Tourist Scam Alert
Tourists are targeted by scam and rip-off artists everywhere in Europe. If you know the games (spilling the mustard, bus 64 in Rome, and so on), you're less likely to be a victim. By sharing the latest scams (and learning from each others' mistakes) we'll all travel more safely.
Remember, pickpocketing attempts throughout Europe can be expected unless you wear a moneybelt under your clothing. Smart travelers leave wallets at home and store their credit cards, passport, paper money and rail ticket(s) in a secure moneybelt. Visit our Travel Store for Rick Steves' recommended moneybelts.
What cons and scams have you encountered?
Read the Distillation: Tourist Scams, 2005
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
Video of Pickpocketing in Rome
We recently went on a trip to Italy and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks to all the tips on pickpockets, we were extra watchful. There was attempted pickpocketing TWICE in two days of our stay at Rome. Both times it was while we were getting into the Metro. In fact, I have a video of the same. Check it out. I see that some of you have described the same thing, so must be extremely common. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUx9EFgLPvg
Pune, MH India 06/06/2013
Rick Steves Paris Guide stolen!
On our way back to Paris from Versailles via RER a pickpocket put his hand on my husband's pocket as my husband climbed up the stairs to the second level of the train. Fortunately, my very savvy husband put his own hand in his pocket at the same time and felt the stranger's hand. The well-dressed thief then caused a great commotion all the while screaming at my husband. My husband did not say a thing, just kept his hand in his pocket. The thief got off the waiting train. Fortunately, the wallet remained in my husband' hand. Unfortunately, it was the same pocket in which my husband also kept Rick Steve's Paris Guide....which the thief walked off with. I think the fact the guide was in his pocket saved the day...and the wallet.
Falmouth, MA USA 06/03/2013
We were just in Rome may 2013. We witnessed a group of Gypsies target older Asian couples (2). They used several methods of distraction. One Roman soldier (at least a mile away from the Colosseum where you find most costumed soldiers) two musicians, one painter/artist, seven women. The women distract with showing a map while surrounding their victims. They were brazen and undaunted by so many witnesses. The victims were not just pick pocketed, they were roughed up a bit and nearly mugged.
Pico Rivera, CA USA 05/31/2013
"Helpers" at Termini
The "helpers" are active at the Termini train station in Rome. We were waiting for the Leonardo Express back to the airport and a nicely dressed, very polite man walked up to us and told us we were waiting by the wrong track. We appreciated his help, but then he grabbed one of our bags and started to "help" us walk to the next track and load our luggage onto the train. We knew right away what he was doing, and we told him several times we didn't want/need any help. Once he got our bag on the train he turned to my husband with his hand out for money. Hubby doesn't carry any, I manage our cash. The guy then turned to me. I gave him 1E, and he was pissed off. Started talking loudly in Italian for more money. Only problem was...we were leaving the country and we planned well to not have extra Euro...so he was out of luck. Once he got just 1E from us, he got off the train for his next "mark"...he kept at this until the train left the station. If you NEED the help, it's worth it to give someone 1E or so, but if you don't, they won't listen and STOP "helping"
Centennial, CO USA 05/27/2013
Theft from Hotel Lobby
We stayed at Mercure, Bourget at paris with my family as part of Thomas Cook group tour for 2 nights on 30th April 2013. We have terrible experience on 2nd May 2013 early morning during checkout, as our two day pack was stolen away from the Hotel Lobby at 6.35 in the morning. I was totally surprised, how two black men can enter the Hotel lobby early in the morning, which is around 100 meters away from the main gate and run away with the bags. The lone reception staff was not at all co-operative and left us alone to do the police complaint. The nearest police station was also not ready to register our complain in English and very rudely told us to speak French or go away. On my enquiry, the hotel staff told me that main gate, which is always locked, started malfunctioning at 6.30 in the morning just 5 minutes before the incident. I am suspecting strong insider connection in the entire incident. We lost good memories of our trip as our Samsung tablet; Sony Handy cam and other valuable stuff were also gone with the bag
Mumbai, INDIA 05/22/2013
We were in Paris for three days beginning April 23, 2013, before travelling to the South of France. On the first day we were approached by someone who seemingly had just picked up a gold wedding band style ring from the ground. Having been to Europe many times (always using a Rick Steves guidebook,) we immediately recognized it as a scam and walked away. Later that day in another Paris location the same thing was repeated by another scam artist. Don't fall for it.
