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Watch your wallet - the five most common tourist scams

You may think that you are pretty savvy when it comes to spotting travel scams. But don't be fooled, because it transpires that Europe is a surprisingly creative place when it comes to cashing in on unsuspecting tourists and the crooks are using ever more cunning ways to part you from your money.

Even experienced and sophisticated travellers are finding themselves the victims of all manner of slippery scams so here are five regular cons to watch out for.

  • 1. Don't be distracted: The shop's cashier seems to be speaking on her phone when you hand her your credit card. But listen closely and you may hear the sound of the phone's camera shutter, as she takes a picture of your card. Or you're jostled in a crowd as someone spills ketchup or fake pigeon poo on your shirt. The thief offers profuse apologies while dabbing it up - and going through your pockets. There are variations and you should always assume beggars are pickpockets and treat any commotion as fake. If an elderly woman falls down an escalator, stand back and guard your valuables.
  • 2. The "helpful" local: If someone wants to help you use an ATM, politely refuse (they're just after your PIN code). Some thieves hang out at ticket machines eager to 'help' you, the bewildered tourist, buy tickets with a pile of your quickly disappearing foreign cash. If using a station locker, beware of the good samaritan who may have his own key to a locker he'd like you to use.
  • 3. Looks can be deceiving: The sneakiest pickpockets look like well-dressed business people, generally with something official-looking in their hand. Some pose as tourists, with rucksacks, cameras, and even guidebooks. Don't be fooled by looks, impressive uniforms, femme fatales, or hard-luck stories.
  • 4. Fake charity petition: You're at a popular sight when someone thrusts a petition at you. It's likely a woman or a teenager who, often pretending to be deaf, will try to get you to sign an official-looking petition, supposedly in support of a charity (the petition is often in English, which should be a clue). The petitioner then demands a cash donation. At best, anyone who falls for this scam is out some euros, at worst, they're pick-pocketed while being distracted.
  • 5. The stripper: You see a good-looking woman arguing with a street vendor who accuses her of shoplifting, which she vehemently denies. To prove her innocence, she starts taking off her clothes - very slowly. Once she's down to her underwear, the vendor apologises and she leaves. Suddenly all the men in the crowd find out that their wallets have left, too, thanks to a team of pickpockets working during the 'show'.

Watch your wallet - the five most common tourist scams

You may think that you are pretty savvy when it comes to spotting travel scams. But don't be fooled, because it transpires that Europe is a surprisingly creative place when it comes to cashing in on unsuspecting tourists and the crooks are using ever more cunning ways to part you from your money.

Even experienced and sophisticated travellers are finding themselves the victims of all manner of slippery scams so here are five regular cons to watch out for.

  • 1. Don't be distracted: The shop's cashier seems to be speaking on her phone when you hand her your credit card. But listen closely and you may hear the sound of the phone's camera shutter, as she takes a picture of your card. Or you're jostled in a crowd as someone spills ketchup or fake pigeon poo on your shirt. The thief offers profuse apologies while dabbing it up - and going through your pockets. There are variations and you should always assume beggars are pickpockets and treat any commotion as fake. If an elderly woman falls down an escalator, stand back and guard your valuables.
  • 2. The "helpful" local: If someone wants to help you use an ATM, politely refuse (they're just after your PIN code). Some thieves hang out at ticket machines eager to 'help' you, the bewildered tourist, buy tickets with a pile of your quickly disappearing foreign cash. If using a station locker, beware of the good samaritan who may have his own key to a locker he'd like you to use.
  • 3. Looks can be deceiving: The sneakiest pickpockets look like well-dressed business people, generally with something official-looking in their hand. Some pose as tourists, with rucksacks, cameras, and even guidebooks. Don't be fooled by looks, impressive uniforms, femme fatales, or hard-luck stories.
  • 4. Fake charity petition: You're at a popular sight when someone thrusts a petition at you. It's likely a woman or a teenager who, often pretending to be deaf, will try to get you to sign an official-looking petition, supposedly in support of a charity (the petition is often in English, which should be a clue). The petitioner then demands a cash donation. At best, anyone who falls for this scam is out some euros, at worst, they're pick-pocketed while being distracted.
  • 5. The stripper: You see a good-looking woman arguing with a street vendor who accuses her of shoplifting, which she vehemently denies. To prove her innocence, she starts taking off her clothes - very slowly. Once she's down to her underwear, the vendor apologises and she leaves. Suddenly all the men in the crowd find out that their wallets have left, too, thanks to a team of pickpockets working during the 'show'.

