What are some common travel scams?

Travel scams are dishonest schemes that target tourists and travelers, often with the intention of stealing their money, personal information, or belongings. Some common travel scams are:

How to avoid the baby toss scam

the trown baby scam

Imagine this: you’re walking on the street and suddenly a woman comes up to you and tosses her baby (or what looks like a baby) into your arms. You’re stunned and confused, and while you’re trying to figure out what’s going on, her partners in crime are rifling through your belongings and stealing your valuables.

Common in


How to spot and avoid the street game scam

street game scam

You may have seen this before: a man on the street is doing a game or a magic trick, such as finding a ball under a cup, and a crowd of people are watching and betting on it. You may think it’s harmless fun and want to join in, but be careful: this is a scam. The crowd is actually working with the man, and they are either trying to lure you into betting and losing your money, or they are distracting you while they pick your pockets.

Common in

Paris, London

How to protect yourself from the wallet drop scam

the drop wallet scam

You may have seen this before: a wallet on the ground that looks like it was stolen and dumped by a thief. You may think it’s a lucky find or a sad loss, but be careful: it could be a trap. This is the wallet drop scam, and it works like this: when you see the wallet, you may check your own wallet to make sure it’s still there. But by doing so, you’re revealing where you keep your money to a scammer who is watching you. The scammer will then follow you and try to snatch your wallet when you’re not paying attention.

Common in

Rome, Ukraine

How to deal with the friendship bracelet scam

Friendship bracelet scam

You may have encountered this before: a person on the street offers you a friendship bracelet as a gift or a sign of goodwill. But no matter what you say, they will grab your wrist and start tying the bracelet on you, and then demand money for it. This is the friendship bracelet scam, and it’s one of the most common scams that travelers face. The scammer may also use the bracelet as a way to distract you while their partner steals from you.

Common in

Paris, Rome

Barcelona, Cairo

How to handle the rose scam

Rose for your girlfriend scam

You’re walking with your girlfriend and a man comes up to you and hands you a rose. He says it’s a gift for your girlfriend, but then he asks you to pay for it at a very high price. If you refuse, he makes you feel guilty and tries to shame you in front of your girlfriend.

Common in

Paris, Rome


How to avoid the ring scam

the found ring scam

A woman on the street drops a ring in front of you and asks you if it’s yours. When you say no, she picks it up and shows you that it’s made of gold (it’s not). She then offers to sell it to you for a bargain price, but it’s actually worth much less than she claims. This is the ring scam, and it’s one of the most common scams that travelers face.

Common in


How to escape the jacket stain scam

stain jacket scam

You’re walking on the street and someone spills something on your jacket, such as ketchup or fake bird poo. They apologize and offer to help you clean it, but while they’re doing so, they take whatever is in your pockets.

Common in

Buenos Aire

Rio De Janeiro

How to avoid the shoe shine scam

the shoe shinner scam

A man on the street drops his shoe brush in front of you and you kindly pick it up for him. He then offers to shine your shoes as a way of thanking you, but when he’s done, he asks you to pay him a lot of money for it.

Common in


How to deal with the rosemary scam

rosemary scam

An old woman on the street gives you a sprig of rosemary, which she says is a symbol of friendship. She then grabs your hand and tries to tell your fortune. But then she asks you to pay her for her services, and if you don’t, she starts cursing you and your family – which can be very intimidating!

Common in

Madrid, New Delhi

How to prevent the photo scam

photographer scam

You’re taking photos with your partner and a local person offers to take a photo of you both. But instead of being helpful, they either ask you for a lot of money for their service, or  worst they run away with your phone or camera.

Common in


How to dodge the music CD scam

music artist scam

You’re walking on the street and a man stops you and asks you to listen to his music. He gives you a CD that he claims is his own, and tells you how much he appreciates your support. But when you take the CD, he asks you to pay him a lot of money for it, and if you refuse, he and his friend will threaten you until you do.

Common in

New York City

How to escape the drug deal scam

drug deal scam

You may have been tempted by this before: you’re on your way to a party or a night out, and your taxi or tuk-tuk driver offers you some drugs. You may think it’s a good deal, but be careful: it’s a scam. The driver is working with fake policemen who will “coincidentally” show up and arrest you. They will then ask you to pay a huge amount of money to avoid going to jail.