Trudy Timm Lund
Rockford, IL USA 05/20/2013
Airport Wireless Services
Fellow travelers beware; as we move through airports and use various wireless services, many free, use caution with BOINGO. They have tapped me for a few months before I caught the charge as I was teaching. I would advise against using them at all as I am one of those who read the fine print and they still managed to get me. One day on my way home to Ireland in NOVEMBER and here it is May and I am cleaning it up, still. Slainte!
Winter Garden, FL USA 05/17/2013
Bird droppings scam(?)
I would like to share this experience we had last Sunday (May 12, 2013). While walking along the Seine river towards the Eiffel tower ( passing through the trees), we thought that we had bird droppings hit us (more on my wife) and we were just approached by a friendly and eager to help couple (Hispanic/ gypsy looking(?) who sounded like they were tourist also because of their accent but no cameras or maps or any touristy things...) who wanted to help us clean up the mess and wipe off the droppings. Fortunately my wife always carry tissues and wet ones with her so I just thanked them even if they were insisting and were even starting to wipe off the bird droppings (and even trying to lead us to a nearby toilet). I thanked them insistently until they just left but while my wife and I took turns wiping ourselves, I noticed that they are still sitting a few benches from where we are and observing us instead of just going and continuing on with their sight seeing and when they saw me looking at them they just stood up and left. Then another guy approached us to help also and pointed to some more bird droppings that we didn't see, again I thanked him and told him we're ok. We didn't think of anything wrong with this until we got back to our hotel. We observed the pattern of the bird droppings and it didn't really look like it came from above and more like it was sprayed from behind (top to bottom pattern) and it was really a lot, more like coming from a very big bird and not pigeon poop. It's color is like darker guacamole but not pasty. We just thought that maybe it's their way of getting near us since they know we're tourists and since we're pretty preoccupied with cleaning ourselves that they tried to pickpocket us. We just felt that there was really something wrong with that incident and we'd like to share it with you. If it's just a case of bird droppings then it's nice to now there are still individuals trying to lend a hand but if it's a scam to take advantage of another individual then it's just nice to be warned and learn from this incident.
Bolingbrook, IL USA 05/15/2013
Ring con in Paris
While in Paris last summer, the ring trick was tried on us a couple of times...the second time, when the guy stood up, we just started applauding..it was so much fun to do that!
Woodland Hills, Ca USA 05/08/2013
Our trip to Paris has been wonderful, and we have been staying in a charming flat in the 6th arrondissement . Today we went to do the Sacre Coeur walk and took the Metro to get to the area. As we got to the platform in Pigalle to make the transfer to the #2 line, something did not feel right. I looked around and noticed two people who seemed to be paying unusual attention to us. As my attention became more heightened, a new, older woman with clearly dyed blonde hair, approached me and said we needed to beware of picpockets. I felt sure that she was a part of this and took a step away from her. At the same time, I warned my companions that we were being marked and to beware of pickpockets. As I was doing this, my daughter had to keep the old woman away from my backpack and warned her off. the Metro came and we began to board an extremely crowded train. My wife noticed our friend's cell protruding from his back pocket and warned him to put it elsewhere. We are just boarding the train, and an old woman, a different old woman, came between my wife and our friend. At the same time, a poorly dressed young woman ran into our friend and thrust both hands into his pockets. He yelled at her to, "Get your hands out of my pockets". At the same time, both my wife and daughter were watching this. My wife grabbed the woman by the hair and told her to "Get away from us!". My daughter continued to berate the pickpocket and pushed her through the closing train doors. The old woman who had come between was crying and a number of people around us wanted to know what the problem was. My wife called out, "pickpocket", and I was surprised at the lack of reaction from the surrounding crowd. Indeed, there was an odd feeling of almost "Je ne sais quoi", but I think it was because a number of people around us, including the old crying woman, were in on the scam. As we were getting ourselves together to get off at our stop, the other old woman, who had first warned me, applauded me from down the train. I felt sure that she had been the leader of this crew, a large crew, who nearly filled this train car and also nearly took our money and cards. We were greatly helped by reading Rick's warnings the night before this journey. I would further warn your readers not to board an overly crowded train. Go further down the platform to avoid the crowded cars or wait for the next train that may be less crowded. In fact we know they target certain cars on certain trains because we saw the same crew on our return trip. We were in the Anvers station
Watsonville, CA USA 05/07/2013
Jeans are international.
