Common Tourist Scams in Europe

  • Post by Apoorva Shetty
  • Oct 16, 2019
Common Tourist Scams in Europe Header Image

Common Tourist Scams in Europe

… and across the world!

“Small things like these keep happening in big cities”

Scams might sometimes be minor annoyances in your trip to that beautiful city you’ve always wanted to travel to, but sometimes they can be devastating when theft of personal goods or loss of money is involved. Scammers are everywhere and the only way to repel scams and scam artists is to be aware. I recommend that you read through the entire article at least once as I have spent a lot of time understanding and compiling the most common to the rare scams that can take place. After all, knowledge is power.

Before you even plan your next trip, know that scammers exist everywhere and the best way to avoid them is to ignore them, no matter how much they come after you. Scammers target people and if they think of you as a potential target, they will come to you.

Scammers also affect the mindset of people. If you have been scammed, you would always be apprehensive about the individual approaching you even if they genuinely require your help. If you ever have been scammed, read this to know you are not alone, you are not foolish, you just put your trust in people. That’s a good sign and I want you to stay that way. Think of this as a journey and learn from it. Learn that ignorance is the key, but always help people in need.

Learn to identify the good vs the poop.


Scams that come to you:

“Hey Brotha, you from the US ?”
Wrist Band Scam

This starts with a scammer approaching you, and asking you where you are from or something on those lines and starts to make small talk and quickly does one of the 2 things:
- Throws a wristband at you
- Hands you a wristband
He says its a gift and walks away. Soon before you realize, he comes back following you and pulls out a phone and shows you his kid’s photo. He then sets you on a guilt trip of how privileged you are and how his kid is suffering because of lack of money or something similar. Your donation for the free wrist band would be highly appreciated.

He has now trapped you. You have his item and since you took it you can’t give it back to him (if he’s tied the band tight) nor accept it for free. You are somewhat obliged and forced to give him your money which he will happily accept (and tell his friends back in his country who will soon come to this new country and start making money by extracting money from unwary tourists).


“First time in this country? … Here’s a free gift for you”
Lucky Charm Scam

You are walking down the road admiring the city when a voice from the side will approach you in a friendly manner:

“This is the African lucky charm. I am giving this to you coz I like you. It will bring good luck”.
A free souvenir? Too good to be true right? Well in fact it is very similar to the above wrist band scam where he pretends to give it to you and go away. Only for a short while, before he comes back and says:

“I came to this country to visit, I come very often. My child is sick. I need money”
He shows you a photo of his kid on his phone and you think of him as a sad father and give him some money. You were manipulated to give him money by seeing cute little photos of kids that may not even be his.

The other version of this is when instead of a souvenir, he says its a friendship band. What they do then is, quickly tie the band very tight on your hand and most often cut the thread. You would be able to return the items which are handed to you, but something like this cannot be given back. They tie a knot or cut the thread, so it becomes physically impossible to get it out of your hand at the time without cutting the entire thing. And they charge exorbitant amounts for taking their friendship band!


“U want group photo, madam” ?
Photograph Scam

Two friends clicking pictures of themselves at the Trevi Fountain are approached by a stranger who asked if he could help them by taking a photo of both of them.

“Let me take picture of both of you”
They handed him the phone and he quickly snapped some awful photos of the duo on their phone. Suddenly he pulled out a big fancy instant Polaroid camera.

“Let me take picture of you in this”, he said
Before they could say no, he clicked his Polaroid camera shutter twice flash flash. They better had smiled in the photo, because now that smile is about to fade away. They are about to be ripped off.

30 Euros that’ll be
Oh the shock. How outrageous. Well, now he explains how these photos cost because the paper and print are costly. And now they are in them and it cannot be undone.


“Mister, you got something on your shirt”
Bird Poop Scam

This is the kind of scam that could end up having your items stolen. A scammer approaches you from behind and squirts something on your jacket and then proceeds to bring it to your attention.

While disgust takes the better of you, another person comes and helps you wipe that thing off your clothes. While doing so, you are more attentive towards the poop than at your money or wallet or bag. This produces the perfect opportunity for them to lift things off without you knowing.


“Take Take, Feed Feed !!”
— Bird Food Scam

You are wandering in the streets of Venice when you spot a gigantic flock of pigeons at St Mark’s Square. Hopefully they won’t poop on you. All they want is a happy meal.

“Well madam, take these, feed the birds, make them happy” - says a stranger.
Ohh, so cool. Birds….on me….feeding off my hand, wow! you never knew your bird-friendly capabilities till…

“That will be 5 Euros”
Whaat? These are just grains. How can a handful of them cost so much?


“Hey, now you ruined the painting”
— Walk on Painting Scam

This generally happens near big historic architectural sites. Since you are new to this city, you are admiring the buildings looking up and not focusing on the road when suddenly you step on a painting that is not supposed to be there.

It happens so that a certain individual would have seized the opportunity and slipped a worthless painting right under your shoe. A man would come running explaining that he was selling those paintings and now since you ruined it, you need to pay for it. You are obliged and trapped.


