Common travel scams

Scams are an unfortunate part of life, even when you’re travelling.

Common transport scams

Nobody likes to be ripped off when travelling. We share some common scams to avoid on your travels.

If you are catching a taxi from the airport to your destination accommodation, make sure you travel with a licensed taxi. There are a number of apps available, such as World Taximeter to help you to research the expected costs of taxi fares. With a little knowledge you can negotiate and agree on a fare in advance, but make sure you don't hand over your cash until you arrive at your destination.

Take care when overnighting on trains. There have been reports of a scam where travellers are knocked out by anaesthetic gas, which has been fed into their compartments, allowing thieves to rob unsuspecting travellers. They wake up hours later with a throbbing headache and their valuables missing.

Additionally be wary of accepting food or drinks from people you have just met when travelling on public transport. Unscrupulous criminals use drugs such as Rohypnol to drug victims.

When renting a vehicle - whether it be a car, motorcycle or jet ski, take photos before you leave to avoid charges for damages you have not caused.

Always check your bill, take an extra couple of minutes to peruse your account to ensure you are not being charged for items you didn't consume or services you did not receive.

And of course, the old favourites we've all heard of - the mother who drops the baby, the person stumbles into you, or the person who squirts tomato sauce onto you when they are trying to putting it on their hot dog and offers to clean the mess off - in each scenario your valuables are gone.

Have you been the victim of a travel scam? Do you have a story to share or advice to offer to ensure travellers are not scammed?


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    2nd Sep 2013
    On the 24th May 2013. I ordered an 8 yard traditional kilt package from "The Pride of Scotland' shop,121/121a Princes Street, in Edinburgh, and paid the six hundred pounds for the outfit and another twenty five pounds for shipping to my address at Werrington New South Wales Australia.
    At the time I was promised that the kilt would be made to measure and would be delivered in 4-5 weeks to Australia.
    This is now over twelve weeks and no Kilt, the listed telephone contact 1315571414 for your shop gets no response and I have sent emails to again with no response and a personal letter to the Manager got no response.
    I have since been advised that it would appear that the staff failed to order the Kilt and pocketed the money believing that as the person is going home to Australia that’s the last we will hear from him and we made a nice tax free profit of three hundred pounds.
    If you are going to buy anything in Scotland I recommend that you give the "Pride of Scotland" shops a big miss.
    Thank You
    2nd Sep 2013
    Good for you Macka for putting it up here, it may save someone else the heartbreak you suffered. You can only hope Karma will get the wee sods one day, hey ;)
    Pass the Ductape
    2nd Sep 2013
    Perhaps you could arrange to have someone you know to pay a visit to the premises Macka - and stir them up a bit? Amazing what the press over there could do with a story like this.
    3rd Sep 2013
    If the situation is as you say then a theft has taken place. I suggest that you report the matter to the Scottish Police:
    and ask them to investigate. If a reply from the Police is not forthcoming then escalate the matter through the Police complaints system.
    If that fails you can sue the company in the Scottish Small Claims Court:

    If you win your case you can be awarded your money, plus all your court fees and possibly compensation and interest. Please be aware that the small claims system is designed that lawyers need not be involved but should you wish to use a lawyer you are at liberty to do so but you may not be awarded their fees should you win.

