If you’re planning an international trip, it helps to be aware of the latest scams out there. Here are a few of the most common tourist scams to be aware of.

Unfortunately, there are always going to be people who are more than willing to take advantage of others and if you’re not careful, it’s pretty easy to become a victim.

Many travelers make the mistake of thinking they are too smart to be fooled by scammers but it can happen to absolutely anybody.

If you’re currently planning an international trip, educating yourself on the most common scams out there will put you one step ahead of scammers and ensure your vacation is as worry-free as possible.

The Top Travel Scams to Be Aware Of

  • The Bump

This one happens in many countries across the world. Basically, someone will distract you by bumping into you, which allows them to get close enough to snatch something out of your pocket or bag. Crowded areas such as metros are hubs for this scam and the thieves tend to work in groups.

How to Avoid It

Try to spread your valuables out in your purse or backpack and avoid keeping anything in your pockets that you don’t want to lose. If you will be carrying a backpack or purse, make sure that it has a zipper as this makes it harder for thieves to snatch valuables.

  • The Broken Meter

Cab drivers that operate around airports or train stations pull this scam quite frequently but you should always be aware of it anyway. If you get into a taxi and the driver claims the meter is broken, rather search for another taxi or you could end up being charged 100s of dollars. This scam seems to be particularly prominent in Costa Rica and South America.

How to Avoid It

Start by making sure the meter is working. If not, either search for another taxi or negotiate a set rate before you start the trip. Drivers who refuse to turn the meter on because they say it will be cheaper are definitely trying to scam you.

  • Clothing Spills

To pull this scam off, someone will smear something on your clothing – mustard and ketchup are popular choices – or throw something at you from a distance. Another stranger will then point the spill out to you, which often leads to you taking your backpack or purse off to clean it up. This is when your bag is snatched.

How to Avoid It

If someone points out a spill on your clothing, thank them for their kindness and only remove your backpack or purse once you’re in a secure location.

  • The Free Bracelet

Females are usually the targets for this scam. What tends to happen is a friendly man or woman will approach you with a free friendship bracelet. In some cases, it could also be a sprig of rosemary. If you choose to accept this ‘free’ gift, they will immediately start demanding money and causing a scene.

How to Avoid It

Unless there’s a very good reason to accept it, don’t let anyone put anything on your body or give you a ‘free’ gift, especially if you’re roaming around in a very touristy area.

  • Good Samaritan on the Bus

If you will be traveling by bus, be aware of anyone who wants to help you stow your bag away as thieves tend to use this seemingly good deed to distract you so that their accomplice can pickpocket you. Some scammers will even take off with your bag the minute you hand it to them.

How to Avoid It

While not every local is a scammer, it’s better to only accept help from bus employees or do it yourself. Always keep your bag somewhere you can see it if you can and don’t let strangers handle your belongings.

  • Fake Officials

In many large cities, tourists are often approached by people who want to sell them drugs or illicit items. While you’re refusing their offer, two more people will approach you claiming to be police officers. They will often flash a badge and demand you hand over your passport and wallet.

How to Avoid It

Never hand over your wallet or passport to a stranger, even if they show you a badge. Rather ask them for further identification and call the police to confirm that they are in fact real officers of the law. You can also tell them that your passport is at your hotel and they’re welcome to follow you there. If they’re not real police officers, they won’t agree to this and you can safely walk away.

  • ATM Assistant

Never let a stranger assist you at an ATM. Along with using skimming devices at ATMs, many ‘good samaritans’ will even give you a number that you can call for assistance but very often these phone numbers are fake.

How to Avoid It

Rather search for the bank’s details online if you’re experiencing problems at an ATM and most importantly, never give your pin to anyone over the phone or in person.

  • The Group Photo

If you will be walking around a busy tourist location, a local might approach you and offer to take a group photo of you and your family or friends. Unfortunately, the chances are that this person will only be running off with your experience camera.

How to Avoid It

If you really want a group photo, rather try and spot fellow tourists and ask them to take the photo for you in exchange for returning the favor.

  • The Ring

This is quite a common scam in Europe, particularly around major tourist attractions. How it works is that while you’re walking, you may notice a ring fall to the ground in front of you, someone will then rush to ask whether it’s yours. Once you say no, the local will try and sell it to you, with many of the scammers getting quite aggressive.

How to Avoid It

Be on high alert in busy tourist locations and walk away the minute you suspect an object on the ground might be linked to this scam. Don’t engage with anyone asking you about a ring if you can help it.

  • Rental Motorbike Damage

This scam tends to take place quite often in Thailand and the Philippines. Once you rent a scooter or motorbike it will get damaged or stolen out of the blue, which is when the owner will demand compensation.

How to Avoid It

Take as many detailed photos as you can before you rent a motorbike or scooter and always use your own lock to secure the vehicle when parking it. Find out from your accommodation if there is a safe place you can park the scooter or motorbike overnight.

  • The Closed Attraction

Many scammers will tell you an attraction is closed in order to lure you to another tourist attraction that’s paying them to bring customers in.

How to Avoid It

Before you head to a local attraction, find out for yourself whether it’s open or not.

  • The Fake Hotel Call

In some countries, hotel guests are called in the middle of the night to confirm their credit card details but these calls are 100% fake and an attempt to deplete your bank balance in the middle of the night.

  • The Fake Hotel Call

In some countries, hotel guests are called in the middle of the night to confirm their credit card details but these calls are 100% fake and an attempt to deplete your bank balance in the middle of the night.

How to Avoid It

If the hotel you’re staying at needs to confirm your credit card details, let them know that you will speak to someone at the front desk first thing in the morning.  

We hope that these tips will help you feel more confident and secure on your next international trip. When you’re more aware and educated, you’re naturally a more confident traveler, which will deter scammers.