People wear jeans all over the world, it's not just an American fashion statement.
Athens, Greece 05/04/2013
When last I was in Paris, I was approached several times by gypsies. Instead of saying "No", say "Nein". If they think you are German, they tend to leave you alone.
Newbury Park, CA USA 05/04/2013
Jeans on Paris metro
In regard to the stupidity of wearing jeans in Paris...lots of people wear jeans all over the world. My husband has had his pocket picked exactly once--wearing cargo pants...couldn't feel the razor blade because the pants are looser than jeans. Luck comes both ways. C'est la vie!
San Diego, Califo USA 05/01/2013
Berlin scam, 28/04/2013
I saw some one playing with 3 small boxes on a peace of carpet. People surrounding him (his complices) would guess under which box there was a small ball. He was playing so clumsily that viewers could easily guess which box includes the ball. However standers-by were alternatively winner or looser. I didn't notice that it was a play (scam) to allure me in the trap. When the victim comes into play, they are always the winner by special tricks and they rip you off as they ripped me $300. Afterwards I realized that they are a gang of at least 15 persons. Some of them guard at surrounding area and if they feel police coming they alarm each other. Subsequent day I took them in a camera footage but I didn't see a policeman to share it with him and ask why they can not use an undercover agent to save the town from this smear.
Berlin, Berlin Germany 04/29/2013
ticket scam paris
Upon arrival. in. Paris. a. kindly ma.n assisted my husband. to. purchase tickets.. My husband. thought he paid for two five day passes. for €66 but was given. two. single tickets. Always double check information , don't rely on. strangers who overwhelm you. with. friendly chat and. concern..
The Rock, nsw australia 04/27/2013
Watch the Closing Doors...
I've seen grab-n-go thefts on trams in France and Italy. When thieves know that you're not going to see it coming, they can get pretty bold.
Your stop might be two or three stops away, so you're busy texting your friends, or checking your map. But the kid who's watching you is going to time his grab and bolt out the closing door at the very next stop. ...Especially if he's sure you're not getting off there.
...and yes, they WILL grab phones/wallets/etc... right out of your hand.
San Francisco, CA USA 04/25/2013
Paris metro pickpocket catches inexperienced traveler
While in Rome we met a retired American couple who had just come from Paris. As he was going through the turnstile for the metro he was pushed from behind. He then realized the kid had picked his wallet from his back pocket and tossed it to his accomplice heading the other direction. He caught the kid without the wallet and waited for police. Unfortunately, all this resulted in him wasting his vacation in a police office until 1am in the morning.
He lost his driver's license and couldn't rent the car in Rome. He lost his money, his credit cards and military ID. Their daughter was wiring them money. They also told a story about someone in Paris telling them to watch their luggage as they were being "cased" by two girls.
We offered to help but they had the situation under control at that point. I felt like smacking the guy and telling him, you are wearing jeans and white tennis shoes, you two stand out like naïve American tourists. Then you have everything in your wallet which you put in your back pocket!? Come on!!
I realize that the people on this website are experienced travelers, keep important documents in money belts, keep their money and cards secure, wear things like Travelsmith pants with hidden zipper pockets (like I do) and go on our European trips repeatedly without issues. Our big challenge and mission should be to get this message out to people who are not on this website!
Chandler, AZ USA 04/24/2013
Gold Ring Scam in Paris
My husband and I spent a week in Paris in April this year (2013). We were approached by a middle-aged woman outside the Orsay Museum on the bank of the Seine. She picked up a ring off the ground and asked in French if it was ours. When we said no, she offered it to us for good luck. After we declined a few more times, she stopped smiling, turned to her partner several feet away, shook her head, and they walked off together. The next day, outside the Eiffel Tower, an older woman rushed up to us holding out a gold ring, but we were walking briskly and she couldn't keep up. She shouted in French, "Please! Please! Please!" Holding the ring as she chased after us. We weren't sure what the scam was until we got back home and Googled it, which lead us to Rick's site. We're glad we didn't accept!
