Top 10 tourist scams to avoid

Here are the 10 most notorious tourist scams you need to avoid.

Street scammer holding money in his hand
Image by AStupidTourist via

The top 10 most common tourist scams that you should be aware of when you travel.

We all like to travel, visit new places, get out of our boring routines, and bring back long-lasting memories of our wonderful trips. It’s what vacations are for, after all. Sometimes, though, those vacations can plague us with more stress than our daily jobs. They can even get us into tears and a huge amount of debt. The people responsible for that are none other than the infamous scammers.

In this guide, we’ll describe the 10 most common tactics scammers have in their arsenal against tourists. So, read carefully, and be extra prepared before traveling.

1. The “great” deal

Usually, it’s an expensive item that is offered for a fraction of what it would cost at a store. Be it sunglasses, jewelry, or even electronics (e.g. iPad). However, that is the typical “too good to be true” case, in which you get scammed with a fake product. Their try to persuade you by telling you that the product is a stolen but genuine product. Therefore it’s a bargain. In the case of electronics (phones and tablets), they keep them in their original package (also fake). Normally, you would have no doubts whatsoever. They are also very convincing that the product is indeed genuine.

However, 10 out of 10 times, it’s fake.

2. The “really great” deal

Contrary to our previous example, this case is about a genuine product that comes with a good price. You agree on a price, and you get the item in a nice bag. They might even offer you a small gift with that. After walking away, you want to take it out for a picture. However, once you open the bag, you realize the item is missing or not the same as they showed you.

Well. You’ve been scammed by the classic “switcheroo” trick. This is performed by at least two people. The first guy shows you the item, and while you’re making the payment or during a distraction, the second guy makes the switch.

They repeatedly sell the same item to every person gullible enough to fall for it.

3. Sneaky children

Small children, aged 12 or less, might be following you without you realizing it. Then all of a sudden you find your backpack open, or your phone missing from your pocket. Adults do this too, but it’s more successful with children due to their smaller frame and lower height. Small children also tend to get easily ignored as a non-threat, which is a mistake.

Always check your surroundings, and always check if someone is following you. The chances that you are being followed by a child, are higher when they’ve previously asked you for money. Gypsy children are likely to implement this tactic. Be aware.

4. The “slutty” beer

If you’re a guy wandering alone in the busy streets of Turkey (but not only), chances are some stranger will approach you. They will start a conversation and ask you if you’re alone. Once you confirm it, they will ask if you’d like to visit a nice place that offers good beer. Normally, you agree, and you go to the place together. The place is fancy and has a nice atmosphere. After sitting down a bottle of beer is brought by the waiter. The beer usually costs around $3-4, which is OK. A nice and pretty lady comes as well to keep you company. The beer is great, especially when paired with a pretty lady.

However, when the receipt comes, you’ll see the $4 beer rose to $800. Furious, you start demanding some explanations from the manager. To your angry disappointment, you find out that the cost increased due to the female company. Now, if you don’t budge, they will try to perform scare tactics on you by threatening to call the police. Fake policemen might be involved in this too, and the situation might look threatening. They even offer to accompany you to the nearest ATM to get their cash.

What you should do instead, is to call on their bluff and not pay. If they go through with their threat, and some police-looking person arrives, then call the actual police. When the actual police arrive, you’ll see those fake policemen disappearing in a blink of an eye. There are cases where real policemen are involved in those scams. They get a cut and everybody is happy about it. So, if they threaten to arrest you and take you to the police station, accept it. They won’t do sh*t.

5. The expensive “freebies”

If someone offers to help you carry your luggage, polish your shoes, or pick up your dropped hat, then decline like your life depends on it. If you let them help you, they will ask for money for their service they completed. If they don’t get the money, they will make a scene or threaten to call the police.

Speaking of shoe polishing, there’s a common trick in Turkish streets, where a person “accidentally” drops his shoe brush. Instinctively you pick it up and give it to him. Then as a “thank you” he polishes your shoes. But after that, he demands money for it. If you don’t pay, again, they threaten to call the police.

6. Street exchange points

In some countries, there are street brokers who exchange any currency for a local one. Be cautious about their exchange rate and how you count your money. All kinds of tricks can take place during the exchange.

If I were you, I wouldn’t want any services from them at all. Go only to official exchange points, if possible.

7. The “damaged” rental

If might find yourself in a beautiful location surrounded by interesting activities that you’d like to participate in. That could be jet-skiing, cycling, or basically anything that requires equipment or a car. A good idea would be to rent one nearby.

Careful though. Before doing so, thoroughly inspect the equipment for damage, and take pictures of it from multiple angles. If you find any damage, take a picture of it and report it, before you accept any deal. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself paying for non-existent damages or damages that someone before you caused. The owner knows this and profits from charging over and over for the same damage.

8. Taxi scams

This one is very typical in every country. The moment you enter a taxi and the driver realizes you’re a foreigner, you’re in trouble. You’ll likely get charged much higher than the usual rate, or the driver will purposely go through the longest detour to justify the cost. The best alternative is to call a radio taxi from a reputable company, and check out online the typical rates for the distance you plan to travel. Taxi drivers also pull the “I don’t have any change trick”, which brings us to the next scam.

9. “I don’t have any change”

This is mostly linked to taxi drivers, but it can occur at shops, and with street salesmen. Say, you took a taxi to the airport. When the time to pay comes, the taxi driver has large bills and no change at all. If you offer to pay with a credit card, they claim that their POS isn’t working.

This is done on purpose to get larger bills from you without returning any change. They expect you to leave the change to save yourself from wasted time.

Don’t fall for this and definitely don’t leave the taxi before receiving your money. It’s their obligation to give you back the owed amount. If they make a scene or threaten you in any way, be the one who calls on their bluff. Even better, if you threaten to call the police.

Trust me. They don’t want any police involved in this.

10. Any distraction, or unsolicited interaction

I could keep writing about scams all day long, but I’d need multiple pages to list them.

You should keep in mind that if anyone approaches you, asks you something, or simply interacts with you in any unsolicited way: stay away. And don’t touch anything they offer you or drop on your feet. All they want is your money.

No person has business with you if they don’t know you. Even someone asking for your time is suspicious. I know this isn’t the way to think of people, but the real world has no ideal people.

Extra Tips

  • Don’t blatantly carry unnecessary or expensive items with you (e.g. tablets, cameras, etc.);
  • Always keep local currency in your wallet;
  • Avoid keeping your credit card with you;
  • Hide your wallet in your inside pockets;
  • Don’t keep hanging items on you. They can be easily stolen or put you in physical danger. Imagine what would happen if someone on a motorcycle grabs them and pulls you along;
  • Don’t visit dangerous countries;
  • Don’t stand out. Get clothes similar to the locals and blend in;
  • Be suspicious when a person approaches you, or asks you about things;
  • Be suspicious of the goods and services offered to you;
  • Travel in groups;
  • Don’t visit bars alone at night;
  • Don’t be afraid of confrontation;
  • If threatened by a gun, give them what they want. It’s not worth being killed for some change;
  • Don’t wander too far from your resort;
  • Avoid dark and narrow alleys;
  • Study beforehand all the scam tactics known to date.

Have you ever been a victim of tourist scams?

Which ones should we include next time?

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