Tourist Scams in Europe

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Travel is an amazing experience but you do need to be careful of tourist scams especially across Europe. As time goes on, the tourist scams are becoming more extensive and watching out for the pickpockets in Europe is enough as it is. We’ve created this guide to help you know how to spot one and what you can do to avoid them. There is nothing worse than working hard for your money so that you can enjoy an awesome trip away. Only for it to be spoilt by being conned out of money.

Beware of tourist scams in Europe when you're travelling.

Whilst scams like this are common throughout the world, they are more frequent in Europe and in particular capital cities. Before you travel anywhere, always make sure that you research the destination in advance. Familiarise yourself with any scams to look out for and also areas that you should avoid. Below you will find the most common travel scams that you need to look out for while travelling.

Charity Workers

We have seen that this scam is very common in capital cities such as Paris in particular. This scam tends to involve 2-3 people that will crowd around you. They will try to show you a petition or charity information on a clipboard. You will often find that they are very pushy. They will try to get the clipboard in your face so that you can’t see what else is going on. Whilst they are trying to get you to “sign” the petition or charity information another will attempt to pickpocket you. These scammers are usually very aggressive so you need to make sure that you stand your ground. Let’s face it, if it was a legitimate petition or charity work then they wouldn’t be as aggressive as that.

How to avoid this: Keep your hands in your pockets or wrapped around any valuables. Get yourself out of this situation by walking away and do not let them obstruct your vision with the clipboard. With these scammers, they are very pushy and you need to stand your ground with them. They sometimes will not leave you alone unless you get louder with them. Make sure that you are very firm. Whilst it feels awful to be nasty back, you need to remember that they’re trying to steal and scam you. Most importantly, do not let them get too close or touch you.


Pickpockets are common across all parts of the world. You should be on the lookout for them no matter where you’re travelling to. Pickpocketing can occur anywhere but it is very frequent in crowded areas and public transport. Once again, you will also find that there are some cities that are worse than others for pickpocketing. It is always worth researching which cities are known for pickpocketing so that you can take extra precautions.

Girl leading her partner walking around an old town.

How to avoid this: Make sure that you research areas that are common for pickpocketing in your destination. Also, keep your valuables close to you at all times. Ones that you don’t need with you can be locked away safely at your accommodation. To protect yourself further, there are also various different pieces of clothing that you can purchase that prevents pickpockets. We’ve also created a guide which walks you through different ways that you can avoid being pickpocketed.


Free Bracelets

If someone comes up to you and tries to hand you anything, especially bracelets, we can guarantee you that they are not free. We’ve seen this scam in Greece but it is very common across Europe. You will find that walking down the street and not paying attention someone will put a bracelet on your wrist. They will try to insinuate that it’s free but once it’s on your wrist they will start to demand money. It might seem as simple as to just hand the bracelet back but they will often refuse and demand money. Again, you may find that some people get a little bit aggressive with you. It is important to make sure that you keep your cool.

How to avoid this: The first step is to make sure that you are paying attention to your surroundings. This is important no matter where you’re travelling as you never know what might happen. If someone does manage to sneak a bracelet on your wrist then immediately hand it back, if they refuse to take it then don’t be afraid to drop it on the floor and carry on walking. We do not recommend just paying for these bracelets to save yourself the trouble because it will encourage them to continue doing this to other people. Walk away as quickly as possible from this situation and don’t let anyone touch you if you can.

Fake Police

Watch out for people pretending to be the Police when you're travelling. In our opinion this is one of the most frightening tourist scams in Europe that you can encounter.

Another common scam is where people will dress up as the police and when you first look at them they will seem like they are the police. They often ask you to hand over your documents and once you do they will try to extort you for money or steal your information. This is quite a scary scam because it can be hard to know who is a real police officer and who is fake. This is a particularly common scam in Italy and especially in Rome.

How to avoid this: Keep yourself calm and don’t panic is incredibly important. It is always worrying when you’re approached by police abroad. You can explain to them that you will not hand over documents to anyone in public. Ask them to take you to a police station so that you can hand over your documents at the station and never in public. If they are really the police then they will comply but also don’t get into any cars unless you’re certain it is safe. If they are not then they will soon leave you alone. They could refuse to take you to the police station but continue to hassle you then the majority lies that they are fake police and begin to walk away.

Taxi Drivers (running the meter)

One of the biggest scams is people posing as taxi drivers in another country. This is a very common scam for when you are leaving the airport so it is always best to pre-order a taxi or arrange another way to get to your desired destination. You will find that once you are in the car that they will overrun the meter and try to charge you more than you anticipate.

taxi scams to watch out for

How to avoid this: Before arriving in your destination, always research the colour and license plates of taxis you are looking for. Often when you are researching you will find other bloggers / Tripadvisor forums explaining if you have to worry about this. Before you get in any taxi, try to agree a price before so that you don’t pay a lot more than you need to.


