12 Common Tourist Scams You Should Know About

By: Freelance Contributor

Traveling is fun, but let’s face it… sometimes you’re a fish out of water and this makes you the ultimate target for scams. Being vulnerable and uneducated can get you in a lot of trouble, usually financially but sometimes even legally. Before packing your bags it’s important to do some research on your destination so that you don’t fall pray to one of the many, many common tourist scams out there. We’ve complied this list of some of the most common scams you may encounter while traveling this big beautiful world. Don’t let these deter you from travel, but always trust your instincts; and remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.


12. The Stain on Your Jacket

A scammer will spill something on your jacket, either making it look like an accident or doing it so subtly that you don’t notice. They will point it out to you and insist they help clean it off for you. While they’re doing this they will take the opportunity to pick your jackets pockets and take whatever they can find. This scam is most common throughout Buenos Aires, Argentina and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


11. The Friendly Photographer

This is a dirty one; you’re taking pictures at some popular landmark when someone offers to take a group photo for you, or if you’re traveling as a couple they will offer to take a photo of you together. You hand them your phone or camera and one of 2 things will happen: either they will ask for money after taking the photo or even worse, they will run off with your device. This scam is most popular through Europe and we think it’s particularly dirty because there are plenty of people out there who will offer to do this and NOT steal your camera.


10. The Friendship Bracelet

This common scam has been around a while so people are starting to wise up. You’ll be approached by someone offering a friendship bracelet and even if you decline, they will still try to make the bracelet around your wrist. Usually, they will then demand money for the bracelet (that you didn’t want in the first place) or they will use the commotion to distract you while someone else picks your pockets. You’re most likely to encounter this scam while in Rome, Barcelona, Paris or Cairo.

Friendship Bracelet

9. The Taxi Turnaround

A lot of tourist take taxis while traveling because they believe them to be ‘safer’ than public transit, the verdict is still out on that but one thing is for sure, they can cost you A LOT more money, especially since many taxis will take advantage of the fact that you won’t know where you’re going. They will do all sorts of things from taking longer routes to purposefully driving through heavy traffic areas in an attempt to run up your fare. Some taxis have even been known to have meters that are rigged to increase the fare at a much faster rate than normal. This scam knows no boundaries and is used all over the world.

Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock.com
Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock.com


8. The Shady Deal

This scam usually occurs while you’re on your way to a night out or a big party such as a full moon party. Your taxi or tuk tuk driver will offer to sell you some drugs and if you accept, a fake policeman will be walking by just at the right time to catch you in a tricky situation. They will then demand you pay a big fine, otherwise face time in a foreign prison. This scary scam takes place typically on the island of Koh Pha Ngan in Thailand. The moral of this story is don’t buy drugs in a foreign country, there are infinite ways you can get in trouble and taken advantage of from doing so.

otan / Shutterstock.com
otan / Shutterstock.com

7.  The Fake Ticket Fast-lane

Cities like Paris and London have become well-known for the incredibly long lines patrons must face to get tickets to popular attractions like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Buckingham Palace. Due to this, scams have been created were an official looking person will offer you higher priced tickets to the attraction you’re waiting for but allows you to bypass the line. This may be tempting while you’re standing in like, back hurting and needing to use the toilet, but don’t fall for it! These ticket won’t work and you’ll have wasted your money.

Paul Wishart / Shutterstock.com
Paul Wishart / Shutterstock.com

6. The English Students

The way this one goes is some innocent looking females will overhear you speaking in English and explain they are trying to learn and will ask to practice it with you. There are then two ways this scam is used;  they will start to tell a sob story and ask you for money, hoping that you feel bad for them or they will invite you to their favorite cafe to repay you for helping them learn. Once the bill comes at the cafe it will be a shockingly inflated amount and the girls will have taken off. This scam has been encountered in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Xian.


5. The Fake Policeman

This next common scam can be quite intimidating! An official looking officer will approach you and let you know that counterfeit currency has been circulating in the area. They will ask to check your wallet and after they do, there will be less money than when you handed it over! They may also ask to see your travel documents like visa and passport, then they will explain there is a problem and demand money to avoid an issue. This tactic is most commonly found in Bangkok, Bogota, Mexico City and Bucharest.

fake police

4. The Female Flirt

Every guy likes the attention of a beautiful woman, unfortunately in this case it won’t have a happy ending. For this scam, an attractive female will approach a solo male tourist and start to flirt with him. She will then invite him to a club or a bar, she will stick around, dance with him and ask him to order drinks, but at the end of the night, a huge bar bill will show up and the man will be demanded to pay. With the woman no where to be found of course. In some cases, fake police officers have even been known to get in on the scam and intimidate the man into paying the outrageous bill. This scam is most common in Athens, Greece.

female flirting


3. The Helpful Local

Using bank machines and ticket machines in other countries can be tricky, especially if they’re in another language. This scam takes advantage of this fact so if you’re approached by a ‘friendly’ local who speaks your language and offers to help assist you, beware! If they’re scamming you they will be remembering your pin number for when they pickpocket you later, or they may just run off with your money (once you are able to get it out). In either case the end result is not a good one. This scam is common throughout all of Europe.

Ticket machine

2. The Fake Front Desk Call

This scam looks to capitalize on the fact that most people don’t want to be inconvenienced. A scammer will call your hotel room late at night pretending to be the front desk. They will advice there is a problem with your card and ask you to confirm your credit card details over the phone. They call late at night hoping that you will just deal with the issue over the phone rather than walking to the front desk. This is a universal scam and is attempted all over the world.

hotel room phone

1. The Broken Camera

This is one tactic that you can easily fall victim to, because who really says no when asked to take a photo? A person will ask you to take a photo of their group but when you go to take the picture, the camera will not work. When you go to hand it back to the person to show them, they will drop it (by accident of course) and it will smash. The group will then get upset and demand you give them money to repair/replace it. Or, they may even pickpocket you in the process. This fairly simple scam is used all around the world to capitalize on “the kindness of strangers”.