There is nothing worse than someone stealing your hard earned possessions. I have been extremely lucky in my life that I have personally never been a victim of a scam or been pick-pocketed. Let’s hope that it continues. Having said that, when visiting the Taj Mahal, my friend with whom I was queuing got pick-pocketed (she lost her engagement ring) and on another occasion, someone lifted my mom’s wallet while I was with her.
It can happen anytime and anywhere and to anyone. However there are a few things you can do to minimise the probability of it happening to you. Tourists are generally targeted because we tend to carry larger amounts of cash and valuable possessions such as cameras.
When I was last in Europe, I nearly got into an altercation with a scammer because I was just fed up of being accosted. So today I have collated some of the common scams in Europe and how to avoid them in the hopes that you can be aware and enjoy your holidays.
Fact: did you know that girls are the most common victim of scams. Pickpockets generally like to target solo female travellers as they are deemed to be vulnerable and easy targets.
Common Scams in Europe
The Clumsy one
Pickpocket: Oops, Excuse me. I didn’t see you there.
You: No problem.
And 2 minutes later, you realise that your wallet or other belonging has gone missing
How to avoid: Keep your wallet in a secure pocket or in a bag that has a zip.
Someone rides past you (either on a bike or motorcycle) and snatches your bag away.
How to avoid: Wear a cross body bag and have your hands free
The Train one
You just landed and you are taking the train to your accommodation. You board the train and put your suitcase near you. The train stops at a station and the thief grabs it and exits the train. Before you can react the doors close and the train departs.
How to avoid: Keep a hand on your suitcase at all times. Also be very mindful of all your belongings while travelling on trains. If you are travelling on intercity trains within Europe, use a bike chain to secure your suitcase to a rail (metal bar).
The tourist attractions opportunist
The chances of getting pick-pocketed is highest near tourist attractions. While you are lost in the moment, the opportunist walks past you and casually takes away your hard earned belonging before disappearing into the crowd.
This is one of the hardest scams to avoid as you are generally busy and focused in the moment as you should be but do the following to minimise the risk.
How to avoid: Keep your wallet in a secure pocket or in a bag that has a zip. Do not carry much cash as travel insurance will not cover it.
You are quietly walking down the street when someone spills something on you and instantly apologises and tries to rub it away. After you walk off, you realise that your wallet is missing. You turn around to yell for the thief only for him/her to have long disappeared
How to avoid: Stop them from touching you. Keep your wallet in a secure pocket or in a bag that has a zip.
2. Rose Vendors
These vendors are very prominent at tourist’s attractions, especially the Eiffel Tower. They offer you a rose, wait for you to accept it and then demand payment and will make a scene until you give in. They work in groups, so if you don’t give in, they might call in their buddies and intimidate you.
How to avoid: do not accept the rose and keep walking. They will generally pester you for a few minutes but if you are strong, they will move on. If you have accepted the rose, make a threat to call the cops. These vendors operate illegally and will generally scatter when they see the police.
3. The Bracelet/string
Very prominent at the Sacre Coeur, these scammers try to rope you in by tying a string onto your wrist and telling you a story after which they will demand payment. An accomplice might also try to lift your wallet while you are dealing with the first scammer.
How to avoid: Keep walking and do not interact with them.
4. Fallen Belonging
The Scammer picks up a gold ring and asks whether it belongs to you only to ask for money or a reward when you accept it. The item might seem expensive when you look at it only to discover that it is a cheap trinket. They might also be working with an accomplice who might try to pick your pockets while you are preoccupied.
How to avoid: If it is not yours, say so and move on.
5. Street Vendors
These illegal vendors usually display a ware on a piece of cloth with a corner tied so that they can gather their wares in a hurry if the police arrive. When you are in the process of buying from them, they often will have an accomplice pinch your belongings.
The wares are also of poor quality.
6. ATM Machines
Certain ATM machines might have skimming devices or there might be loiterers around which might try to see the pin you enter and try to pinch your wallet afterwards.
How to avoid: Use ATMs that are attached to banks or within shops and cover the keypad while you enter your pin. You can also rattle the card slot to check if a skimmer has been installed.
7. Clip Board Petitioners
These scammers approach you and engage you in a conversation about why you should help them by signing for their ‘worthy cause’. While they keep you busy, an accomplice will lift your belongings.
8. Public Transport
Public transport is one of the major locations that pickpockets operate as packed trains are full of potential victims. There are also the scammers who will try to sell you used tickets. Around stations and on trains, you will be accosted for change by beggars. There are also the people who try to get a free ride by going through your barrier when you put your tickets through.
How to avoid: Do not buy tickets other than from the teller or machine. Keep your wallet secured. Do not let go of your bag and avoid using your phone on the metro.
9. Taxi Drivers
There are a couple of ways that you can get scammed in taxis. Firstly, there is the case where the driver claims that their meter is broken and overcharge you. The second way is where they take the long way and charge you more.
How to avoid: Check that the meter is on as soon as you get in. Download the offline maps on Google Maps so that you know the direct path. Better yet use an Uber where available.
It is truly devastating when your holiday gets ruined because you have been robbed. I hope that nothing of the sort ever happens to you and I hope that you have a grand time on your trip.
What would your tips be for fellow travellers? Let us know in the comments below.