Tourist PhotographerA recent survey of British tourists, named Barcelona as the world's ‘worst’ city for tourist scams, followed by  Paris and Rome.


Here are some of the most common tourist scams around the world.

Street crime

Common street scammers include those pretending to offer a free product or service, such as a rose for the lady or a music CD or to let you take a photo with them (the scammer is dressed in national costume or historic costume), but then aggressively demanding payment afterwards.

There are instances of taxi drivers who offer drugs to a group of tourists on their way to a party. But once the drugs are accepted, fraudsters dressed as Police appear demanding that a large sum of money be paid to avoid arrest.

Many scams involve some form of distraction, such as a person performing a magic show e.g. the cups and ball illusion or Find the Lady (card trick). The performer’s accomplice pickpockets the tourists while they are focused on the street show.

Last year, Telegraph Travel reported on the growing problem of pickpockets in Paris, where cash-carrying Chinese and Russian tourists at the Louvre were said to have been targeted by increasingly aggressive thieves, many of them children.

The guards at the Louvre Museum in Paris went on strike earlier this year to protest the aggressive  behaviour of street criminals at the museum and a similar strike was threatened in Rome by guards at the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

An example from Barcelona is you’re eating tapas at an outdoor restaurant with your iPhone on the table a few inches from your hand, when a woman bumps your left arm and spills a drink on you. She apologizes profusely and walks away. Then you realize your iPhone has gone.

Expensive mobile phones are a big target for street crime so keep the phones out of sight or carry a cheap phone on holiday.  Stealing iPhones or other Apple devices is called “Apple picking”.

After Paris, Rome ranks high as a pickpocket capital. At the Sistine Chapel, the guards say thieves often strike while the tourists are staring up at Michelangelo’s frescoed walls and ceiling, but there are also other danger zones such as the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain.

        London: The British Transport Police admits it directs “a lot of our resources towards combating pickpocketing and theft, including deploying specialist covert officers.”

        Amsterdam: The number of complaints about pickpockets increased by 30 percent last year, according to Amsterdam police.

        Naples: The U.S. State Department cautions against well-organized pickpocket rings. “Purses are either outright grabbed or straps are slashed by a person on foot or on a motor scooter.

        Rio de Janeiro:  The U.S. State Department noted that Rio has been rated “critical” for crime for the past 25 years, adding that statistics “reflect continued critically high and rising levels of crimes in the categories of robbery, rape, fraud, and residential thefts.” The report went on to say that street robberies continue at a high rate even in affluent neighbourhoods, with cell phones and electronic items specifically targeted.

        Lima, Peru: The U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs suggests travellers should be especially careful when visiting tourist areas in Lima such as the Plaza de Armas (Government Square), the Plaza San Martin, Acho Bullring, Pachacamac, and any location in downtown Lima.

        In South Africa, travellers must be wary in Cape Town.  The official visitor’s website here is honest about the city’s crime problems. “While Cape Town’s dark reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous cities is almost entirely a result of the number of murders that happen there each year, the vast majority of these murders happen in areas far removed from the main tourist destinations. Unfortunately, while your life may not be in much danger as a visitor, your possessions most certainly are!”

·         In the United States, classic pickpocketing has decreased, experts say. But purse-snatching and thefts of electronics, such as Apple picking, are rampant. According to University of Texas professor Felson, pickpockets still operate at places where people carry a lot of cash, such as race tracks and in crowds, like at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Las Vegas is a hotspot as tourists are expected to carry a lot of cash. 

Travel and Transport

Taxi drivers overcharging tourists by deliberately taking longer routes are common across the world, but travellers are warned to beware of some taxi drivers (as well as waiters and shop keepers) in Asia who "accidentally" drop your change on the floor and then hand you similar looking, but less valuable coins or notes.


 In Las Vegas there are known to be "getaway drivers" who remove all of your bags from the car boot for you, minus one small bag, and drive off quickly before you could realise it’s missing.

Shops and Fake Tickets

Beware of till workers in Barcelona who appear to be on their phone while helping you, as they may actually be taking a photograph of your credit card details to be replicated later. Others across Europe will count through your change at a painfully slow pace, hoping you’ll just get frustrated and ask for the change back swiftly without knowing the wrong amount has been given out.


Official-looking men dressed as policemen in Mexico City, Bogota, Bucharest and Bangkok, were commonly found to check tourists’ wallets, claiming they were looking for fake money that had been circulating in the area. The wallets are then returned with money missing. Fake ticket issuers for different venues were most common in Paris and London.

Helpful locals

Sometimes, a helpful local may warn you they’ve just witnessed a pickpocketing incident and that you should check that your wallet and phone aren’t missing but they note where it is for an attempt at stealing it later on.


Innocent-looking children in Paris working for a charity petition will rummage through your bag, with their hands hidden beneath the clipboard while you look over the petition on it, while other children will pretend to be lost and ask for help in writing a letter or postcard home and guilt-trip tourists into giving them money.


Some hotels across Europe were said to work with taxi drivers in order to convince tourists the hotel they have booked is actually in refurbishment. The driver then takes passengers to a different, more overpriced hotel. Other disreputable hotels copy the names of more popular hotels to convince holidaymakers they have arrived at the correct venue when they haven’t.

Thieves pretending to be hotel workers were common across the world. Someone would call your hotel room, pretending to be calling from the front desk, and ask you to confirm your credit card details because of an issue that has come up. These calls will happen in the middle of the night as you are less likely to run downstairs in person to settle the issue.

Some scamming duos in Barcelona and Madrid may even show up at your hotel room, fully dressed in the hotel’s uniform, claiming a room inspection is required. One will talk to you to distract you while the other one attempts to steal your belongings while inspecting the room.


Some scammers will also slide fake takeaway menus under the door of your hotel room, from which you might make an order, giving out your account details and be charged for the meal but never see it arrive.

How to Protect Yourself Against Scams

If you book accommodation is through a tour operator as part of a package holiday, the operator takes responsibility for the booking. By contrast, many villa rental websites are simply advertising services, and you are booking directly with the owners, not via an agent or operator. There is a greater risk of fraud, and disputes may be more difficult to resolve.

·         Generally, don’t carry more money valuables than are essential.

·         Use a hidden wallet if possible.

·         Above all, be aware of your surroundings and the people around you – stay alert to possible theft or fraud.

The survey was carried out by Just the Flight.


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