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Travel experts reveal the top scams tourists face in Europe

Tourist destinations attract a large number of visitors, providing scammers with a steady stream of potential victims and, more importantly, their euros.  

Due to being unfamiliar with the local language, currency, and surroundings, tourists can be more vulnerable to deception and manipulation.

Below, Magdalena Petrusic, Travel Expert from Colosseum Tours & Tickets shares the most common types of tourist scams to watch out for and the busiest times of day and year for popular attractions, when tourists need to be extra vigilant.

“European attractions experience peak tourist traffic during the summer months when families go on vacation, and the weather is generally favourable,” she says, “Whilst there are common types of scams that will circulate throughout the year, there are also specific scams that will occur more frequently in certain tourist hotspots. Therefore, it is important to be aware of this if you are planning to visit one of the places rife with scams.”

Fake gladiator scams – Colosseum, Rome

recent scam in the news involved fake gladiators outside of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

Rome’s Polizia di Stato police force announced that during August and September, they received several complaints from foreign tourists who had had up to 500 euros extorted from them.

The scam involves locals dressing up as Rome’s fake gladiators – who are, in fact, usually dressed as soldiers rather than gladiators – who would allegedly invite their tourist victims to take an “imperial selfie” with them outside the Colosseum and then demand money.

This has long been a problem, with many tourists snapping photos with them, unaware that they will be charged.  It is essential to understand that you should never have to pay someone to take a photo as it is illegal.

Pickpocketing – Las Ramblas, Barcelona

Pickpocketing is a common scam that occurs in many tourist hotspots, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Trevi Fountain in Rome.  However, Las Ramblas in Barcelona is reportedly the worst for pickpocketing as thieves continue nabbing possessions from people’s pockets. Las Ramblas is crowded all year round; its busiest time is during the peak summer season.

Research revealed the famous street had more than 3,270 reviews mentioning pickpockets on the famous street, which is first on many tourists’ checklists, the highest across Europe.

If you are heading to the Catalonian capital, ensure that all of your valuables are tightly zipped away in a bag or purse when you’re in tourist areas. Zips on bags should also face inward where possible.

Taxi scams – Charles de Gaulle Airport, France

A taxi scam often occurs when a taxi driver takes longer routes or claims their meter is broken, resulting in a higher fare. Sometimes, they may demand an inflated price at the end of the journey.

It has been reported that taxi drivers outside of the airport have been spotting unsuspecting tourists from the official taxi line in their own cars, which don’t have visible taxi meters inside.

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The driver is using a fake taxi meter app instead and charging an unreasonable price at the end of the journey. To avoid being a victim of this scam, always ensure the taxi you take gives you a quoted price before agreeing on the ride, and also provide the car with a proper meter inside that can be visible to passengers.

Credit card scams – Budapest, Hungary

Credit card scams have a history, particularly in Budapest, Hungary. Always ensure the other party is legitimate and trustworthy when buying or booking online.  If you are paying by credit card in an offline store, make sure that the amount the seller enters on the terminal is the same as the price of the product or souvenir you are buying and that the amount deducted is in the correct currency.

While sometimes tourists can be overcharged unintentionally, such as in a hotel, other instances are deliberate.  Always make sure when paying for anything the amount is correct on the reader, and never let someone take your credit card off you and out of sight, as this can also lead to the risk of credit card cloning or further unauthorised transactions.

Buskers and beggars scam – Germany, Berlin

Across German cities, particularly Berlin, you will often find multiple buskers and beggars asking for money or food.  While most of them are harmless and genuinely in need, a few of them can be violent and can do anything to snatch your belongings. Some may try to engage you in conversations while their companions steal your bag.

You will need to keep an eye out for Alexanderplatz in Berlin and parks in Kreuzberg. The Hasenbergal district around the main station in Munich is also a very busy area that can put you at risk. Meanwhile, in Hamburg, be cautious around the Munckebergstrasse central station on the Reeperbahn.

Generally, in Germany and across Europe, when travelling, it is important never to leave your bag unattended hanging on the back of a chair or casually leave your wallet or purse on the table.