15 Most Common Travel Scams and How to Avoid Them

LAST UPDATED: 4/20/23 – Avoiding Common Travel Scams

It is human nature to want to find the best deal possible.  When making significant purchases, as is typical when doing a significant amount of traveling, it is wired within most of us to want to search out the best deal possible.  After all, the more that we can save the more we are able to travel. 

Most of us are also extremely trusting when we travel.  You have to put yourself out there and put your trust in other people to a certain extent when you travel someplace you are unfamiliar with.  For this reason, most of us like to think the best of the people we meet and interact with when we travel.

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

However, not every travel deal you encounter is legitimate and not everyone you cross paths with during your travels will be genuine and honest.  For that reason, you need to be careful when you are booking your travel and when you are out-and-about on trips. 

If you aren’t, you could fall victim to any number of common travel scams that target unsuspecting tourists.  Your first and the best defense is to know what common scams are out there and how to avoid them.  That is exactly what I am going to review with you in this article.

The Taxi Overcharge

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

This is one of the most common scams worldwide.  For most travelers, the process of finding and paying for transportation can be one of the most confusing aspects of travel. When looking for their targets, scammers almost always target the people they think are the most confused and unaware, and thus the most vulnerable.  That is why the taxi overcharge scam is so successful and so widely used.

When pulling this scam, your taxi driver will tell you that their taxi meter has mysteriously become broken, and they will try and charge you a ridiculous fare for taking you where you want to go.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

To avoid this issue, negotiate your price before you agree to get into the taxi.  If your taxi driver refuses to negotiate a price beforehand, refuses to turn on the meter in their taxi, or tells you the price is cheaper without the meter, you should not get into the taxi.  It would be best to look for a different taxi driver that is more honest about the fares they charge.

Putting “Free” Items on You

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

This is another widely used scam that I am sure most travelers have experienced in one-form-or-another during their travels.  The premise of this scam is that someone, often young children, will approach you and try and put items on you. 

Often these items will be bracelets, necklaces, or other pieces of jewelry. Once the items are on your body, they try and pressure you to pay unreasonably high prices for these items.  This scam typically works because unknowing tourists assume that these items that they are being given are free.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

The best way to avoid being the victim of these scams is to avoid letting people hand you items or put items on you.  Never assume that anything you are being given is free. Instead, keep walking and ignore the attempts to get your attention so that they can hand you items.

Fake Police Officers

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

This is a less frequently used scam that is typically only used in large, crowded cities, but it can be one of the scarier scams if it happens to you.  When this scam is run, someone will approach you and discretely offer to sell you drugs or other illegal merchandise. 

Regardless of whether you agree to buy the products or not, other individuals will then approach, flash a badge, and claim to be police officers.  They will ask for your passport and wallet, which you will never get back if you give it to them.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

To avoid falling victim to this scam, never give your passport or valuables to someone claiming to be a police officer without verifying their identity first.  Instead of just handing them over, tell the individuals that you left your passport in your hotel safe and ask them to follow you back to your hotel. 

If they are the real authorities, they will have no issues doing that.  You can also ask to call the police department to verify their identity. A real police officer will have no issues with you taking these safety precautions.

Fake Wakeup Call

Hotel Lobby

Not all of the scams that you may run into while traveling involves face-to-face encounters with other people.  In some cases, like with this scam, you may never even see the person trying to scam you. 

With the fake wakeup call scam, the scammer will typically call your hotel room (often in the middle of the night) claiming to be the front desk and ask for your credit card information for the hotel’s records.  Once they have your credit card information, they quickly get to work maxing out your card.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

To avoid falling victim to this scam, never give anyone your credit card or financial information over the phone.  Tell the person that you will need to get your card and will stop by the front desk to give them that information.  If they are really the hotel front desk, they will have no issues with this.

The Accidental Bump or Spill

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

If you have ever been bumped into or had something spilled on you by a stranger when traveling, then you may have been the victim of an attempted scam.  One of the most common tactics for master pick-picketers is to use a distraction to get your attention while they pick your pocket. 