“Dear Dear, Please sign here”
— Sign Petition Scam

This starts off with an individual approaching you with a pamphlet in their hand asking you to just sign to increase the number of people voting for an idea or an orphanage. The thought of sad, blind children makes you sign without hesitation when suddenly:

“Miss, would you please donate 25 Euros for the cause”
It is really the thought of helping someone that takes you on this dopamine filled mental trip. You have done it. You have helped children whom you didn’t even meet and they are helpful to you forever for their sight.

Speaking of which, in hindsight, you really might have sponsored the next party of those charity representatives while the blind children are still waiting for your money. Oh well…I guess you would never know.


“Hey Handsome, Wanna take me to a bar ?”
— Bar, Bill Scam

This starts with generally 2 attractive ladies approaching you. Your ego is boosted and before you know it, they want you to accompany them to a bar. You go into a seemingly okay place with other people hanging around as well. Food and drinks are ordered on your table and you enjoy all the while chatting with two hot ladies.

The bill appears and the ladies excuse themselves from the table. While you see the bill, your jaw drops. The bill is in thousands of dollars (yes, literally 1000s of $) and big bouncers appear before you forcing you to pay. You have no other option. You have to pay. The ladies are nowhere in sight and have already gone out of the bar.

Truth is, the ladies are tied up with the bar and they know which food/drink to order on your table which has its price hiked up to insane proportions.


“Mister, you dropped your ring”
— Gold Ring Scam

You are doing whatever it is you are doing in Europe. But wait, how did you drop that ever so glorious golden ring that your mother gave you? …which didn’t exist in the first place at all.

“Hey Mister, you dropped this golden ring”
This is the type of scam where greed leads to vanity. This is a self deserving scam. If you are greedy, you will fall into the trap. If you are honest, Good Day to you then.

A scammer would approach you from behind and show a glistening ring that she says saw fall from your pockets. If you are greedy and try to take the ring, you will have to pay a finder’s fee to the honest lady who brought you the ring. Good luck exchanging 25 Euros for that metal ring with colored paint on it. Remember “All that glitters is not gold”!


“U need help?”
— Train Ticket

This I wouldn’t blame you for. You are helpless in an unknown location in Italy, Roma Station. So many people, you are lost at understanding how to get the tickets. You wish you had booked the tickets online earlier. But hey…

“Lady, do you need help booking tickets”
Oh yes yes. He is the savior that you always needed but never knew. He looks official enough wearing that railway-ish looking clothes.

“Here you go…I booked the tickets….that’ll be 20 Euro for the ticket and 25 Euros for my service”
Wait! What?


“Let me see that”
— Police officer scam

Did not really see this, but hey you would never argue with foreign police officers right?
This is exactly what they think when they ask you for your passport and wallet. You give them both and when you get them back some currency notes would be missing.

Do you really think police officers will steal your money?
Do you really think those police officers were on duty?
Do you really think those were police officers?


Scams you unknowingly end up going to:

“Can you exchange this ?”
— Currency Exchange Scam

Well, you are in desperate need of currency exchange as the shop doesn’t accept Euros. You hurriedly approach a person on the street claiming to exchange your Euros for the currency of Czech Republic.

You hand him Euros, he hands you old Belarusian Rubles. You return to the shop only to find out that these are demonetized currency. You run back to them and ask them to return your Euro and hand him the Rubels he gave you only to hear that he did not exchange it for you !!


“Hey! Taxi !”
—Taxi Fare Scam

You thought that the taxi driver who was so polite would never charge you more than actual rates? You didn’t ask him the fare when you got in the cab.

Now when you got down, you just wish that you hadn’t taken the cab for the fare seems 10 times the amount you thought it might be. Its because it is 10x the fare since you are a tourist! and you have already taken the ride.


“Ka-ching”
—High Surcharge ATMs

You needed money and that ATM looked like the ultimate savior. Yes even though it demanded that you should take only the pre-defined amount which is in multiple of 1000’s?

Certain ATMs have this feature which is a normal ATM for a local card (provides money in denominations that you generally see), but just when you put in a foreign card, it only provides options for you to draw money in multiple of 1000, just so that they can rip you off in exchange rate.


“What’s the going rate?”
—Currency Exchanges

This here is not much of a scam than you walking into a bank and handing over your money to the bank thinking they know money better than you do. Well, guess what, they know better. They know that you would trust them so much that while you didn’t verify the on-going rate, they rip you off all in the name of exchange rate.


What to do if you get caught in a scam and have no way out ?

Cameras, or cameras in your phones are your saviors. Scammers are afraid of photographs or videos as they don’t want any evidence against them. So if you think you are being scammed pull out your camera or phone and start recording.

PS: Scammers get aggressive if caught, its either fight or flight mode for them and they would rather choose the former. So BE AWARE. If you are travelling as an individual, its rather risky to pull out your phones in front of scammers. They might try to take it away or push it out of your hand. Either way, it might break your device.
If you are travelling with your partner or few people, you will have strength in numbers. This would also deter potential scammers.

I’d rather you IGNORE and walk away. Don’t think so much about them. You have come to this beautiful country to enjoy and enjoy you should.

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