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If it’s your first time visiting Europe, you may think that, because millions of tourists visit every year, you are safe from scams — not true. Before finding inspiration and hitting the road on your European adventure, take note of these scams so you’ll know what to avoid.
The Bait and Switch
This is a pretty common scam around the world, and yes, it occurs in Europe as well. Someone may approach you and ask if you’ve dropped something. Perhaps they show it to you and fumble with it and you naturally reach down to pick it up. You’re distracted. Their partner then seizes the moment to grab your wallet or bag. It’s all over before you even know you’ve been robbed.
How to avoid it: Unfortunately unless you’ve got your skeptic blinders on at all times, it’s really easy to fall for this. A good practice is to keep your bags close at all times and avoid carrying valuables when possible.
The Clueless Tourist
This is a scam I’ve actually seen firsthand. When we were lined up waiting for a bus at Termini Station in Rome, there were countless tourists outside waiting. One guy just didn’t fit. He was a little too curious about everyone’s belongings. It was clear he wasn’t waiting for the bus, but taking advantage of tourists who were not paying attention.
How to avoid it: Pay attention to your things, especially when it’s very clear you’re a tourist who doesn’t know what’s going on. This is an ideal time for a thief to take advantage and make off with your belongings.
The Slippery Hand
Standard pickpocketing is alive and well. Following some of the tips that were described above in the bait and switch will help. This is especially true in crowded areas. Also, don’t think that it’s only adults you’ll need to worry about. Many times kids and teens are also in on the game.
How to avoid it: Keep your belongings close. Don’t let your guard down and always be on the lookout.
The George “Card” Cloning
Most European ATMs and card readers now use an in-card chip system. Unfortunately, American cards (and in other parts of the world) don’t have this yet as a standard. If you need to swipe your card, you are at risk for card cloning. There’s no single way to prevent this 100 percent of the time, but if something looks wrong with an ATM, it’s best to move on to another one.
The Tourist Menu
I have a standard rule of not eating in a restaurant that has a “tourist menu.” If you’re not sure what that is, it’s a menu that is translated into five or more languages. You’ll rarely see locals eating there, signaling it’s probably not the best local fare either. Some take things a step further. You’ll be given a menu with one price, then when you pay, the price on the bill will be higher. When you ask to see the menu again they’ll present a different menu that has higher prices.
How to avoid it: Take a picture of what you’ve ordered on the menu if need be (I like doing this anyway so I can remember it later), and always double-check the bill before paying.