Marietta, GA USA 04/16/2013
COUNT YOUR CHANGE IN UK
The new pieces of money (2L and 5p were confusing . I am ashamed that even having lived in UK I was shorted 99p when merchant gave me back 4pound coins and 1 penny IN A STACK. I didnt count my change.....
Aurora, IN USA 04/16/2013
Found Ring Scam
The "Found Ring" scam mentioned in the Paris Guide is still practiced. We experienced it this week about 500 meters from the Arc de Triomphe on Ave D'Iena. Scam attempted by an elderly Eastern European woman. Thanks for the heads up.
Isola Vicentina, Veneto Italy 04/14/2013
Paris Pickpockets Force closing of the Louvre
4/10/13 "The Louvre was forced to close its doors as staff walked out in protest at the increasing problem of pickpockets working in the famous museum." The pick pockets are so bad that the gypsies don't even hide it. They are out in force trying to get you to sign papers. My iphone was stolen today from my cafe table while I was actively watching the kid as he did it. He attempted to get me to read an 8 1/2 X 11 inch piece of Orange paper with french writing on it. He laid it down on the table and used his finger to point to the middle of it, then after several protesting gestures from me, he left... with my phone under the paper. Didn't get it back. Lesson learned. Leave nothing in sight, even under your own nose.
PHX, AZ USA 04/10/2013
Inexpensive way to secure your belongings
Pick up some silicon tie wraps they come in packages of 8-10 inexpensive and easy to use time and time again. A great safety measure for securing the zippers on a backpack or purse preventing thieves from gaining easy access. Great for securing your purse or back to a chair or table leg if you care to do so. May not stop an aggressive thief who is really intent on stealing but it will certainly slow them down or better still they won't waste their time and simply move on to an easier target.
Richmond, BC CANADA 04/07/2013
Taxi 5 for 50 switcheroo
We took a cab from the Chora Church in Istanbul and the cab driver did the quick switch and pretended that I gave him a 5 Lira bill instead of a 50 Lira bill. I had just read about that trick in the Rick Steves' book that morning. I very sternly said that I gave him 50 lira and he owed me 20. He realized I was on to him and gave me my change. Saying the denomination of the bill as you give it to the cab driver is a great tip for anywhere.
St Paul, MN USA 03/30/2013
GOLD RING SCAM
Roma Gypsy Gold Ring Scammers are operating in the Gloucester Road, Kensington, London area today 25.3.13.
London, UK 03/25/2013
Petition signing in Paris
People asking you to sign petitions. While you are looking at the roster, and telling them no, they are picking your pocket. Happens mostly on the bridges, and during the week, when there is less police at the main sights.
Hillsdale, NJ USA 03/24/2013
rome colosseum pick pocket gangs!
Be aware at the Colosseum in Rome. We were at the upper level terrace area most popular for snapping photos. I was with my wife and it was super crowded (Saturday). We heard a warning earlier about pick pockets so it was on our minds. I was almost at the railing of the terrace to get a picture (waiting for others to finish) when I felt a bump or tug on my backpack. Assuming it was my wife, I looked back but didn't see her. I quickly slid my backpack around and found it 1/4 if the way unzipped. My nexus 7 and shure ear buds were still inside, fortunately. I consider myself very lucky.
My wife said that she got separated from me by this woman who was rudely pushing her way in front of her. At first, she said she shoved her back but the woman kept insistently pushing through and waving her cheap phone while pretending to take a pic. My wife just thought the lady was being rude but the reality is that she was trying to block her vision of my backpack. I didn't notice this until I turned back and didn't see my wife behind me, at which point the red flags went off.
We saw the gang of low lives (at least 4-5+ in their 20s-40s) trying to defraud people. We walked by them twice giving them long stare-downs. The greasy sleazebag dude just stared back; I so wanted to kick him in the groin and punch his face. They were very brazen to continue hanging around that area and stalk people's belongings. Anyway, we reported them to a staff member but I should have snapped pics of them too. They put a real damper on the rest of the day...I was so irritated
The point is, these guys definitely work in gangs and will try to separate you. I didn't have anything in my pant pockets so I was OK there. But if you notice someone trying to distract you aggressively, be aggressive back and start yelling even. That should be a decent deterrent outside of the common sense stuff like keeping your pack in front of you and using the travel lock or keyring zipper deterrents....two things I should have done.
