Seven classic travel scams

There are many ways in which you can be scammed whilst travelling. By being aware of these classic travel scams and keeping your wits about you, you’ll have a better chance of holding on to your hard-earned cash and being safer on your journey.

1. “There’s something on your jacket”

A friendly local may tell you this, and, by chance, will have tissues and a water handy with which to clean it for you. However, whilst this is happening, your pockets will be cleaned out too.

If someone tries this one on you, tell them it’s fine, and that you’ll clean it yourself when you get to your destination.

2. “Hey there. Wanna buy me a drink?”

A good-looking lady (or man) will ask you to buy them a drink, but, after a couple of cold ones, you’ll be handed a huge bar tab, accompanied by some henchmen types who will escort you to the nearest ATM and tell you to take out all your money.

As nice as it may be to think you are in with a chance with a pretty young local, it may be best to put off that drink until you know for sure that they are legitimately interested in talking to you and not out to take you for a ride.

3. “Oh no! I’m late for my flight”

This is what you’ll hear as you’re about to walk through the security gate. And being the kind person that you are, you’ll let them through. The security sensor will go offand throughout the distraction your laptop, wallet, watch and phone will mysteriously disappear. And you’ll complain to airport security, but chances are, in some countries, they are in on the scam as well.

Don’t feel bad about making the tardy tourist wait their turn. And don’t put your valuables on the security tray until the very last second before you walk through.

4. “I need to check your passport.”

This one is popular in Eastern Europe. A police officer will ask you for your passport, and, upon inspection, will find something wrong with it, which can be overlooked for a small (or substantial) fee.

Always ask to see the identity card or serial number for any law enforcement that you encounter whilst overseas. If they deny you this, then ask very loudly for them to take you to their precinct or police station.

5. “Excuse me, did you drop this?”

A passer-by will lean down as you walk past and pick up a gold ring, or similar object, and will ask if it’s yours. If you even look like you’re interested, they’ll ask for a reward and won’t let you leave until you pay them.Oh, and that ring is brass, not gold, so don’t be taken in by this one unless you know for a fact that you dropped something.

It’s easy to bypass this scam – simply tell them it’s not yours.

6. “That hotel is now closed.”

You’re on your way to the hotel you’d booked beforehand from home, and the taxi driver tells you it’s no longer open. He’ll take you to another hotel where he gets a commission for pushing you through the door.

The best way around this is to tell your driver to take you to the hotel for which you’ve asked, or you’ll find another taxi. It always pays to have your maps app open on your phone too, so you know he’s taking you to where you want to go.

And whilst we’re on the subject of ‘commission’, be wary of travel guides telling you where the best place is to shop. They’ll most likely also be receiving a commission for sending you there, and you may end up paying a premium for faulty or pirated products. It’s always best to do your research before you shop and use apps that have a rating system to help you make the best decisions.

7. “Catch my baby!”

This one is the pick of the bunch, but believe us, it happens. Someone will throw what appears to be a baby at you and yell for you to catch it. Being the decent human being that you are, you will drop everything in your hands to catch the baby, and then some insidious little blighter will run off with your bags or pick your pocket.

Honestly, ask yourself, who throws a baby? No one is that desperate, surely? The baby will be a doll, but the offender is relying on your human decency, so the best way to get around this scam is to keep your hands in your pockets and keep walking.

Read more about classic travel scams at

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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