Tuesday 27 September 2016

Eight of Europe's most common travel scams (and how to avoid them)

Travel tips & advice

Online Editors

Published 09/03/2016 | 06:51

Flat tyres - one of Europe's most common scams, according to AIG. Photo: Deposit
Flat tyres - one of Europe's most common scams, according to AIG. Photo: Deposit
Pickpocketing at a subway station. Photo: Deposit
First dates can be an awkward experience. Photo: Deposit
Pickpocketing on the street. Photo: Deposit

From 'highway pirates' in Italy to bogus police officers in the Czech Republic, there's no shortage of travel scams in Europe.

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That's according to AIG Europe, which has compiled an infographic describing eight of the most common scams affecting travellers.

Most trips of course pass without incident, but it's worth familiarising yourself with the list... and exercising common sense on the road.

1. Puncturing tyres

'Highway pirates' operating in Italy work by discretely puncturing tyres and following drivers until they stop, according to AIG. They then pose as Good Samaritans, robbing you in the process. Avoid trouble by locking your vehicle, never leaving valuables on display, and being wary of offers of help for flat tyres, 'particularly on the motorway between Naples and Sorrento,' it adds.

2. False Petitions

Watch out for young children approaching you with a petition, often claiming to be deaf and dumb and from an established charity. The advice is to walk away, keeping your valuables secure, and report the children to the police. The scam is common in France, where impersonating a charity is punishable by 10 years imprisonment.

3. Fake Entry Fees

This scam is common in Spain, AIG says. At border checks, scam artists go from car to car with fake IDs, requesting a cash 'entry fee' to pass into Gibraltar. There is, of course, no charge to enter or leave the British territory.

4. Bogus police officers

Pickpocketing at a subway station. Photo: Deposit
Pickpocketing at a subway station. Photo: Deposit

A scam reported in the Czech Republic, this involves victims being approached by someone offering something vaguely illicit. A bogus policeman will suddenly appear and demand to see your wallet and passport. Be aware that no Czech police officer has the right to check your money, and call their bluff by offering to accompany them to the nearest police station. Be sure to report the incident.

5. Counterfeit money

Street money changers and taxi drivers are known to deliberately pass counterfeit money to tourists in Hungary, AIG says. Stick to reputable establishments for currency dealings, and take care to check bank notes for validity. You can familiarise yourself with Hungarian bank notes' security features at english.mnb.hu.

6. Distraction scams

First dates can be an awkward experience. Photo: Deposit
First dates can be an awkward experience. Photo: Deposit

Common in restaurants in the Netherlands, this scam involves diners being approached by thieves posing as if looking for a friend. While distracted, they or an accomplice steals your possessions. Avoid the scam by being mindful of your possessions, and alerting the restaurant staff to anything suspicious.

7. Extortionate bills

In Croatia, certain bars, restaurants and 'gentlemen's clubs' can overcharge customers by adding surcharges to the final bill, AIG reports. If you can't pay, staff will then escort you to an ATM. Avoid the scam by using commonsense, treating the advice of taxi drivers with caution (they may be in on the scam), and sticking to bars and clubs that have gotten positive reviews and feedback from other travellers.

8. Phony taxi drivers

In Poland, unregulated taxi drivers can lurk around airports and tourist attractions, claiming that their meters are broken, before overcharging customers. Only use official taxis, which will display rate cards.

AIG cites several sources including travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and UK Foreign Office. See the original infographic here.

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