    Living in London I'm subject to English Law which can be different from Scottish law so please read the website and claims forms carefully.
    2nd Sep 2013
    Not so long ago my wife's debit card was "skimmed" We found out later when Westpac froze the account and sent her a text. Thinking this was a scam she rang the bank and was told the reason.
    Over the weekend there were over 1000 attempted transactions for 99 cents ,some actually completed and shops like amazon, restaurants, supermarkets supplied goods to these scumbags.
    We never lost any money in the end as Westpac did the right thing for once and refunded all the money.
    What everyone needs to know os this. Your card does not have to be used for it to be "skimmed'.You dont even need to take it out of your wallet! Low lifes can just walk past with an electronic gadget and skim your card on the way past you and you wont even know it has happened till days later when the bank freezes your account.
    Get yourself some RFID anti skimming envelopes for your cards or even an Aluma wallet as seen on TV..
    Pass the Ductape
    2nd Sep 2013
    I was told to wrap your card in a couple of folds of aluminium foil. Might work just as well.
    3rd Sep 2013
    The Aluma case is very good and sturdy and at AUD5 supplied and delivered through an Ebay Australia seller well worth the investment I'd say.
    2nd Sep 2013
    Hallo Juassicgee....what are anti skimming envelopes & where can i get some?
    2nd Sep 2013
    2 years ago my sister and I flew up to brisbane for a nephew's wedding. She had looked up the fare by taxi to the hotel and it was $33 and a 20 minute drive.
    We caught a taxi from the rank at the airport but 5 minutes in the driver said there was an accident ahead and he would have to go around Well he certainly took us on the scenic route and 40 minutes later and over $60 left us with a poor impression of their taxi drivers.
    The taxi boats on the other hand had lovely staff which made up for it a little.
    2nd Sep 2013
    talofa you can just wrap te card in foil.
    Andy Leucite
    2nd Sep 2013
    This extended 'comment' describes an expensive sting that befell me in Paris 3 months ago. I apologise for the length of it, but it's worth reading if you are going to Europe and particularly to Paris. The (real) police was told me that they believed that scams and stings on tourists, and also onlocals who worked in tourist venues, had got out of control and that they did not have the resources to deal with the accelerating activities of miscreants.

    I was walking in the company of my wife and three others along the street specified, a few hundreds metres from the hotel in which we were staying. My wife and I were approached by a man who, in French-accented English, asked me for directions to the Hotel Astoria (police later advised that there is no such place in Paris). I told him that I could look up a map I happened to have, to see if hotels were listed. He suddenly seemed to lose interest and lagged behind. Meanwhile my wife, and the three others had walked ahead, and crossed to the footpath on the opposite side of the road.

    I crossed the road too, now lagging behind them by a few tens of metres. I was then approached by the same stranger, asking again for directions. I got the map from my pocket and started to see it if it listed hotels. Suddenly, two men dressed as policemen appeared in front of us, flashed ID, and announced that they were conducting drug surveillance and said I and the stranger (whom the real police later agreed was an accomplice) were to be questioned on suspicion of conducting some kind of drug transaction. They demanded my passport for ID, which I could not give them because it was locked in the hotel safe. They then demanded to examine our wallets, claiming that they needed to see how much money was in them, as a possible sign that a drug transaction had been done, as perhaps evidenced by large sums of money in the wallet. I had no choice to retrieve my wallet from the pouch I carried beneath my shirt and in a sling under my armpit. I had close to a thousand Euro in my wallet because I was soon to pay cash back in the hotel for a day trip for our small party of five. The other person had some thousands of euros in his wallet. As the ‘police’ riffled through the money in our wallets, I was determined to keep my wallet in my vision at all times, but mainly to ensure that nothing (incriminating?) was slipped into my wallet, rather than something being taken from it.

    The wallet was never out of my sight. A short while later the wallet was returned to me with some notes projecting, which either I or one of the ‘police’ patted back inside the wallet (I can’t recall which). I was then told I was free to leave.

    I was quite concerned with the whole operation, because some aspects didn’t make sense to me. First, because, until a matter of seconds before being apprehended I had been in the company of 4 other respectable looking people who wouldn’t have looked like people looking for, or looking to sell drugs. Second, because, although we (I and the accomplice of the other two) had what I would have thought were large sums of money, this didn’t in the end seem to visibly interest the officers who had stated that this one was of the things they were looking for. I demanded to see the police ID again and it was shown.

