and make sure it is open. You can even ask if they offer a shuttle service so you don’t have to take a taxi. If your driver keeps telling you the hotel isn’t available and insists on taking you somewhere else, tell them you have a reservation, even if you don’t.

3. FREE BRACELETS OR FLOWERS

It’s a scam that mainly affects women. A man or woman approaches you with a smile, starts talking to you and hangs a free friendship bracelet on your wrist or hands you a bouquet of flowers for good luck. Once you have the item in hand, it then asks you to pay. And when you refuse, he starts to get angry.

My experience:
You can see this stratagem around the Sacré Coeur in Paris or even in Vietnam.

How to avoid this scam?
Don’t allow anyone to give or hold anything from you, and always be suspicious when someone wants to give you something for free (unless there’s a good reason, of course). This scam mainly occurs in tourist places. Ignore people who approach with something in their hands and continue on your way.

4. SPILLING SOMETHING ON YOUR CLOTHES

A very common scam in Europe. You’re walking down the street when suddenly something falls on your shoulder (usually sauce or bird droppings). A stranger then kindly approaches and begins to wipe your shoulder while discreetly taking your wallet from you.

My experience:
This has never happened to me.

How to avoid this scam?
The best thing in this situation is not to let anyone help you. Instead, go to a public restroom to clean your clothes.

5. FAKE POLICE OFFICERS

Another scam very present in big cities. Usually, people will approach you offering you illegal things like drugs . As you refuse, one or two police officers approach you, handing you their badge. They ask you to show your ID and wallet and rob you. They are not real police officers.

My experience:
This has never happened to me. But I know people who happened to this in Thailand.

How to avoid this scam?
Never hand your passport or wallet to anyone. Ask them for their identification card and inform them that you will call the police to verify that they are who they say they are. You can also tell them that your passport was left in a safe at the hotel and that they can follow you if they want. If they don’t like it, leave.

6. THE SITE IS CLOSED

This scam works a bit like that of hotels and is particularly prevalent in tourist places. You arrive at a site you want to visit and someone approaches with a smile to inform you that it is closed because of the holidays , a ceremony or any other reason. He then suggests that you follow him to another site or another store where he will “force” you to buy something or pay full price for entry.

My experience:
This happened to me when I wanted to visit a temple in Bangkok. As I approached the entrance, someone came up to me and told me that it was closed but that they knew of an equivalent place right next door. I thanked him then continued on my way towards the entrance. I realized it was perfectly open.

How to avoid this scam?
Rather than relying on everything the locals say, head straight to the entrance and check it out with your own eyes.

7. SOMEONE HELPS YOU AT THE ATM

You are about to withdraw money when someone approaches you and tells you they know a way to avoid bank fees . In fact, what they really want to do is scan your card info with a device hidden in their pocket and watch you type in your code so they can use it later.

My experience:
It happened to me… Once, when I was going to withdraw money in Bangkok, a man approached me and a second man got in line right behind me. The first pretended to want to help me, and the second pretended to be an average customer. The first canceled my withdrawal and told me to try again. That’s when I realized I was being scammed. I snatched my card from his hand and left.

How to avoid this scam?
Do not let anyone approach you while you are at the ATM. When you type your code, make sure there is no one around and hide your finger with the other hand. If someone approaches, take your map back and go somewhere else.

8. INJURED OR BEGGING CHILDREN

Whether they are deaf, pregnant or blind, beggars accompanied by a caregiver may ask you for money. We also meet many women with babies (not necessarily their own) and many children. The latter are often part of gangs to whom they bring money (Watch Slumdog Millionaire, you will understand) . In fact, it is easier to give to an injured child than to an adult. Sometimes these beggars are accompanied by an accomplice who watches where you put your wallet so they can rob you later.

My experience:
We see this almost everywhere in the world.

How to avoid this scam?
Difficult to discern truth from fiction. What I advise you is to never give money to beggars on the street. On the other hand, if you want to offer them food or clothing, that could be a good solution. This will ensure that your money doesn’t go to gangs.

9. A GROUP PHOTO IN THE STREET

While you are visiting a tourist place with others, a local offers to take a photo of you all. You accept, you take the break and, when you look up, you realize that the person has disappeared… With your camera!

