Common Travel Safety Scams and How to Avoid Them

We travel for many reasons, but meeting and interacting with people of other cultures surely tops most lists. Most of the time, these interactions are quite positive and rewarding – but sometimes, travelers can find themselves victims to scammers who love to prey upon travelers. Learn more about some of these most common travel safety scams – and how to avoid them – from On Call Global Security Specialist, Saba Awan.

Pickpocketing Scams

Pickpocketing is one of the most prevalent issues for travelers and is a common occurrence in crowded areas. Pickpockets operate in different varieties, but the most common methods for pickpocketing include:

The Bump and Grab: This occurs when a stranger bumps into a traveler in a crowded area, and subtly grabs an item from their pocket/ purse. This scam is most common on busy sidewalks or public transportation stations.

The Conversation Starter: Another tactic used by scammers is approaching the traveler in a group and striking conversation. Because there are multiple people involved in the interaction, it’s difficult for the victim to keep an eye on all of them, this may provide one of the group members with the opportunity to steal from luggage compartments or pockets.

How to Avoid It: Keep valuables locked away and off your persons. Store essential items in sight – for example, travelers should avoid putting their wallets and other valuables in their back pockets. If a traveler experiences a collision with another individual, they should always check to make sure they have all their belongings intact after the encounter.

Fake Taxi Scams

The Broken Taxi Meter: Another common scam involves fake taxis parked outside of hotels and airports. While these taxis seem legit, the driver may claim that the meter is damaged or inaccurate, and then attempt to overcharge travelers at the end of their journey.

How to Avoid It:  Use registered taxis with a working meter. Utilizing rideshare services may also be considered a lower-risk option in areas where taxi scams are prevalent. Any time taxi services are used, fares should be agreed upon before getting into the car.

Free’ Gifts to Children Scams

In many popular tourist areas, scammers who appear to be friendly may offer a ‘free’ trinket or balloon to children. This may seem sweet, but generally, once the present is accepted, they demand payment from the parents.

How to Avoid It:

The best way to avoid this is to educate children on the importance of not accepting trinkets and souvenirs from strangers.

Other ways to avoid getting scammed while traveling:

    • Research which parts of the country are known for putting travelers at higher risk for scams

    • Read up on other peoples’ travel experiences to gain more insight into the destination and accommodations

    • Avoid signing agreements or administering payment before the terms of the deal are fully disclosed; and preferably in writing

    • Don’t hesitate to ask questions. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t! Bonus tip: asking plenty of questions lets the scammer know that suspicious is evident – this can make them paranoid and cause them to overt the situation.


About On Call International:
For over 25 years, On Call International has provided fully-customized travel risk management and emergency assistance services protecting millions of travelers, their families, and their organizations. Contact us today to learn more. You can also stay in touch with On Call’s in-house risk management, travel health and security experts by signing up for our quarterly Travel Risk Management (TRM) newsletter.