The most common, and effective, distractions are a bump or a spill.  While you are startled by getting bumped into or mortified because someone just spilled a drink all over your new clothes, your pockets are being emptied.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

To avoid falling victim to this scam, make sure you keep your belongings are kept in a safe place.  I would recommend keeping whatever valuables you don’t need while out-and-about in your hotel safe.  Any valuables that you do need should be kept in a locked bag or in your front pockets where you will feel someone trying to take them.

Made Up Car or Vehicle Damage

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

Imagine being on a trip and needing some transportation, so you rent a car, motorbike, or ATV.  Then, just when you think you have everything worked out, the vehicle you rented gets either damaged or stolen.  What you don’t realize is that the person responsible for damaging or stealing the vehicle is the person you rented it from.  And if you aren’t careful, you could be on the hook for a large sum of money.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

To prevent this happening to you, make sure you always research who you are renting vehicles from.  Not only that but make sure you always purchase insurance when you rent.  Finally, take pictures of the vehicle you are renting before you rent it.  That way you will have some documented evidence of what damage existed before you rented the vehicle.

The Attraction You Want to See is Closed


If you are visiting a popular tourist area, you need to be aware of a common travel scam that is aimed at visiting tourists.  When you head out to visit a popular monument, temple, park, or other tourist site, and someone approaches you to let you know that the site is closed (because of a religious holiday, maintenance, or any number of reasons), you need to be wary. 

Often times the scammers will tell you this so that they can get you to follow them to a different site.  Once there, you will be pressured into spending a lot of money to get into the alternative site or spend a lot of money buying merchandise.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

To avoid falling victim to this scam, make sure you research the sites that you want to visit thoroughly before you visit.  And if someone tells you that one of the sites you want to see is closed, make sure you check for yourself by visiting the ticket counter or consulting with a tour company in the area.

Overbooked or Closed Hotel

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

This is a very common scam that untruthful cab drivers like to use.  While taking you to your hotel, they might let you know that the hotel has been closed down or that they just came from the hotel and they are completely booked up. 

What they would like is for you to agree to let them take you to a different hotel.  What they won’t tell you is that they have an agreement with the other hotel.  They will get a nice big kickback for bringing you there while you spend a boatload more than you would have at your original hotel.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

Instead of getting taken advantage of, I would recommend that you always confirm your reservation with your hotel before your visit.  This way, you will know that your hotel is still open and that your reservation is still good.  When your cab driver tells you that the hotel is closed, you can let them know that you just spoke to the hotel.  If the driver still refuses to bring you there, then you can ask to be dropped off somewhere else.  Then, you can catch a ride with a more honest cab driver.

Group Photo Helper

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

As an avid travel photographer, this is the scam that wakes me up in the middle of the night.  If you have a camera that you love, then you are going to want to pay extra close attention to make sure you don’t fall victim to this scam. 

If you are out-and-about during your travels and a nice passerby offers to take a photograph of your group, be wary of handing your camera to them.  By the time your group gets ready for that wonderful shot, the nice passerby might be gone with your camera.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

To avoid losing your camera, make sure you are very wary of whom you hand your camera to.  This is a really tough one because it is really hard to know what is in a person’s heart.  I would just suggest that you use your instincts and err on the side of caution.

The Wrong Change Back


One of the most common travel scams that people try and commit on travelers involves the purchases that you legitimately make.  They don’t try to scam you on the purchase, but they do try and sneak a fast one past you when they give you change back from your purchase.  Even if you are looking out for this, sometimes it can be hard to determine if you have gotten the correct amount of change back.  This is especially true if the bills look the same in the country you are visiting.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

If you don’t want to be left short-changed, I would suggest that you take the time to count your change every time you make a purchase.  I know it can be a little awkward, but if you don’t you could be conned out of a large sum of money.

The Bait and Switch

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

This is a scam that is common all around the world, and typically involves the purchase of items that can easily be replicated.  This may include jewelry, designer clothing, purses, shoes, or any other item of value that can be replicated and sold as knockoffs. 

The way that his scam works is you are shown the authentic items in the store at unbelievably low prices.  However, when you buy the items, the seller switches out the authentic items for knockoffs.  You go home happy with the amazing deal you found, only to get home and realize you had been scammed.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

To avoid being a victim of this scam, you should always be skeptical of incredibly discounted items.  If the deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.  When you do buy something from a store, make sure you watch them wrap and bag the item in front of you.  If you don’t use the proper caution, you could be left with less than you bargained for.

