8 Popular Travel Scams to Watch Out For

When traveling for business or fun, you are always at risk of falling prey to a scam. While nobody wants to think that they’d make an easy target, the truth is that any tourist is always at risk. 

Of course, some scams are more common than others, like taxi scams or jewelry scams, and being aware of them will make it easier for you to avoid them. 

Thus, here are some of the most common scams to watch out for when traveling and some tips to help you avoid them.

8 Travel Scams To Avoid

1. Fake Police Officer Scam

The fake officer scam is a common and scary one. Con artists will dress up in a full police uniform and act like real officers. 

They can then pretend to arrest tourists to get them alone so they can demand your money. 

In severe cases, they can even hold tourists hostage and demand money from their loved ones. And it can be hard to tell which police officers are real or fake while visiting other countries. 

Thus, tourists should be extremely wary of fake police officers who may approach them. Remember that it’s okay to ask an officer for their identification or go straight to a police station if you have a problem.

2. Bank Scams

Bank scams are also a popular travel scam and one that far too many people succumb to when on vacation. It’s actually one of the most common travel scams, but con artists can use a lot of different methods to pull off these tricks. 

They may offer you more money for your cash and then give you counterfeit money back. By the time you realize you have counterfeit bills, the scammer will be long gone. 

Or, they could offer a deal that is too good to be true just to trick you into giving them cash or card information. 

Many travelers fall victim to these lies because they think they are safe from scam artists in public locations. In reality, store owners can be just as likely to scam you as anyone else. 

Scam artists often disguise themselves as overly helpful locals and can roam free and often look for tourists to trick so they can hack their online accounts.

3. Online Identity Scams

You might not think that online scams go hand in hand with tourist scams, but just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean someone can’t scam you online.

In touristy areas, there are often stores and shops that offer free WiFi and the use of an AC power outlet if you make a purchase. 

The problem is you may find yourself using an unsecured network that allows a scam artist to hack in and get your personal information or view all your online activity and other sensitive data. Then, they can steal your identity or bank information.

You may even fall for these types of tricks before you even leave for vacation since some people will set up a fraudulent travel website to steal money from unsuspecting victims. 

4. Taxi Scams

You may need to get a taxi from airports or train stations. While you might think you can trust a taxi driver to handle his own business and do the right thing, many are actually scammers. 

Some may advertise a fair price to get you to avoid rental cars, but once you get in and they take you to your desired location, the cab drivers demand a different amount of money. 

Taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers all over the world partake in this trick, but it is most common in large cities. Here, they may turn off their ticket counter and try to charge whatever they want. 

You can avoid this scam by researching legitimate taxi services in the area.

5. ATM Scam

ATM scams are common. 

In these cons, someone may follow you to an ATM and demand a cash donation with the threat of injury. Or the ATM machine you use may have a card reading device inside that will steal your credit card details. 

This travel scam is common in Southeast Asia and Central America, particularly Costa Rica, but it can happen anywhere. 

6. Pickpockets

You might think that keeping your money close to you in your purse or pocket would be enough to keep it safe, but that isn’t always the case. There are plenty of scammers who are pickpockets and more than capable of stealing your money or personal items right off your body. 

They can distract you or take it so gently that you don’t even notice them. Thus, you could quickly lose a lot of money or jewelry from these people. 

So, you should always be aware of the people around you and make sure your items are secured and close to you. Also, if you have bags, be sure to put locks on them to make it more difficult for someone to steal from them.

7. Jewelry Scam

Jewelry scams, such as the ring scam and bracelet scam, are another common trick that occurs with a friendly local who is really a con artist. Fraudsters will often purposefully search for an elderly woman to pull this scheme on because they assume they are the most likely to fall for it.

So, what’s the scam?

Well, when an innocent-looking person picks up a piece of jewelry, it may appear to be pure gold but is actually fake. 

Behind this scheme, you will often find a pushy vendor who is comfortable with petty crime and has no problem ripping off tourists. So, if you don’t know enough about jewelry to see a fake, don’t buy expensive items in another country.

A similar scheme includes trying to get you to pay for other counterfeit items or shoddy services, like a boat tour that ends early or a jet ski rental where they will accuse you of damaging the vehicle. 

8. Camera Scam

If you have a nice camera in a camera bag, you’re a prime target for a common scam. 

In this case, a local will act as if they are your new friend and offer to take your photo for you so you can pose with your family. But then they will run off and steal the camera instead of taking pictures. 

Con artists often pull these scams on elderly and disabled people who they know can’t easily chase them. 

Tips For Avoiding Scams And Staying Safe

When it comes to traveling and staying safe from common travel scams, it’s important to remain vigilant, even if you have a wild night. Nobody wants to pay more for their trip or come away with an overpriced bill, but accidents happen, so travel insurance is a must. 

So, here are some other travel tips to help you stay safe from scams.

  • Wear a money belt to carry cash
  • Avoid locals who seem unusually forward or pushy
  • Use a virtual private network when using WiFi
  • Don’t flash money around
  • Don’t wear expensive jewelry or bring personal items with you when walking around.
  • Only book trips through a legitimate site.
  • Put your own lock on your backpacks and bags to prevent pickpockets
  • Avoid using ATMs when possible
  • Avoid dark alleys and backroads
  • Make yourself familiar with police and official uniforms in your destination country.
  • Don’t carry your ID or passport with you when you go out
  • Keep a copy of your passport or birth certificate in a safe place in your hotel room
  • Check your cash to make sure it’s not counterfeit
  • Don’t let your guard down
  • Don’t let anyone know you are traveling alone
  • Guard your drinks and never leave them unattended
  • Don’t go anywhere with someone you don’t know or trust
  • Assist elderly friends and relatives with their travel plans to help them avoid scams
  • Be careful where you use your debit card
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Avoid unsafe areas of town
  • Use the locker in your hotel rooms to keep personal items safe
  • Avoid any product that the vendor claims is special for you, like a friendship bracelet. They’ll use this reasoning to jack up the price. 


Traveling is a lot of fun, and if you can explore the world, you should do it. But, there are a lot of different scams and people who are just waiting to rip off unsuspecting tourists. 

However, f you are smart about your traveling and do simple things to avoid scams, you can enjoy your vacation without any worries. So, be sure to keep this information in mind when planning your next trip and while traveling in a new country.