Travelling is one of the things which make people feel happier. We do our best to discover foreign destinations, taking full advantage of learning new culture and traditions. However, when travelling abroad it is not uncommon to get caught into scammers’ game. Find below a list of travel scams each traveler should consider, since even the best of vacations can be ruined, if any of them takes place.


We can divide all travel scams into 4 basic categories:

  • Street Scams
  • Transportation Scams
  • Hotel Scams
  • Online Scams

Street Scams

Games in the Street and Tricks

Description: This scam is very popular in large cities with famous spots that simply can’t be missed. The main principle behind is distraction. While you are looking, for example, at an item hidden under 3 cups, or any card tricks, a pickpocket robs you. All thieves and con artists use distraction to their advantage.

How to avoid: Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Keep an eye on you valuables.

A Friendship Bracelet

Description: It is also known as “The Paris String Scam”. A “string man” puts a bracelet around your wrist and says that there is no charge. If you keep it, the “string man” demands payment. The price is substantially higher than the bracelet is really worth. If you deny paying, the man will follow you and insist that you provide some amount of money. All “string men” are so annoying that many tourists have to pay just to get rid of them.

How to avoid: If someone come to you with phrases like “a friendship bracelet”, or “a gift”, keep walking, having put your hands in the pockets. Say “No, thank you”. Be polite but firm. There are many places to avoid in your trip. But, don’t let “string men” discourage you from visiting destinations you dream of.

Lost Gold Ring

Description: A con artist pretends to find a real gold ring. He/she shows it to you and asks if it is yours. Next, the con artist offers to sell it to you and negotiate the price. This is a gold-colored ring made of cheap metal. Tourists who fall for the scam loose a substantial amount of money and believe that they buy a really valuable item.

How to avoid: Don’t buy jewelry in the street. Be courteous and refuse to buy a ring. Say something like that “No. thank you. It’s yours. This is your lucky day))”. There are many such scams around the world.

Counterfeit Money

Description: Some people find it very convenient to exchange money in the street. However, this option isn’t the best one. You can come across counterfeit money. How to avoid: Go to banks or licensed departments which specialize in currency exchange. Do not forget about places to avoid in, for example, illegal money changing spots.

Fake Police

Description: “Fake policemen” accuse you of some kind of crime and ask for an ID, a wallet, or your bag. They can even try to intimidate you. As soon as you provide your ID, they ask to pay a fine. To Them! Right Now! In Cash! Moreover, they can act as pickpockets and steal your money or any other valuables from your wallet or handbag before returning it. Police can be corrupt.

How to avoid: Before providing any documents, ask for identification. Agree to show your documents or handbags only at the station with a lawyer or embassy member present. Do not sign anything without a lawyer present. If possible, ask any security guard being near you to check the police ID for authenticity. Actually, no scammers want third parties be involved.

Tout Scams

Description: Touts act as official tourist guides. They start to operate, before you even arrive at a particular place. Touts come to jetty ticket desks and ask officials to direct foreign tourists to them. They join you for a trip and double the cost at the end. In some cases, touts provide assistance in finding services you are interested in for extra fee. They may ask payment for admittance, for example.

How to avoid: Get ready for your trip beforehand. Do not to use services of any agents at the stations.

Clip Joint Scam

Description: This scam is really very popular all over the world. It is targeted on men in most cases. The scam involves two gorgeous girls who seem very nice and friendly. After an idle chit-chat, they suggest you going somewhere (to a local bar or even tea shop) for a drink. Having drunk a couple of glasses, you find yourself alone with a really huge bill in hand. Your charming girlfriends are gone.

How to avoid: Do not fall for attractive strangers.

Slow Counting

Description: Cashiers thrive on the slow count. Once you have paid for a gift (ticket, souvenir etc), cashiers start counting out your charge painfully slowly with odd pauses. They hope you are in a hurry and leave soon having grabbed the change impatiently. As an alternative, cashiers can be on the phone. Both variants are targeted on rushed tourists, who have no time to wait. How to avoid: Have the patience to wait it out.

Gem Deals

Description: A well-spoken con artist offers to sell some gems cheaply. He/she can tell you that these gems are very expensive, so you can make a fortune reselling them at home. Such travel scams work mostly in Asian countries. The trick is simple but effective.

How to avoid: Do not buy unusually cheap gems in the street. If a bargain seems too good to be true, in most cases it is too good to be true. Remember, legitimate trades do not act like this.

Transportation Scams

Travel scams

Taxi Scams

Description: This subcategory of travel scams has numerous variations. First of all you can be overcharged for your journey. Dishonest taxi drivers can trick a meter in many ways. They can also drive around the streets to raise the price higher. There are situations when taxi drivers apply the most expensive rates at the wrong time of the day. Erratic driving and weirdo drivers constitute a real danger for your health and well-being as well. You can be even kidnapped to find out your bank account.

How to avoid: Travel with licensed taxis only. Agree on a fee and currency before starting. Look at a meter. If it runs too quickly, ask to stop and get out. It is better to prepare for a trip beforehand. Find out about the typical fares from the airport to a particular hotel. You can use a website to find out routes and fares. And do not pay before you get to the required place.

Pickpockets on Public Transport

Description: Crowded subway stations and other public transport stops are places to avoid in every way possible. Actually, it is hard, if not impossible. Pickpocket tricks in the subway are the oldest scams around the world. There are many alternatives: sneaking up behind as you board, creating a rucus, distracting you, or just taking advantage of crowds. Be especially careful when traveling to festivals and celebrations of holidays, were while too excited you might leave your possessions off guard. See tips on where to go on holiday before traveling.