irvine, ca USA 03/23/2013
BEWARE reservation cancellation fees
I want to alert travellers to very harsh (I consider them predatory) cancellation practices I encountered at two hotels in Villefranche-sur-Mer. In February I made reservations for June which I cancelled later in February. Both hotels charged me a hefty cancellation fee. I was very surprised that this happened. Both places were listed in the latest RS's book on Provence and the French Riviera. I read carefully the recommendation to make reservations well in advance and to give the hotels the courtesy of sufficient notice of cancellation. There was no mention of this in the book yet each hotel claimed this was their standard practice.
Be very careful. Read and translate any fine print before committing to a date using your credit card.
Mary Ellen Zoulas
Edmonds, WA USA 03/11/2013
Credit Card Scams
This is a reminder to NEVER let your credit card leave your sight, even at a RS recommended restaurant. While in Venice, we had our credit card duplicated. The thieves made an identical card after they copied the magnetic strip information from our card to a dummy card. We only use this card at hotels, major stores and for substantial checks at recommended restaurants. We thought we were careful but one time we let our guard down. We were eating outside at a recommended restaurant and did not think too much about it when the waiter took our card inside to complete the transaction. A day later, our card was denied at a different restaurant. As it turned out, just a few minutes earlier, the thieves made a transaction for 1000 euros and attempted another 1000 e transaction prompting the credit card company to shut down the card. We called the company immediately when we returned to the hotel and they immediately removed the charge. Luckily, we are not out any money. We are going to step up our security a notch. First, we will NEVER let our card out of our sight. Also, we are going to add email alerts with every transaction and SMS alerts with any transaction over a certain amount. We have traveled all over Europe and this is the only time we have had a problem. Don't be scared, just be smart.
Scams in Lisbon and Barcelona
I had my backpack "pick pocketed" on a Lisbon tram - luckily it was a Pacsafe and the part left unlocked didn't have anything in it. They got my attention with all the pushing and when they started talking to each other about not being able to get into the lock open. There were at least 4 or 5 of them.
In Barcelona my husband was asked for the time while a partner started walking behind us to pick my husband's pocket. A women walking near us, started yelling "no". So we quickly walked on.
But the most interesting scam was one we watched from our hotel balcony on Las Ramblas in Barcelona. It was the shell game. We saw it broken up by police but restarted later. There were 5 or 6 people involved. Some looked like tourists and one was a women. At times they were the only ones playing the game and one of them was always winning. Once a stranger appeared they took turns hitting on him to get him to play while they kept playing and wining.
Phoenix, AZ USA 02/13/2013
Scams all over
By now everyone knows about the Paris gold ring scam, please enough about this and let's hear more from other cities....for instance in Barcelona where they will pick your pockets on the trains, usually when boarding. They will even go into the front pockets. Be careful, keep your money/cards in a money belt inside your clothing and keep your phone well hidden or protected. Same goes in Barcelona if late at night when the clubs are closing...look for the black hooker girls who will walk up, grab your crotch while the other is trying to pick your pockets. Last thing and most importantly, if someone randomly comes up to you and ask if you speak English or have the time, just ignore them and keep moving...in ANY city. Trust me on this, it only leads to things which sometimes are difficult to get out of.
World Traveler., 02/09/2013
Paris Ring scam and pickpocket update
Was over joyed last weekend in Paris when nearly everyone in the tour group I was leading encountered the Ring Scam. At breakfast the next morning, one member showed me the impressively large ring he got. "You fell for it?" "Yes and no. When she put the ring on my finger, I gave her a 2 Euro coin. When she protested that that was not nearly enough for such a valuable ring, I said I'd give it back, but then feigned that is was stuck on my finger and I couldn't get it off." The following day at the airport, I asked why he wasn't wearing the ring anymore. "I had to take it off. It was turning my finger green!" One member got pickpocketed at the Musee D'Orsay 5th floor restaurant. Everyone passing by on the raised walkway stopped to get a picture of the huge window clock looking out over Paris. While adjusting the focus and flash, pickpockets are bumping along behind you and wallet fishing. Fortunately, our photographer was using the RS dummy wallet strategy. When the thief realized he was scammed, he dropped the wallet on the ground and quickly moved on.