My experience:
I have been asked several times already, but I did not accept. So, I can’t really tell you if the people’s intention was good or bad.

How to avoid this scam?
This is a very easy scam to avoid. All you have to do is refuse! And if you really want to have a photo taken together, it’s up to you to ask someone. You will be much less likely to be robbed by asking an average person rather than by accepting someone’s offer.

10. FAKE WI-FI HOTSPOTS

Today, when you turn on your Wi-Fi from your smartphone anywhere in the world, there is a good chance of being able to connect. What is less known is that some of these connections are actually scams . Hackers have taken over certain unsecured hotspots to connect to your device remotely, and thus recover your information and passwords.

My experience:
This has never happened to me, at least not that I know of.

How to avoid this scam?
Best to ask someone. If you’re at a restaurant, for example, ask the waiter which hotspot you can connect to. Another solution: you can use a VPN , or virtual private network. For example, I use ExpressVPN.

11. DAMAGE AND THEFT OF RENTAL SCOOTERS

You go to a store to rent a scooter or motorcycle, you leave with it and, during the next night, it gets damaged or stolen. When you return to the shop, its owner asks you to reimburse the (ultra expensive) repairs or the entire vehicle. But in truth, it was him or one of his friends who damaged or stole the vehicle!

My experience:
It happened to me in Cambodia. I rented a motorbike and the next morning I found its tank punctured. There was no point in doing that, so I immediately realized the scam. But I still had to pay…

How to avoid this scam?
As soon as you rent a vehicle – motorcycles, scooters and cars alike – take photos immediately. Use your own lock, not the one provided by the rental agency, and never tell the agency where you are staying. When you park your vehicle at the hotel or hostel, make sure it is a secure place. And if it does get damaged, have it repaired somewhere other than the store where you rented it.

12. FAKE PLANE, TRAIN OR BUS TICKETS

Someone offers you a cheaper plane, train or bus ticket than elsewhere. It could be a taxi driver, someone you meet on the street, whatever. In any case, this scam involves selling you fake tickets.

My experience:
This has never happened to me.

How to avoid this scam?
Always buy your tickets at the official office or on the company’s website.

13. A GOLDEN DEAL

On the street, a local approaches you and shows you jewelry, watches and precious stones. He explains to you that he sells them at a high price in rich countries, particularly in Europe and North America. He offers to share his tips with you and helps you discover the best places to buy precious objects at low prices . But the thing is, all her jewelry is fake!

My experience:
I know a traveler who arrived in India. The scam went very far because the person took several days to develop a solid friendship with this traveler (invitation to his family for example).

How to avoid this scam?
Have you ever been told not to talk to strangers on the street? If someone offers to buy luxury items at a low price, remember that it’s too good to be true and there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

14. A FAKE CALL FROM YOUR HOTEL

In the middle of the night, your hotel reception calls you to get your credit card details because it didn’t go through earlier. In reality, it’s not the front desk calling you, but a scammer trying to get your payment information.

My experience:
This has never happened to me.

How to avoid this scam?
Never give your card numbers over the phone. If in doubt, go straight to reception either overnight or the next morning.

15. A VERY PLEASANT WOMAN…

You meet a woman on the street or in a bar who won’t stop making eyes at you. She invites you for a drink then, after a wild night, she disappears and leaves you the bill for the drinks and the hotel night , or worse, she drugs you and steals from you.

My experience:
This hasn’t really happened to me. But this scam is common in Thailand.

How to avoid this scam?
Be wary of women who stare at you in a way that’s a little too direct or aggressive. I know every man dreams of being hit on by a beautiful woman, but if it’s not a habit for you, then it’s probably a scam (I know, it’s heartbreaking).

Travel scams: the nightmare!

In fact, even if you read this article and pay close attention to everything, you will never be 100% sure that you are not being scammed.

But don’t let that stop you from going on an adventure. And after all, this kind of problem is also part of the journey.

So yes, of course, it’s annoying to have your phone or camera stolen, but there are much worse things than all that. It’s just material, and what’s more, you can learn from it.

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