Fake Designer Goods

Fake designer goods is another tourist scam that you need to be aware of when you're travelling.

It is very common for tourists to want to buy fake designer goods when they’re travelling especially in places like Turkey or Italy.  However, you need to make sure that you are not being overcharged for items that are fake. This is a common trade in Turkey and they may sell them to you as real items when that is really not the case.  There has also been reports that tourists have purchases fake designer goods and then on their way into other countries in Europe it has been taken off them at border control. If you are going to buy fake designer goods. Then make sure that you check the other countries you’re travelling to so that you know you can take it through to the next country.

How to avoid this: If you’re looking to buy an item that is fake then make sure you research beforehand signs that make it real. When you’re looking at the item with the vendor check the spelling of the brand names to make sure that it is spelt right. There is nothing worse than purchasing something that is obviously fake no matter how much it costs. Make sure that you haggle with the price as they will always try to charge you 10 times more than what it actually costs to make. The last thing you want to do is pay through the nose for something that is fake as then you may as well just buy the real thing.

Gold Ring

This is a very common scam in Europe but it is not one that we have yet experienced ourselves. Despite this, you will find many search results come back from other travellers reporting this scam in particular. You may find that you notice a gold ring in front of you and it can be very tempting to pick it up to see if anyone nearby has dropped it. The premise behind this scam is that someone will stop you insisting that you have dropped the gold ring. After trying to “return” this to you and tell them that it is not yours. The person that found it will say that they can see it is hallmarked and try to sell it to you instead.

The gold ring trick is a very common scam across Europe.

Most travellers have reported that the only way to get these scammers to leave is to give them some money. This can happen in large capital cities such as Paris, London and Rome.

How to avoid this: When they stop you to try to sell you the ring just simply tell them to keep the ring and walk away. Don’t buy the ring from them because it is not real gold and is not in any way legitimate. This will also encourage them to carry on trying to scam other tourists this way.

Animals on your shoulder

There are a lot of different cities across Europe where you will find areas that people have a certain animal. They will try to scam you when you’re walking through busy areas like this. They will place the animal on your shoulder before you know what is happening. This has happened to Amy in Czech Republic. She was walking through a busy area and before she knew it, she had a rabbit placed on her shoulder.

Animal scams to look out for.

At the time, Amy wasn’t as familiar with tourist scams and her friend took a few photos. Next thing she knew, they were asking for an extortionate amount of money for the privilege. No matter how tempting it is, avoid letting these people place animals on you to take photos. The animals are often not taken care of and just there for tourist amusement.

How to avoid this: Always pay attention to your surroundings. If you see people doing a show with animals, do not stop and keep walking. when they put an animal on you, tell them that you don’t want to and try to pass it back. If you do find yourself in this situation and are struggling to give the animal back then just make sure that you don’t take any photos as this is when they will demand payment.

Disabled / Injured beggars

In nearly every country that you visit, you will find that there are often people posing as either disabled or injured and begging for money. Don’t get us wrong, there are also a lot of situations where this is legitimate. However, you don’t know who is telling the truth and who isn’t. In various countries in Europe, we have seen people posing as either disabled or injured. Later on in the evening their ‘disability’ magically disappears. If you do want to donate some money then that is at your discretion. Just be aware that this may be a tourist scam. You may be better off researching online a local charity to donate instead.

How to avoid this: There isn’t really much you need to do other than by just walking past. Often the beggars will ask for money and if you decline and carry on walking they will not bother you.

Before You Go

There are a lot of tourist scams across Europe and they are growing and changing all the time. Before you visit any destination, in Europe or not, make sure that you research common travel scams in your destination. The best thing you can do is make yourself aware of everything beforehand. This way you’re ready for if anyone tries to scam you. Make sure you check out our guide for avoiding pickpockets too so that you can keep yourself and your money safe!

Love, Amy & Liam x

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  1. When I visited Berlin, there were numerous people doing a charity scam and trying to get you to sign a petition. We just ignored them and kept on walking. In Copenhagen, I have seen disabled beggars on the main shopping street, and I always assumed they were scammers. It’s also good to be aware of your belongings, especially in crowded areas.

    1. They can be so bad, in Paris, we found that they could get really aggressive as well which is definitely not what you want and if you’re a solo traveller. It can be really intimidating. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! Good to know though about Berlin as it’s one that is still on our bucket list at the moment!

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