How to avoid: Keep track of your belongings all the time. Do not leave your backpack on your back or your bag on the shoulder. Keep it on your lap or in front. Put your wallet in the front pocket. You can also use handbags with anti pickpocket features including security pocket flaps, security zippers, and snatch proof straps.

Vehicle Rental Scam

Description: You are going to hire, a motorbike to get around. Be careful, you can be scammed! For example, a bike you are riding suddenly breaks down. The owner of this motorbike is very quick to escort you with the damaged bike to the repair joint of THEIR choice. The mechanic inspects the bike and issues an extremely high estimate. The owner demands you to cover all the costs. He/she refuses to return your ID unless you make a payment. In reality, the damages are minor. Moreover, a bike can come with 2 keys. When you park your bike, a scammer arrives and steals it. As you handed your ID and signed a contract, you are obliged to cover all expenses. The same strategy can be applied to any transportation type. The review below describes, for example, a Sixt car rental incident: 

"…I had the worst rental car experience of my life at Sixt - Marseille.My rental receipt flagged existing damage on the bumper, no big deal right? When I got back with the car five days later they claimed it was "different" damage and not part of the existing damage…Then 3 days later I get an email that I'm being charged $100 for fueling…It feels like they have standards "scams" they run and figure some people will just pay up rather than fight them…"

How to avoid: Do not rent vehicles from companies being attached to hotels. Take photographs of vehicles before driving. Carry your own lock. Use reputable companies.

Fake Tourists

Description: Someone pretends to be a tourist in need of help. While you are providing assistance (for example, giving directions or explaining routes), an associate is pick pocketing you.

How to avoid: Keep an eye on your belongings.

Hotel Scams

hotel scam

Fake Front Desk Calls

Description: You are staying in the hotel. Someone calls you at midnight, apologizes and says that he/she is from the “front desk” or concierge. Next he/she explains the reason of calling: it is necessary to verify your credit card number.

How to avoid: Do not provide this information immediately. Call back to the front desk using the number in records and ask the staff whether this information is required. Never provide this data over the phone.


Fake Hotel Inspectors

Description: This is a very popular travel scam. Two scammers dress in a maid’s uniform and claim that a room inspection is required. While one scammer is distracting you, his/her associate is stealing valuables.

How to avoid: Call to the front desk and enquire if these maids are associated with the hotel. Do not let them enter the room if you have some suspicions.

A Closed Hotel

Description: There are countries where touts or taxi drivers make every effort to persuade you that a hotel you are going to is closed. But there is another hotel, even better, not far from here, and they can drop you there, but for some commission.

How to avoid: Book a hotel beforehand. You can also call your hotel in advance and make sure that it is open.

Online Scams

Fake Websites

Description: You are looking for a perfect resort. A search engine displays a number of listings. There are many suitable options. But many sites turn out to be convincing fakes. Scammers create fake online listings with real photos of properties. Usually, these are copies of genuine sites. Scammers post fake vacation accommodation adverts.

How to avoid: Check out contact information. If you can’t find any contact data, you will not be able to complain. Use trusted websites. Check business reviews of property managers. Do some research of companies you don’t recognize.

Fake Travel Agencies

Description: You may come across “new” travel agencies that offer amazing travel deals, huge discounts or cheap prices. In most cases such travel agencies are online temporarily. Their purpose is to attract clients, get money, and then disappear.

How to avoid: Choose only reputable travel agencies with great feedback for their deals.

Free Travel Offers

Description: Often you can come across offers that are just too good to be true. For example, free cruises, free tickets, or free vacations. Think twice. Travel is almost never free. In fact, free vacations, are often pitched “discount” packages, where you have to pay much money for some hidden part, like, airfare, activation code, membership fee, etc. Many offers may require you to pay more in hotel charges or some additional services. As a result, you wind up paying for a special deal rather than for a conventional travel package, like in this case, where Millennium Travel and Promotions presented fake round trip tickets for free:

"...Went to a travel presentation and "received" two free round trips to our choice of three cities.They had to be used within one year. After the first year, we were told that they mailed us our choice and we never responded. We never received and they couldn't produce what they mailed to us…They have done everything in their power to not provide what was promised to us.Would never deal with this company again…"

How to avoid: Buy vacation packages from companies you know. Verify all arrangements before making a payment. Get the details of your vacation in writing. Find out cancellation and refund policies. Check business reviews on the company. Check out social media resources.

Free Wi-Fi

Description: If you use any public Wi-Fi in a hotel, an air port, a shop, you should be cautious. Public Wi-Fi can be hacked into very easily.

How to avoid: You’d better avoid any financial web resources as well as websites that require your password entry. You should remember that a password can be cracked. Use smart phone’s 3G Internet.

Web resources as a powerful tool to reveal travel scams

Today there are many scams around the world you should look out for to stay safe abroad. It is much better to start preparation in advance. You can use social media websites, forums, blogs as well as other online resources designed for people who want to share their experience, for example, TripAdvisor or PissedConsumer. Pissed Consumer is a large advocacy website. Here you can post your review and read feedback of other users. Having examined reviews on the required topic, you will find out places to avoid in, or companies with bad reputation.

Travel scams are popular all around the world. But do not let them stop you travelling through countries you want to visit! Just be ready.

  • Pissed Consumer
  • pissed consumer review
  • PissedConsumer
  • travel scam

Legal disclaimers:

1. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide any legal, medical, accounting, investment or any other professional advice as individual cases may vary and should be discussed with a corresponding expert and/or an attorney.

2. All or some image copyright belongs to the original owner(s). No copyright infringement intended.

See Also