Fake Airline Tickets

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

This scam is one of the most widely used Internet scams being used and one of the easiest scams for people to fall for.  If you see a social media post that offers free airline tickets to anyone who visits the website, the only thing that will be “free” if you click the link will be the access to your sensitive personal information. 

Instead of taking you to a genuine travel site or an airline webpage, the site will actually take you to a phishing website that will steal your personal and account information and then use your contacts list to spam your friends with the same scam.  Instead of getting free flights, you might be spending the next several months dealing with identity theft.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

The best way to avoid falling victim to this scam is to never (and I do mean never) click on the links for travel deals that you aren’t one-hundred percent certain are legitimate links. 

For instance, if you come across a deal for two free flights with Delta Airlines, and it isn’t the official Delta Airlines account that is promoting the offer, then I would immediately be suspicious of this deal.  If you would like some more in-depth information, Frommers has a really great article on how to avoid phishing scams that you can review.

The Fake Flirt

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

We all crave love and attention, which is just part of being human.  We all know this, but unfortunately so do criminals.  This is why it is so common for scammers to try and use this desire for love and attention against us.  When that very attractive girl or guy starts paying a lot of attention to you when you are traveling, we would like to think that they are genuinely interested in us.

Perhaps they are, but you need to be prepared in case they are only giving you attention in order to get something from you.  They could be showing you all of that attention in order to get you to buy something, shop somewhere, or lead you someplace where you will be attacked.  You might even wake up someplace with some of your organs missing, which is why I am serious when I say that you need to always use caution when traveling.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

I would be wary of anyone that pays an unnormal amount of attention to you.  If someone that you don’t know is overly friendly towards you, I would proceed cautiously.  I know that we all like to get attention and feel wanted, but there are just too many dangers out there to be cavalier with flirtations from someone you don’t know.

Bogus Baggage Handlers

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

This is one of the most common scams that people try to pull outside of airports, rail stations, and to lesser extent hotels.  The minute you get out of a vehicle or step outside of the airport or train station, a swarm of people are ready to help you carry your bags.  It may be convenient to have someone carry your luggage for you until they ask for an unreasonable amount of money for the service they have already performed.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

If you would like to carry your own luggage, don’t feel bad about saying that when they offer to help.  If you do want them to assist you, make sure you ask them how much their services will cost before you agree to let them carry your bags.  If they are too pushy and you feel uncomfortable, I would advise that you go back into the airport, train station, or vehicle and seek assistance from an official.

ATM Scams

How to Avoid Common Travel Scams

Some of the costliest scams that are common throughout this world center around identity theft.  Of all of the identity theft scams that are out there, the theft of ATM information may be the most prevalent.  In fact, the FBI recently issued a warning for travelers to be aware as ATM scams are on the rise.  Some way or another, the scammer gets a hold of your ATM information and quickly drains your bank account of all funds.

How to Avoid This Common Travel Scam

To prevent yourself from falling victim of an ATM Scam, I would strongly suggest that you become familiar with how scammers are using ATM machines to obtain your ATM information.  With that knowledge in hand, it will be much easier for you to avoid these scams when you travel.

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  1. Useful post with great tips. The taxi scammers got me twice, the first time in Rome when she drove around the block when my hotel was just around the corner (before the days of Google Maps and even cell phones for that matter) and the second time in Lima, Peru when the driver claimed there were toll fees if he took one road, even though I knew that was a lie and tried to refute him when he said he needed to take another, much longer route. I ended up making him just stop in a busy area and let us out because I didn’t know what he might try next.

    • Thanks so much for the comment and for sharing your experiences!! I have been scammed by taxis a few times as well. Like you, it happened to me the first time in Rome as well. It is so easy to not notice if you aren’t paying attention. I have started using Google maps to map the route before getting into the taxi and then casually showing the driver my phone when telling them where we are going so that they know I understand how to get there. Has worked well so far 🤞

  2. Ugh. So many ways to ruin a trip. Great article. I’m getting ready to rent a car for our summertime trip to France/Andorra and you can bet I’ll only be going with well-known, reputable rental agencies. Even still, taking those car photos is still a good idea. Even when renting domistically.

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