How to Avoid Scams While on Vacation

Vacations can be filled with wonderful memories and experiences.  Unfortunately, some tourists can be easy targets for unscrupulous people looking to make a quick buck from unsuspecting travelers.  Just because you are looking to purchase a vacation plan or are already on vacation doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.  Here is our guide on how to avoid scams while on vacation.

Bump & Grab

One of the most popular scams is where a thief (or thieves) distracts you with a bump or run-in and then lifts your valuables from your pocket or purse.  Before you know what happened, the thief has disappeared into the crowd or alleyway.   Another version of this is to grab the purse or wallet of someone on a bus, train, or subway just before the doors close.  Thieves have become experts in timing this perfectly, leaving the victim with no counteroffensive.

The best way to avoid a bump & grab is to always be aware of where your valuables are.  For a man, never keep your wallet in your back or front pants pocket – always try to keep your wallet in a zippered pocket inside a jacket.  Money belts are also good.  Cross-body bags/purses with zippers are always the best line of protection. 

“Helpful” People

Many scams begin with someone approaching you and being helpful.  Ask yourself, what does this person have to gain by offering you some type of advice?  The best way to avoid this type of scam is to politely decline their help or advice and continue on your way.  They will quickly lose interest in you and look for someone that is more gullible.


It is common for pickpockets and thieves to set up distractions that will momentarily capture your attention.  It could be a fistfight, an elderly lady falling down, someone handing you a petition to sign, or someone pretending to have a heart attack.  Always be on the alert when something unusual happens around you.

Taxi Overcharge

This is another typical scam in many countries.  Sometimes the driver will tell you the meter is broken or you will notice the meter go a lot higher than it should.  At the end of the ride, the driver tries to extort you at an abnormally high rate.  This can be avoided by knowing how much the ride to the destination should cost.  Many times, the hotel staff can tell you how much a ride should cost.  Make sure to confirm this rate with the taxi driver.  If they try to negotiate another rate, find another taxi.

Another Taxi Scam

Another scam practiced by some taxi drivers is that they will tell you that your hotel or point of interest is closed and will suggest something else.  If you agree, they will earn a commission from this destination.  Always ignore them and insist on your original destination.

Putting Things on You

Be wary of vendors, and street people that walk up to you and place a bracelet, hat, or sprig of rosemary on you.  Once it is on you, they will demand money.  If you refuse, they will create a ruckus, hoping that you will give them money to avoid a confrontation.  If anyone puts anything on your body, immediately hand it back to them and be firm that you aren’t interested.  Then walk away quickly.  They won’t spend their energy on you anymore.

Counterfeit Money

This scam is popular in some restaurants, with street vendors, and with taxi drivers.  When you hand them money to pay for the product/service, they claim the money is fake and hand it back to you, demanding another bill or form of payment.  What has happened is that they have stealthfully switched out your original bill with a counterfeit bill.  If you aren’t careful, you will wind up paying twice the money.  Avoid this scam by paying close attention to the exchange and using exact change whenever possible.

Motorbike/Bicycle Scam

It is sometimes nice to rent a motorbike, bicycle, or other type of vehicle to tour the city in.  However, sometimes when you return it, the owner claims there is damage.  They may ask you to leave your passport instead of a deposit.  After you return with the money, they have “found” new damage and are asking for much more compensation.  Since they have your passport, they can extort much more from you.

To avoid this type of scam, take photos of the vehicle before you leave the premises.   Never tell the renter where you are going.  Sometimes they will hire someone to inflict damage on the vehicle on purpose.  It is also wise to buy travel insurance that covers rentals so you can make a claim if there is an issue.

Good Looking Locals

Scammers are always looking for single travelers.  Be wary of good-looking locals that appear flirtatious.  Don’t fall for it.  They could easily rack up a lot of drinks on your account or worse, be a sex worker.  Either way, they usually aren’t working alone.  At some point, their muscular cohorts will appear, threatening you and demanding money.


This happens mostly with designer items.  You see something of value and after a little haggling, you agree on a great price.  However, they will distract you, even for a moment, and switch the original item with a knockoff.  This scam happens virtually everywhere in the world.  Just remember, you get what you pay for.  If it’s too good to be true, there’s a scam behind the deal.

Fake Wi-Fi

Travelers are always looking for free Wi-Fi but proceed with caution on which ones you use.  Hackers will offer free Wi-Fi hubs, and then steal your data once you log in.  If you travel abroad, always use a VPN.  Never access any sensitive data while on an unsecured network.

Travelers get scammed out of their hard-earned money every day.  Don’t be one of them.  Always use common sense and be aware of your surroundings while traveling.  These tips to avoid scams while on vacation may save you hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars during your next vacation.

Our Reviews

yelp logo
facebook logo
tripadvisor logo
Google logo