Common in

Koh Phangan


How to avoid the taxi rip-off scam

taxi scam

You may have been overcharged by this before: you take a taxi and the driver tries to scam you by taking longer routes, side streets, or traffic-prone areas. Some even tamper with their meters, so that the fare goes up faster than normal.

Common in


How to avoid the luggage theft scam

bus overnight scam

You may have been tempted by this before: you find a very cheap overnight bus ticket to travel between cities. You may think it’s a great deal, but be careful: it could be a scam. The bus driver or the staff may go through your bags in the luggage compartment and take any valuable items.

Common in


How to spot and avoid the change scam

drop and swap scam

You may have been cheated by this before: you pay for a taxi ride, a meal, or a purchase, and the person who receives your money “drops” your change on the ground. They then pick up a different coin or note that looks similar, but has a lower value, and give it back to you.

Common in


How to avoid the flat tire scam

flat tire scam

Rental cars are easy to spot, and some locals may take advantage of that. They may deliberately damage your tire and then pretend to help you fix it for free. But while you are busy with the tire, one of them will sneak into your car and grab anything valuable.

Common in

San José

How to protect yourself from train pickpockets

train scam

Crowded trains are a favorite spot for pickpockets. People are forced to stand near each other, and pickpockets can easily search your pockets or bag.

Common in


How to avoid the missing bag scam

gateaway taxi scam

You get to your hotel from the airport, and the taxi driver helps you with your bags. He acts very quickly and gets back into his car and drives away as soon as he can. This is because he has actually kept one of your smaller and less noticeable bags in his taxi.

Common in

Las Vegas


How to avoid the credit card scam

cashier on phone scam

You’re in a shop and the cashier is on the phone while ringing up your purchase. You may think they’re just being rude, but be careful: they could be scamming you. The cashier may be taking a photo of your credit card with their phone, so that they can clone it or use it online later.

Common in


How to avoid the slow counting scam

slow couting scam

You pay for something and the cashier counts your change very slowly, and sometimes stops, hoping that you will get impatient and just take the change without checking. But they are actually giving you less money than you deserve.

Common in


How to avoid the jewellery scam

jewelly scam

You’re on a tuk-tuk and the driver tells you that the place you want to go is closed, and suggests another place to visit. When you get there, you meet another person who tells you how he makes a lot of money by buying diamonds or gemstones from the local shop and selling them for much more in his country. He then tries to convince you to do the same, and buy some jewellery, diamonds, or even carpets from the shop. He promises you that you will make a huge profit when you go back home. But this is a scam. The jewellery is fake or overpriced, and you will end up losing your money.

Common in

Bangkok, New Delhi

How to avoid the fake doctor scam

fake doctor scam

You may have been approached by this before: a person who claims to be a doctor offers to sell you fake medical documents, saying that you can use them to get a lot of money from your travel insurance. You may think it’s a good deal, but be careful: it’s a scam. The insurance companies are aware of this scam, and they will not pay you anything.

Common in

New Delhi

How to avoid the fake police scam

fake police scam

You’re on the street and some people who look like policemen stop you and tell you that there is a problem with fake money in the area. They ask to see your wallet and check your bills. They give you back your wallet, but some of your money is gone. They may also ask to see your passport or visa and claim that there is an issue and demand a bribe to fix it. This is the fake police scam.

Common in

Mexico City, Bogota

Bucharest, Bangkok

How to avoid the fake ticket scam

fake ticket scam

You’re in a long queue for the ticket office and someone who looks like a staff member offers you tickets at a higher price to skip the line. You may think it’s worth it, but be careful: it’s a scam. The tickets are fake and they will not work.

Common in

Paris, London


The ATM Scam

helpfull local scam

You’re at an ATM or a ticket machine and a friendly man who speaks your language comes up to you and offers to assist you. You may think he’s being nice, but be careful: he’s actually trying to scam you. He may be watching your PIN code and planning to steal your card or wallet later. He may also grab your cash and run away.

