Popular Travel Scams in Europe (and How to Avoid Them)

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Millions of people travel to Europe every year in search of culture, history and a good time. Scammers all over Europe see tourists as easy pickings, and thousands of tourists every year are robbed of their possessions by these thieves.

Although travel scams happen all over the world, there are a few scams that are more prevalent in Europe.

If you’re traveling to Europe, your best defense against these scams is education. By knowing what they are, you’ll be able to spot them before they happen and ensure you don’t fall victim like so many others.

On this page we’ll take a look at some of the most popular scams taking place in Europe (and how you can avoid them):

Scam #1: The Disappearing Taxi

I mentioned a similar scam in my worldwide travel scams article, and it seems as though this one is very ‘popular’ in Europe.

So what happens? You hail a taxi, put your luggage in the boot and are promptly driven to your desired destination. Upon arrival you pay the driver, exit the taxi (closing the door behind you) and walk around to the back to get your bags out of the trunk/boot.

With you out of the taxi and your bags still in the back, the taxi driver sees his opportunity and makes off with your luggage, never to be seen again.

So how do you avoid this? Easy – by keeping your bags in the back seat with you, or by leaving the passenger door open as you retrieve your bags from boot you should be able to deter any eager taxi drivers from trying to rob you..

Duck scam

Scam #2: The ‘Friendship’ Bracelet

This scam (which is particularly prevalent in Paris) involves someone (usually a small child) coming up to you and tying a friendship bracelet around your wrist. You’ll often be taken back by the cuteness of the child and their apparent bravery at approaching you, and before you’ve realized what’s happened they’re asking you for money for their ‘gift’.

To call this a ‘scam’ might be a little harsh. They’re not blindly robbing you, but they are giving you something you didn’t ask for and then asking you to pay for it.

To avoid this, don’t let them put their friendship bracelets around your wrist to begin with. Walk straight past them and politely decline their requests. Keep your hands in your pockets if necessary. They’ll soon get the message and try their luck elsewhere.

Scam #3: The Three Boxes

You might have seen this in cartoons and in movies, as this scam has been around for hundreds of years.

How does it work? One guy (or girl) stands out on the street advertising their game. On the floor they have a small piece of cardboard, on top of which are 3 small boxes (usually matchboxes or walnut shells) and a tiny ball small enough to fit into the boxes/shells.

What they also have (unbeknownst to everyone else) are a few accomplices in the crowd acting as legitimate players of their game.

So how does the game work? The ball is hidden under one of the 3 boxes. The boxes are moved around theatrically in an attempt to hide the true location of the ball. The ‘host’ then offers you (and the other people watching) the chance to pick one of the boxes. If you get it right, he says, he will give you 40 Euros. The catch, however, is that you must first give him 20 Euros to play.

Here comes the hook. One of the host’s accomplices steps up and offers his 20 Euros. After paying he chooses the box on the left. The box is lifted and we see that the ball is not there.

It’s obvious to you that the ball is in the middle box. “How could that other guy be so stupid!?” you think to yourself.

Of course, the first guy is working with the host and is attempting to lure others into playing.

Feeling confident, you step up, pay your money and take your pick.

The problem here is that even if you do go on to choose the correct box, these con artists are so good at manipulating the position of the ball (through sleight of hand) that you’ll always choose the wrong box no-matter what.

Although this ‘game’ can be fun to watch, avoid playing at all costs (unless you like losing money!)

Here’s a video of this scam taking place in Stockholm, Sweden:

Scam #4: The Flirty Girl Scam

This scam is particularly prevalent in Eastern Europe, but it’s not limited to just there.

It involves a woman (or a group of women) approaching a single male and being very chatty and flirty. After a short while, the woman will suggest going to a bar, and will lead you there herself.

After a couple of hours at the bar (and a couple of hours of buying drinks), our hapless gent will be given an extortionate bill for the drinks he’s just bought, as well as a bill for ‘spending time with the beautiful girl’. The bar/club owner and his cronies will make their presence known and will be more than happy to ensure you pay up.

If you refuse to pay, they’ll either threaten you physically or say that they’re going to call the police.

How do you avoid this? Try to use common sense. If you’re talking to a girl who approached you and she wants to take you to a bar, suggest going to a different bar instead (because you went their last night and it was amazing). If she’s genuine, she won’t mind which bar/club you go to.

Note that when you go traveling not all local people are going to be out to scam you. In fact, most locals you’ll meet will be amazingly friendly and considerate. It’s just the small minority that attempt to ruin it for everyone that you’ve got to watch out for.

Related posts:

  1. Travel Scams – How to Avoid Them and What to Look Out For
  2. Bus & Coach Travel in Europe
  3. An American’s Guide to Packing for a Trip to Europe
  4. When’s the Best time to Travel to Europe?
  5. Travel Disasters – How to Avoid Them or Deal with Them if They Happen

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