    As I started to walk away after being told to be on my way, the accomplice again engaged me in looking at a map, I presume so the ‘officers’ could slip away. I decided I could not help the man, though I didn’t suspect then that he had been an accomplice in what later proved to be a clever robbery. I called to my friends who by this time were about 100 metres ahead, not having seen the ‘police officers’ approach me.

    Two hours later I went to pay the bill for our day trip and noticed that all but three of the notes in my wallet (totaling 140 Euro only) had disappeared. I immediately deduced that the only thing that could have happened was that the two ‘officers’ had palmed most of the money (at least 800 euros) from the wallet, leaving three notes projecting to make it look as if all were intact.

    I felt foolish; despite the fact that I had been in elsewhere in Europe for several weeks and had gone to great lengths to make myself aware of scams perpetrated on tourists, and indeed had taken many precautions to make sure I wasn’t a victim, though I saw many incidents where people were being taken advantage of, including being pickpocketed.

    Committed to going on the half day tour that the stolen money had been for (other money was lent to me by members of my group), I returned to the hotel later in the day, and visited the local police station to make a report.

    The police agreed that I had been robbed, that the ‘police’ were bogus (a check was made to see if there any drug surveillance operations in the area – there weren’t), that the ‘police’ IDs I was shown and demanded to re-examine were fake and in no way resembled legitimate ID, and that there was a strong possibility that the uniforms were also fake, but that I had no way of knowing any of this at the time. I, and my wife (who had seen the accomplice but not the other miscreants), were questioned for two hours, partly because it seems to be the first time that gypsies (who the police seemed sure were the ethnic group behind the sting) have dressed as police, rather than just claiming to be plain clothes officers who then robbed their victims in the same way that I had been robbed by uniformed robbers.
    2nd Sep 2013
    I just got back from Portugal and while most taxi drivers were honest and charged only what the meter showed, one took us a short distance to our hotel, then while the meter showed 6 Euros, he got in my face and yelled "14 Euros". He grabbed the 20 Euro bill I was holding and shoved some coins in my face and took off. So my tip is have only enough money ready to pay what is on the meter. If the tax driver gets aggressive, go into the hotel and ask the concierge to deal with the taxi driver. This is what the hotel staff advised.

    As to anti skimming covers, I just bought a package through National Seniors which included 3 for passports and also several for credit cards. I have also seen these advertised through some of the daily sale websites. You should be able to google it and find them.
    2nd Sep 2013
    I'd like to know in which country/countries where gaseous anaesthetic has been used
    on trains, please. Thanks.
    5th Sep 2013
    Hi Biddi
    I have read reports on this scam occurring in France, Eastern Europe, Thailand and Italy.
    2nd Sep 2013
    I have only flown once - twice because I flew back home.
    To Perth to visit my daughter.
    She had no car, so we immediately went to a car hire establishment & proceeded to hire one.
    I did not have quite enough monies on the credit card for the correct deposit.
    But they gave it to me anyway.
    We Australians are fantastic people !

    I had a book which told what to shout in Turkish if you were accosted in Turkey.
    I would quote the words
    But I am cleaning out the house & I gave it to ST Vinnie's.
    I was sure I would never need it again.
    What can I tell you.
    4th Sep 2013
    Rfid card keepers available at strandbags
    5th Sep 2013
    Gypsies (also known as "Travellers") are in every country. They have various local customs and scams. In some groups it is considered to be unacceptable to do a normal honest job. In other groups, certain jobs are acceptable - but the actual money they get or have, is kept secret from the authorities and even their fellow Travellers.

    In Australia, they keep a VERY low profile and try not to let anyone know they are Travellers. They are often involved in "fly-by-night" scams e.g. going door-to-door to sell mulch or other products; getting cash for doing (poor quality) driveways, painting, gardening - or "wheeling and dealing" e.g. selling goods (obtained by various means) in garage sales, carparks, or markets. Others live by busking or begging - sometimes using babies and small children to gain sympathy. They can get very aggressive if they are ignored, or if they are told to move on from "their" patch (imagine how much they can "earn" in a few hours if every tenth passerby in a busy place gives them a "gold coin")? In Australia, nobody needs to be begging, and you should report such activities to the Police.

