20 Most Common Scams That Many Tourists Fall For, As Shared By The Locals
So many places to visit, so little time to go. And expensive. For goodness’ sake, leaving the house costs like $200 per day. Let’s not even start on those petrol prices… Seriously, with these prices, the only place one can afford to travel is to work. All jokes (and tears) aside, for those already packing their suitcase for a summer vacay, this post might be of great use.
It’s no secret that every country has something they are not particularly proud of, for example, scammers. And usually, their favorite targets are, you guessed it, tourists. So to ensure that you don’t get into those swindlers’ traps, people on Reddit shared a bunch of scams for travelers to be aware of. Take a look.
Have you ever been scammed? If so, share your story and advice for other travelers on what you’ve learned from the experience. And if you are interested to learn more about tourist scams, check out our previous posts here, here, and here!
Image source: midoman111
Egypt. If you visit the pyramids, prepare to meet a ton of souvenir sellers who will charge you 10x the price that they will demand from an Egyptian. The best idea is to go to an established souvenir shop (there are many big ones) instead of those guys near the tourist attractions.
Also, they can tell where you are from and will charge you accordingly. If you are White, you’ll attract a ton of attention from them. Asians are usually completely ignored unless they approach the vendors.
Image source: zach2992
I don’t know if this is exclusive to America, but I get calls all the time from “Microsoft” saying that they have detected a problem with your PC, and if you sign on for them they can help fix it. Don’t know what they get from it because I’ve never given them control.
Image source: muffintaupe
These are mostly for tourist areas, but:
In France, if someone asks you about signing a petition (especially in English!), mind your purse, don’t make eye contact, don’t respond, keep walking. Even just by signing your name, they could be pickpocketing you when you’re not looking, or they can make a big scene saying you’ve pledged to make a donation, and yell at you till you give them money.
In the U.S., don’t take f*****g pictures with fake mascots. They will freak out if you don’t give them money after, even if you give them money and they don’t think it’s enough. Seriously. I have seen these people smack around children. Plus their costumes are terrible.
Image source: banterwhale
UK. If you ever visit London via Heathrow, don’t take the “heathrow express”. It’s a massive rip-off: the normal tube (underground), which also runs to the airport is about 1/10th of the price, and only a couple minutes slower. In fact, it’s faster if you’re going to central/east London.
Image source: Ksn0
In restaurants in Prague, Czech Republic if you speak English and require an English menu, be prepared to pay at least double the normal amount.
Image source: hanky1979
Full moon parties in Thailand. Watch out for dealers who work with cops. They come up to try and sell you stuff, cop comes out of nowhere. Asks for a bribe or will arrest you. They then split the money with the dealer.
Image source: Frank-Wrench
Hollywood, CA. On Hollywood Blvd. in front of the Chinese theater, the main tourist drag, there are guys who will hand you a cd (some will actually put it in your hand). Don’t take them, they aren’t free. Once you accept them they tell you that you owe them $20. When you say no thanks and try to hand them back they won’t take them and they demand their money and will get aggressive. You try to give it back and they put their hands up saying it’s yours now, pay me. If they put it in your hand don’t close your hand, just let it drop and walk away. They will yell that you broke their cd and demand money but if you ignore them and keep moving they can’t do much. If you do take one and they won’t take it back place it on the ground at their feet and get out of there. They will sometimes cuss at you but so what, just go.
Image source: spicy-noodles
I live in France. Paris is a very touristic place, so if you plan to visit the city, you should be aware of the scams! First of all, don’t buy souvenirs from people in the street: they often sell key rings (such as Eiffel Towers), little gadgets, sunglasses, bracelets… On a carpet on the floor. Ignore them. If you seem interested they will insist until you buy something. It may be cheaper than the items in the shops, but in fact, those are poor-quality garbage. Plus, the money is given to some mafia. Also, there are many thieves. Don’t act as a tourist and keep your things close to you, especially on the subway or in very touristic places (Montmartre, le Trocadéro…). Don’t let your phone on the table of a café, if you are outside. Even if you stay right there. When you go to the Eiffel Tower, you may encounter young girls who practically don’t speak french, claiming they are tourists and asking for water: don’t even talk to them, they often distract you meanwhile another person steals your wallet, cellphone, etc… They are very good at it. Same as “lost” children in the subway, who don’t know where to go and don’t really speak french. If you’re not sure about it, report it to the persons working there (RATP, or the Police Ferroviaire).
Don’t mistake this for racism, please. In Japan, if you go to the Roppongi area of Tokyo then don’t shake hands with the black guys who stand around trying to talk to people. Japan’s society is so homogeneous (roughly 90% Japanese, 5% Chinese, 3% Korean) so you’ll see them easily and almost every single black man who puts his hand out for you to shake is trying to get you to go to his really cool secret club that he knows about. The thing is, once you shake his hand he will not let go. He will grip you tightly and forcibly pull you into a bar while smiling and making nice so it doesn’t draw any attention. Once you get in, you’ll see a menu of affordable drinks and pay a not-too-bad “seating charge” which you’ll think is the hidden charge. But no. The actual hidden charge is the “leaving fee”. If you want to leave the club you’ll need to hand over an extortionate amount of money, or they’ll call the police who are not kind to foreigners in that particular area.
TL;DR beware of black men (usually Nigerian) in Roppongi, Tokyo. Also no racist.
Thailand. They put water-soluble paint on the bottom of the jet skis the tourists hire. It looks fine when you pick it up but then the paint comes off when you’re using it revealingly a bunch of scratches on the hull. When you return it they point to all the scratches, say you must have run over something, and keep your deposit.