Common in


The Map Scam: How to Avoid Being Robbed by a Fake Map Seller

map seller scam

You may have been bothered by this before: you’re on the street and someone tries to sell you a map. They open the map in front of you and show it to you, but this is just a way to distract you while their partner steals from you.

Common in


The Scam of the Fake Beggars

beggars scam

You may have been moved by this before: you see a beggar, usually an old or pregnant woman, who asks you for some money. You may feel sorry for them and want to help, but be careful: it could be a scam. There may be a pickpocket nearby who is watching where you keep your wallet, and they may try to steal it from you later.

Common in


The Massage Scam

massage scam

You may have been annoyed by this before: you’re on the beach and a man comes up to you and offers you a massage. You say no, but he insists on giving you a free sample. He then starts massaging you without your consent, and then asks you to pay him a lot of money for it. He won’t leave you alone until you give him something.

Common in

Barbados, Bahamas

The Flirt Scam: How to Avoid Getting Scammed by a Fake Lover

flirt scam

This is when a charming woman approaches a man who is travelling alone, and starts to make conversation with him. She may compliment him, ask him questions, and show interest in him. She then suggests going to a nearby bar or club with him, where they can have some drinks and dance. The man agrees, thinking he is lucky to meet such a friendly and attractive woman. However, when the time comes to pay the bill, he is shocked to see that it is much higher than he expected. The bar may be in on the scam and charge exorbitant prices. The man is then forced to pay the bill, or risk getting into trouble with the bar staff or the police. The woman then disappears, leaving him alone and out of pocket.

Common in


The Fake Warning Scam

pickpocket warning scam

A common trick that pickpockets use to target unsuspecting travellers is to act as friendly locals who warn them about the danger of theft. They may approach you and tell you that they have just witnessed someone getting their wallet or phone stolen, and advise you to be careful. They may also point out signs that say “Beware of Pickpockets” in the area. However, their real intention is to see where you keep your valuables, and then try to steal them later. They may work alone or with an accomplice who distracts you while they snatch your belongings. Do not fall for this scam, and keep your valuables secure and hidden at all times.

Common in


The Broken Camera Scam

broken camera scam

This is when a person or a group of people ask you to take a picture of them with their camera. However, the camera is either broken or switched off, and it won’t work when you try to use it. When you return the camera to them, they will deliberately drop it and break it. Then they will blame you for the damage and demand that you pay them for the repairs. Alternatively, they may use this as a distraction to pickpocket you while you are confused and apologetic. Do not fall for this scam, and avoid taking pictures of strangers with their cameras.

Common in


The Scam of the Fake English Students

english student scam

This is when a group of young and innocent-looking girls approach you and ask you if they can practice their English with you. They may seem friendly and curious, and tell you about their lives and dreams. However, soon their stories will turn into sad and tragic tales, and they will ask you for money to help them with their problems. They may also offer to take you to their favorite café to thank you for your kindness. However, when you get there, you will find out that the café is a rip-off, and the bill is much higher than it should be. The girls will then disappear, leaving you with a huge bill and no way to contact them. Do not fall for this scam, and do not give money to strangers who ask for it.

Common in

Shanghai, Beijing


The Peanut Scam: How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off

peanuts scam

A sneaky scam that you may encounter when travelling is the peanut scam. This is when a man approaches you while you are sitting at a table in a café or a restaurant, and offers you some peanuts as a friendly gesture. He may pour some peanuts on your table, or place a bowl of them in front of you. However, as soon as you touch or eat one of the peanuts, he will demand that you pay him for them. He may claim that the peanuts are very expensive, or that he is selling them to support his family. He may also get angry or aggressive if you refuse to pay. Do not fall for this scam, and do not accept any food or drinks from strangers.

Common in

Rio De Janeiro

The Heartless Postcard Scam

postcard scam

A sad scam that you may encounter when travelling is the postcard scam. This is when a young and poor-looking child approaches you and asks you to help him write a letter home. He may hand you a postcard and a pen, and tell you a heartbreaking story about his family and his situation. He may say that he is an orphan, or that his parents are sick, or that he has no money for food or education. He may also show you some pictures of his supposed relatives or friends. He then asks you to write a message on the postcard, and to give him some money for the postage and for his needs. However, this is a scam, and the child is not really in need. He may be working for a gang or a syndicate, who use the postcards and the money for their own benefit. The child may also use the same postcard and the same story with different travellers, and pocket the money for himself. Do not fall for this scam, and do not give money to children who ask for it.