Green Bay, WI USA 02/07/2013
Pickpockets reaching in Front Pocket
Be extra careful in crowded Rome. I had a lady reach down deep in the front pocket of my pants for my wallet as I was getting on a crowded subway train. She did it in the doorway and I stopped, turned around and confronted her. I held up the crowd and the door of the train and demanded she give me my wallet back. When she feigned ignorance, I gently poked the fake baby she was carrying and behind which she was concealing her hand holding my wallet. I made quite a scene and told her I was about to call for the police who would settle this matter. She immediately looked down at her feet as I heard something hit the platform. It was my wallet. I picked it up, gave her a few choice swear words and got on the train. The point is, they are actually reaching down the FRONT pockets now. Very brazen.
Portland, OR USA 02/02/2013
gold ring scam
My husband and I were on the R.S. Paris tour in November. We had heard about the gold ring as the latest scam. It was pulled on us three times in just a few blocks. It was so ridiculous, we just laughed at them each time.
Aberdeen, WA USA 01/31/2013
Roma scam along the Seine.
This event occurred in Paris: Near the Musee d'Orsay, I was stopped on a bridge over the Seine, taking a photograph. A Roma woman approached me and about 15 feet away, she began pointing to the ground and making excited noises. She bent over and picked up an object. Then, in perfect English (gee, how did she know I was American?) she held out her hand, asking, "Is this yours?"
Immediately I was wary. She came closer, holding out her hand and was trying to distract me with some[INVALID]obviously fake[INVALID]gold plated ring. I did not want her to get anywhere near me.
She said, "Oh my gosh! Did you drop your wedding ring?"
Without letting her get close, I said "Nope, it's yours now!" and turned around quickly to walk away. This surprised her[INVALID]and also her boyfriend/accomplice who was approaching me from behind. I smirked at him and he kept his distance. Nice try, pickpockets.
Be very wary along the Seine near the museums. There is a high Roma population there and they know the area is ripe for tourists.
Salinas, CA USA 01/30/2013
ATM scam in Paris
There is a common scam in Paris involving ATMs. Basically the person peeks over your shoulder, sees you enter your PIN, then very so sweetly asks if you need help understanding how to use a French cash machine-- implying that it can be very complicated. As they are distracting you with that question, they hit the cancel button, grab your card, and go. Be sure to cover your hand when you enter your PIN. The French are obsessive about it and cover the keys with their other hand or a bag while they type in their code.
Seattle, WA USA 01/29/2013
High Jumps in Paris
Was on high alert when we went to Paris after reading the warnings. While in the underground metro - going thru the ticket turn-style having just inserted the ticket, 1 young gypsie man jumped in the turn-style with me, another one jumped over the ticket turn-style and headed to my boyfriend who had already gone thru. I suspect they were trying to get his camera drapped around his shoulder (I know, not smart). I had noticed them watching us before the spectacular leaps so was on guard. While shouting a warning to my boyfriend who's back was turned and unaware of the events, I braced and reinforced my elbow - which caught him betwn his ribs knocking his wind out. The partners in crime looked a tad shocked...come to think of it, so did my boyfriend.
Thanks for the warnings.
San Francisco, CA USA 01/29/2013
Typical scams in Paris, but overall a great trip!
Saw several of the typical scams in Paris during our Summer 2012 trip:
1. Beware pickpockets on the train from the airport into Paris. Saw a guy trying to work open a woman's suitcase as she stood next to it (I was sitting and was eye level with the pickpocket's hands, which were quietly and slowly working to open the zipper). I don't think anyone would have noticed him, but I was being super vigilant. I assume since most overseas flights arrive early in the morning, tired travelers are an easy target!
2. Bracelet scam in front of Sacre Coeur...had to firmly say "No" several times while continuing to walk past.
3. Gypsy women up and down the Champs d'elysee. One suddenly asked "Do you speak English?" and before I could answer she pushed a note into my hand. I quickly realized it was a scam before I even finished reading the first sentence. Gave the paper back and quickly moved on.
We also traveled via train to Swizterland (Interlaken), Munich, and Amsterdam, but didn't run into any issues in those destinations. Just use common sense and be aware of your surroundings and your belongings and you will have a wonderful time!
Tampa, FL USA 01/10/2013