    In Ireland, a friend I was travelling with nearly got caught out by a group of Travellers. A group of young children surrounded her closely asking questions whilst gradually manouvering her near to a lane-way. Older youths then joined the young kids. She was oblivious to the danger, but fortunately, I came along and saw what was happening. I yelled out to her as loudly as I could and brandished my umbrella. They then scattered in all directions. We were told that the older youths would grab bags, jewellery or clothing and run off with it - whilst the small children would block any attempt at pursuit.

    Local people in Europe lock up everything when groups of Travellers arrive in their area. This includes animals (used for food, sold, or held for ransom), washing on lines, garden plants, vehicles or anything which can be moved.

    Be very wary of accepting invitations to visit the homes of locals. Take photos of your new "friends" and leave these with someone you trust. Make sure someone knows exactly where you are going and that they will report you missing after a certain time. Do not take valuables, passport or money with you. Do not agree to going to a second location from the first.

    Remember, many countries do not have pension or unemployment support, and many people live by their wits. Tourists are considered to be wealthy soft targets
    5th Sep 2013
    Never carry documents or large amounts of money in your wallet. It is best to have a hidden place for such things.

    You should have a second "in use" wallet with only small amounts of money e.g. enough for a meal or bus fare. Do not let anyone know you have a second hidden stash.

    Do not wear jewellery when travelling. A cousin had an earring ripped from her ear whilst travelling in an open taxi. The thief was riding by on a motor bike. Even cheap jewellery can be taken in this way.
    8th Sep 2013
    This is all very depressing - I think I'll stay home.
    8th Nov 2013
    I thought I was pretty aware of scams and 'bullet proof" fortunately this scam only cost me about $20.
    We had just arrived in Paris by train- and I went to get tickets for the metro (cheaper if you buy 10 of them)
    the queue was long, and I was looking to see if there was an automatic machine to buy the set of 10 tickets, when an official looking man resplendent in some sort of uniform approached me with 10 tickets neatly shrinked wrapped. I bought them thinking he was a courtesy station clerk helping with the queue. All the tickets were unusable, as in Paris on the Metro, the used tickets look the same as the unused ones. REAL station inspectors told me later that I could have exchanged them at the ticket office- but that seems a bit strange too.
    18th Feb 2017
    Beware of car rental companies in Europe. On a recent long trip to Europe we hired a car from MAGGIORE car rentals in Florence airport, Italy and bought 'full insurance'. We were driving along a very narrow road ( the roads in Italy are terrible!) and unfortunately my partner hit the gutter after a roundabout, and damaged a wheel and tyre. We changed the wheel ourselves, lying on the road in 38 degree heat, and dropped the car off at the airport at Milano where we were headed, only to be told our insurance didn't cover wheels and tyres. I asked for a copy of the policy and was given one in Italian which I could not read. I was then given the English translation, which read the that THEFT of wheels and tyres was not covered. There was no exclusion for accident damage. Despite corresponding with them via email, we received no reply and my partner's credit card was charged the full amount for the wheel and tyre with no explanation. As it was not claimed on insurance, we couldn't claim the excess on our travel insurance. Although I wanted my partner to take this further, he gave up. Don't use this company, and ask if wheels etc are covered, and what is not covered, when you do rent a car from any company. BTW we later used Europcar and were very happy with their service. As for theft, I used a security hand bag with RFID protection. I thought it was unnecessary after a while, until I was standing on a railway station in Rome and, out of the corner of my eye, saw a hand creeping along my right side, along my shoulder bag. I turned and looked up at a well-dressed young man, who nonchalantly looked away. I always keep my right hand on top of the bag anyway, and I had the zipper locked, but I'm sure he was trying to either steal the bag or unzip it.

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