Common in


The Scam of the Fake Charity

charity scam

This is when a group of children who pretend to be deaf or mute approach you and ask you to sign a petition for a charity or a cause. They may show you some badges or flyers that look official, and try to convince you that they are doing a good deed. However, while you are reading the petition, their hands will also wander underneath their clipboards and try to steal your wallet, phone, or other valuables. They may also ask you for a donation after you sign the petition, and pressure you to give them money. However, this is a scam, and the charity or the cause is fake. The children are not really deaf or mute, and they are working for a criminal organization that exploits them. Do not fall for this scam, and do not sign any petitions or give any money to strangers.

Common in


The Dangers of the Gypsy Children Scam

gypsy kids scam

This is when a large group of children who claim to be gypsies surround you in the street and harass you until you give them money or valuables. They may also pretend to sell you newspapers and open them in front of you, blocking your view and allowing them to pickpocket you. They may act very friendly or very aggressive, depending on the situation. They may also use their numbers and their speed to overwhelm you and escape. Do not fall for this scam, and do not engage with any groups of children who approach you.

Common in

Rome, Milan



How to Spot and Avoid the Fake Hotel Scam

the closed hotel scam

This is when your taxi driver, who is part of the scam, tells you that your hotel is closed for renovation, but he knows another hotel where you can stay. He then takes you to a hotel that is very expensive and very bad, and claims that it is the best option available. However, this hotel is not the one you booked, and it may even have a similar name to trick you into thinking that you are at the right place. The hotel may also have fake photos online that do not match the reality. You may then be stuck with a high bill and a low-quality service, and have no way to contact your original hotel. Do not fall for this scam, and always check the name and the address of your hotel before you get in the taxi.

Common in


Beware of the Fake Receptionist Scam

front desk scam

This is when an identity thief calls your hotel room in the middle of the night, pretending to be from the reception. They may tell you that there is a problem with your booking or your payment, and ask you to confirm your credit card details over the phone. They may sound very professional and convincing, and try to pressure you to give them the information quickly. However, this is a scam, and they are trying to steal your identity and your money. Do not fall for this scam, and do not give your credit card details to anyone who calls you. If you have any doubts, hang up and call the front desk yourself, or go downstairs and talk to them in person.

Common in


How to Avoid the Fake Hotel Staff Scam

room inspectors scam

Have you ever heard of the fake hotel staff scam? It’s a common trick that thieves use to rob unsuspecting travelers. They pretend to be hotel employees who need to check your room for some reason. While one of them keeps you busy with small talk, the other one sneaks into your room and grabs your valuables. This scam can happen anywhere in the world, so you need to be careful and vigilant. Here are some tips to avoid falling victim to this scam.

Common in

Barcelona, Madrid

Don’t Fall for the Bogus Delivery Menu Scam

fake takeaway scam

Imagine this: you’re staying at a hotel and you’re feeling hungry, but you don’t want to go out. You see a delivery menu under your door and decide to order some food. Sounds convenient, right? Wrong. You might be falling for a scam that could cost you a lot of money and hassle. Some scammers print fake delivery menus and distribute them to hotel rooms, hoping that you’ll call them and give them your credit card information. But instead of delivering food, they use your card to make fraudulent purchases or sell your data to other criminals. This scam is more common than you think, and it can happen anywhere in the world.

Common in


Your turn! 

Do you have any other travel scams that you heard of?  I would love to hear from you in the comments below or on social media. Let’s chat!

Thank you for your time and attention. I hope this post was useful for you.

Hi, I’m Dave Gunther, a 45-year-old Canadian backpacker with ADHD and autism. I love traveling the world and sharing my adventures, tips and insights. I want to inspire you to follow your dreams and live your best life. Join me on my journey. Feel free to contact me anytime. I’d love to hear from you. Happy trails!