The bottom gets painted again and they wait for the next pasty white sucker.
Image source: Broddi
Iceland: Don’t buy the bottled water, unless you just need the bottle to fill it up as often as you like with all the wonderfully cold, safe, and free water running from the taps.
Image source: Dutchdachshund
In the Netherlands, homeless shelters are free nowadays. The homeless people who tell you they need 80 cents for a place to sleep are lying. It used to cost a total of 4 euros per night, but it doesn’t anymore. Those who tell you they can’t get welfare because they don’t have a permanent address are lying as well: they get welfare via an ingenious system of P.O.boxes set up by the state and cities.
I honestly don’t mind people asking me for money, but I hate it when they lie about the reasons for doing so.
Not my country, but if you go to Shanghai be careful about “Tea Scams”. Basically, if you’re in a tourist area like The Bund overlooking Pudong, a group of friendly-looking people might come up to you and start engaging in polite conversation. They’ll say they’re from rural China or a different city, that they’re tourists as well and they’ll invite you for tea.
Once they get you into the tea shop they work for, they’ll sit you in the back room and have some burly, Triads-looking m**o block the door. Next, they’ll get you to sample a bunch of expensive teas and won’t let you leave until you buy at least one bag. On the bright side, the tea itself is good and you can get away with only spending $10-20 or so, it’s just the being lied to and the trapped part that sucks.
Now you see why the noun Shanghai is also a verb.
Image source: KirinG
I’ve lived in China for 9 months. A scam that I’ve heard about in larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai is that a student-aged person will come up to you and ask to practice their English. The supposed English practice will end up in a real tea/coffee house, where they will ask you to pay for said tea/coffee because they are a poor student. The tea/coffee is invariably ridiculously overpriced, which a tourist wouldn’t know about. “Student” and shop get a nice payout.
Someone tried this with me while I was in Beijing last month. After telling them I’d lived in China for a while. I knew what was going on and had some fun. Played along until getting to the tea shop and looking at the menu, then said (in Chinese) “this tea is too expensive!!!” and walked away giggling.
Image source: anon
If you ever fly to Bucharest and want a cab, demand from the driver to actually start the timer and pay attention to its growth. If he snaps it(resets the timer to 0 without confirming the fare) when you reach the destination – don’t pay. If he doesn’t start it at all – don’t pay or demand to start the timer. They will ask for a lot of money if they see you’re a foreigner. Up to 10x the actual fare price.
Image source: -eDgAR-
If you visit Chicago, beware of the scammers on the CTA trains that go around collecting money for their basketball team. Actual youth sports teams raise money through fundraisers like selling chocolates, not walking around the trains with a flyer. Plus most of the “kids” look like they are 20 and are never able to give believable information when asked about their team.
Image source: AfterschoolTeacher
I’m from New York City.
Taxi drivers here are HUGE con artists. HUGE.
They will deliberately take the longest and most complicated route to get to the location. They will deliberately drive into the worst traffic and worst road construction in the city. The longer the ride, the more they get paid.
My advice: Look at a map before you get into the cab. Figure out how to get there. Know the shortest route. As soon as you get in, tell him EXACTLY how you want to get there. If he tells you “Oh, this other way is faster”, don’t believe him. He is probably a big fat liar. Give him exact directions and don’t let him give you any “suggestions.”
If he drives you into traffic, immediately get out and find another taxi, if possible.
Image source: NotABurner2000
We got approached in Paris for the “gold ring” scam. There are a few variations of it, but the general idea is that the scammer approaches a person with a “gold” ring they found. When you tell them it’s not yours, they ask if you want to buy it.
It’s obviously a worthless fake ring, so even giving them 5 euros to go away is a “win” for them.
In our case, the woman approached us with a men’s gold wedding band. She asked if it was mine. It wasn’t (wasn’t married at the time).
She was insistent that she wanted me to keep it for “good luck”, so after like the fifth time, I said “OK”, took it, and kept walking.
That was my mistake.
She flipped her s**t and caused a big scene…I didn’t give a f**k though, we knew about the scam. I wasn’t giving anyone any money for it.
Only there is usually more than one person involved in the scam. So we found ourselves surrounded by four or five people claiming we had stolen her ring.
I didn’t care. I told them we could all go to the police and sort it out, I wasn’t paying them s**t for “stealing” anything.
A French couple approached us and went off on the group of them – in French – and the group dispersed fairly quickly. I did give the ring back, I was going to throw it into the water, but the guy that intervened shook his head “no”, so I just gave it back to the woman and told her to f**k off.
The couple that chased them off never stopped afterward, so I don’t know what was said…or if they even spoke English.
I felt like an idiot though for that happening to us. Especially since we knew about it in the first place.
Image source: anon
In the US, could be more, there is malware that can get put onto iPhones. It puts a message on safari whenever you try and access the internet that says “iOS has crashed, call this number” where they want to charge you $60 to “fix” your phone. Just clear out your safari history and you are solid.
Image source: Astramancer_
America here, specifically North Carolina, but I’ve seen it in Texas, too.
People will come up to you in the parking lot of a grocery store with a sob story about running out of gas on their way back home to a town >50 miles away and ask for money. They may also have a wife and kids who are very hungry. For some reason, they get upset if you ask to see their driver’s license so you can see if their permanent address is actually in that town.
I’ve only witnessed this one once, a dude was trying to trade a gift card to the grocery store we were in for its cash value, even offering to let me check online/over the phone that the card was valid. Not sure what the end-game is, maybe hoping people won’t actually check?