Your scam stories shared

Posted Date: 27 April 2017
Scam stories

We had an overwhelming response to some of our recent scam articles, with plenty of savvy travellers sharing stories about scams they’ve encountered on holiday. To help our readers avoid becoming victims of scams, we have shared a selection of travel experiences that were shared with us.

Sleight of hand

A common taxi scam reported by several travellers is a very simple one. Once paid, the taxi driver sneakily swapped the correct note they’d been given for one of less value, let’s say a $40 for a $20. They then claimed the passenger hadn’t paid enough. It’s easy to second guess yourself if you’ve paid in a hurry in a foreign currency, so the passenger then paid the remaining amount, letting the driver get away with double the fare!

Another version of this scam was encountered in Buenos Aires. The taxi driver was given a 100 peso note by the passenger, but then claimed there wasn’t enough change for such a big note and gave it back. He begrudgingly accepted smaller notes from the passenger, even though they didn’t add up to the full fare amount. Once out of the taxi, the passenger was shocked to find the 100 peso note he received was a fake! Maybe this taxi driver should have been a street magician…

How to avoid it:

Always check the exact amount you’re giving when paying for anything and count it out loud as you pay. It’s also worth checking that you’re given the correct change as you receive it, even if it means taking a little more time counting and checking the money before you disembark.

A traveller tricked into going in a crowded street.

Road closure ruse

A more unusual taxi scam story comes from Spain. The driver stopped a short walk from the hotel, claiming that road closures prevented him from getting any closer. Despite protests, the passenger was left to walk from the drop off point, through a crowded street to the hotel. While he asked for directions, some street kids appeared and quickly stole his valuables, vanishing into the crowd. No doubt the taxi driver got his share of the loot, too. It didn’t surprise our traveller to find out that the roads were open when he arrived at the hotel.

How to avoid it:

Always look for the taxi’s identification number and the driver’s details whenever you get into a cab. This is the number you’ll need when making complaints. If you can’t see any obvious identification or a working meter, take a different taxi. It’s also a good idea to get hold of a map of the area and familiarise yourself before you land, so you can navigate if you need to.

Precious cargo

One kiwi traveller had an interesting experience while in Russia. While walking through a busy tourist hotspot, a man approached him with a caricature portrait. A crowd gathered and started jostling for view, while the artist handed the portrait to the traveller to look at. At this point, his hands were away from his pockets and once the crowd dispersed he realised they had sneakily taken his phone and credit card from his cargo pants pockets.

Another story involves an overcrowded train. As the train filled up, passengers were forced to stand and were then pushed to the edges of the train, unable to move in the crowd. At this point, it’s easy for pickpockets nearby to reach lower pockets on people’s cargo pants and take any valuables in them, such as phones or wallets.

How to avoid it:

Cargo pants are a great way to carry items with you at home, but not so much for travelling unless they have zips or closures that can be securely fastened. Internal pockets are a more secure option, or a bag worn under your clothing to conceal valuables. You can also look at travel bags with lockable zips, like the ones in this tech gadgets article.

Pickpockets might be lurking in a crowded train

Kind hearted conundrum

One recurring story involves people preying on those with a kind nature. In a crowded train, many people have seen a couple of women appearing lost or confused. Sometimes they drop items on the floor, or they may even appear pregnant and try to lift a suitcase. In any of these cases, as soon as the passenger or traveller helped the woman, their accomplice took the opportunity to strip them of any loose valuables like phones, credit cards or cash.

How to avoid it:

It’s a hard fact to face, but think twice before helping people when you’re in a crowded space. Always ensure your valuables are tucked away anytime you’re in public, too. That means in secured bags under your clothing, or internal pockets. If you’re travelling with a bag, make sure it’s zipped up at all times.

Scammers even use animals to do their thievery.

Bumpy ride

A savvy traveller reported a scam in Egypt. While taking a camel safari, the guides urged all passengers to place their valuables in the satchels on the camels. Our traveller refused, as her valuables were in a concealed bag and she wisely preferred to keep her camera in hand. The guides were clearly disappointed and threw a rock at her to show it! Our savvy traveller had heard of this scam, where the guides often hold items to ransom and charge extra to get them back – well done to this traveller for standing her ground.

How to avoid it:

This traveller did exactly the right thing. She had researched potential scams before she left. Whenever possible, always keep your valuables with you. It’s a great idea to research your destination and potential dangers or scams before you go, too.

Airport unofficials

After a long flight, it’s easy to be caught unawares by taxis claiming to be official. A common story reported by travellers is where the passengers were ushered to a waiting ‘taxi’ as they left the airport, tired and confused after a long flight. Thinking it was an ‘official taxi,’ they allowed the driver to take them to their destination only to be charged a hefty fare, far more than that of a normal taxi.

How to avoid it:

It’s hard to be alert when you’re exhausted and just want to get to your accommodation, but if a taxi doesn’t have a working meter or identification number, politely decline and wait for one that does. It’s also a good idea to ask at an airport information booth for a rough guide of fares into town and set a price with the driver before you leave the airport.

Scammers also target luggage compartments in trains

Bag swap

One traveller encountered some sneaky bag thieves on a train from France to Italy. The passenger’s bags were placed on the overhead rack, within view from his seat. Other passengers boarded and placed bags either side of his, blocking view of the bags momentarily. When the scammers disembarked, they pushed all bags along the shelf behind our traveller, allowing them to steal the expensive camera equipment inside.

Another story involving bags on a train was in France. The passengers placed their bags on the designated rack by the train entrance, but were approached by a woman who urged them to move the bags. Although it took some convincing, the passengers moved their bags to the luggage rack close to their seats. The woman then revealed her police badge and explained how easily the bags could have been taken being so close to the door. It’s great to know there are plenty of people who want to help travellers rather than scam them!

How to avoid it:

Always keep your bags on your person if possible. If not, keep them in sight, even if it means moving them around once other luggage has been placed around them. It’s also really important to keep baggage securely locked when you don’t have it on you. Try a lock, or even a slash proof wire mesh cover.

By passing on our collective information, we’re building a network of smarter travellers together. Thanks for sharing your valuable stories and being a part of this!


Do you have a story you’d like to share with other travellers? We’d like to hear about it if you do. Send us an email at

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