15 Money-Making Scams That Tourists Fall For
In a post-pandemic world, travel is back in a big way. But as tourists set out to explore new places, they can often stumble into money-making scams that are designed to trick them and take their hard-earned cash.
Whether it's street hustlers selling overpriced stuff or cybercriminals attempting to access a traveler's information, these are the worst sneaky scammer tactics prevalent around the world.
Don't Step on Those Paintings!
The scam is very popular in cities like Florence, Italy. A scammer spreads large art prints, placing them in a way where they can be easily stepped on. An unsuspecting tourist not paying attention to where they step can simply graze a painting with their foot and be accused of destroying the art for which they will pay "damages."
If this shakedown doesn't work, the scammer may stain the art themselves and accuse the tourist of doing it. The scammer will sometimes request up to €300 in this scheme.
That Bracelet Isn't Really Free
If a vendor offers to make you a "free" friendship bracelet or asks you to help demonstrate one, keep walking.
The moment that bracelet is on your arm, you may be asked to pay top dollar for it. And many tourists pay up because it's not always easy to take off on the spot.
Taxi scams are one of the most common to perpetrate, and they happen nearly everywhere. Typically, a cab driver will tell passengers their meter is broken, or they don't agree on a price before heading out. The driver will then demand a significant amount of money when they reach the requested location.
Refusing to pay can lead to aggression from the driver or a threat of police involvement. Even though they may suspect the scam, many travelers will just pay up to keep the peace. It's best to research local cab companies and choose those that are reputable.
Spilling the Tea ... or Anything Else
When you walking down a street in Europe, you may find yourself with something on your shirt that wasn't there when you started out, courtesy of a scammer who throws at you. (It can be anything from coffee to bird poop.)
A helpful local will then offer to help you clean up and that will be when they pick your pocket.
Speaking of pickpockets, you may have seen the viral account where an Italian woman shouts "Attenzione! Pickpocket!" in a crowd, and a few people flee the moment they hear her voice.
Pickpockets are rife in Europe and look like tourists, which is the point. They travel in tourist hotspots and, when it's crowded, distract you with a bump and lift your valuables.
Games of Chance
As with anyone asking you to bet on a chess game in a public park, you probably shouldn't take part in a game of chance and think you can win.
The people that conduct games, like three-card monte or shell games, are conmen. Keep your money by walking away.
Posing as an authority is a scam popular in larger cities. A person will approach the traveler and offer them illegal or illicit items. That's when someone who looks like a police officer will approach and ask the traveler to hand over their passport and wallet as they are being "investigated."
They are not often law enforcement. You can request to see ID or call the police to confirm that they are.
Beware of 'Friendly' Locals
Friendly locals are often not as generous as you think. They may appear to be trying to help you get around town, or perhaps they'll tell you they wish to practice their English.
After you're fully convinced you've made a new friend, they may suggest that you go somewhere with them where they sell you some item, like jewelry or art, which you may feel obligated to buy. They may also tell you that the attraction you want to see is closed and suggest another, more expensive one for which they will get a financial kickback.
Skimmers on ATMs are not only a problem for travelers — they are a problem for everyone. When a skimming device is attached to a cash machine, it secretly notes the credit or debit card information, allowing thieves access to an individual's accounts.
In some places, scammers will place a sticky or plastic slip inside the machine, causing the user's card to get stuck. This is the moment a friendly stranger shows up and helps by suggesting the user call the "bank" (the number, of course, is fake) and give out their PIN.
Begging With a Baby
In many places around the world, children are used in scams to elicit sympathy from travelers. Often, people are approached by young mothers with what look like infants but, in reality, are dolls.
These people are often part of a larger crime ring. This type of scam also uses people who are maimed or injured to prey on the sympathetic traveler.
Renting a Mode of Transportation
Make sure to find a reputable company when renting a mode of transportation to get around on your travels, and check the vehicle thoroughly before taking it off the lot.
Because when you bring it back, the owner may demand a lot more for "repairs" to damages you weren't aware of. Often, these scammers will ask for a passport as collateral before you rent. (It goes without saying, but you should NEVER hand over your passport.) When checking the vehicle, take photos to document what you see and take the owner with you.
'Juice Jacking' Through Fake Phone-Charging Stations
Most of us have needed to charge our phones in public places like airports and hotels, which typically offer free USB charging stations. But there are sometimes unfortunate consequences when doing so — "juice jacking," in particular.
Scammers can load malware onto your devices via public charging stations. As your device charges, it leaves your passwords and other personal data vulnerable.
Wi-Fi That's a Little Too Public
Public Wi-Fi scams are much like juice-jacking at charging stations — the same issues can occur. Unscrupulous hackers create fake Wi-Fi networks that appear legit to steal your information and access your accounts.
When using Wi-Fi, go to a reputable source — for example, a cafe.
Getting Your Change
Scammers rely on the fact that most people who travel don't know the exchange rate between the U.S. and other countries and will take advantage of this when they can. It's best to change your money into local currency before leaving or right on arrival at a bank. And always count your change before leaving an establishment.
Also, before you go on vacation, look at the coins and paper currency of where you're going, making you more likely to spot counterfeit or obsolete notes.
The Value of Found Items
This scam is so prevalent in Paris, France, it has a name — the Paris Gold Ring Scam. The scammer "finds" what looks like an expensive ring and asks the tourist if they dropped it. When they say they didn't, they encourage the traveler to take it and ask for money.
Sometimes, during the exchange, an accomplice will pickpocket the traveler's of their valuables. (Also the ring is never valuable.)