Our top 6 money savers you can't afford to miss

  • Save 30% on a fabulous 3 nights in colourful Morocco
  • Save 20% on this luxury Greek holiday
  • Save 15% on romantic Grenada getaway
  • Save 35% with this relaxing Phuket holiday
  • Save 10% on this fabulous self-drive tour of Oregon
  • 4 nights for the price of 3, San Clemente, Venice

My best holiday ever

Actor Martin Clunes, aka Doc Martin, dodged poachers in Kenya...

What people are saying

A selection of customer comments from Trustpilot

10 things you didn't know last month

  1. 1. Don't wear flip flops to this part of Italy

    The Cinque Terre coastline of Italy has an almost mythical status - who hasn't seen photographs of the pastel-colored houses built into rugged cliffs, surrounded by bright blue sea, and fallen instantly in love? But if you travel there this summer wearing your flip flops or flimsy sandals you could face fines of between €50 and €2,500 It's all because mountain rescue teams are becoming increasingly exasperated with rescuing ill-prepared visitors on the mountainous walkways.
  2. 2. Airlines face scrutiny after hotels ruling

    Airlines' online sales practices could come under scrutiny in the wake of a recent watchdog victory over websites that used unfair strategies to encourage hotel bookings. British carriers are already governed by Civil Aviation Authority rules that say, for example, all compulsory taxes, fees and charges must be included in the headline price. But there is no mention of the 'pressure selling' - stating that only a certain number of seats remain at a given price.
  3. 3. Mulling over airport booze ban

    A radical ban on serving early morning alcohol at airports would punish the majority for the behaviour of the few, the head of a retail group representing major UK airports and duty free shopping has said. Francois Bourienne, chairman of the UK Travel Retail Forum, spoke out just before the consultation on revoking the licensing exemption for airside bars, pubs and shops ended last month. He said introducing licensing laws akin to the high street would create an administrative burden, destroy business and reduce employment. But Tim Alderslade, of Airlines UK, said: "While we do not want to stop passengers enjoying a pint or glass of wine at the start of their holiday, the sale of alcohol needs to be done responsibly. We want to see common sense prevail and ensure bars and retailers airside come under the jurisdiction of the Licensing Act.
  4. 4. Wellington taxi men put the boot in!

    Visitors to Wellington, New Zealand, have been put on high alert over taxi fraud after a Scottish tourist was charged £490 for a five minute trip. John Barrett has been left frustrated that neither the authorities or his credit card company have been able to help refund him after a driver managed to take payment without him checking the fare. John Hart, director of the city's taxi federation, said he received a complaint every week about overcharging. He added: "We've had many other instances of this sort of thing but none at this level. These are the ones we hear about, but I think there are probably a whole lot more, and the concern is that visitors from oversees are being ripped off."
  5. 5. Jumbo size problem for safari reputation

    Botswana's reputation as one of the finest safari destinations in the world is under threat amid a row over whether to lift the country's trophy hunting ban and introduce a wider culling programme. A government committee has advised the country's new president to bring in "regular but limited elephant culling" to manage local populations adding that a canning facility to turn carcasses into pet food may be opened. A recent survey found that there had been a six fold increase in the number of elephant carcasses found in Northern Botswana and obvious signs of poaching. The government has rejected these findings as "false and misleading."
  6. 6. The sea air on deck might not be that fresh

    The air on cruise ships is at times as polluted as in major cities, according to research. The study by scientists at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, claim that the concentration of particulate matter pollution was comparable to that measured in cities including Beijing and Santiago. "Little is known about how ship engine exhaust may impact the air quality on the deck of a ship", their report states. The cruise line association Clia has made a commitment to cutting carbon emissions as an industry by 40 per cent by 2030.
  7. 7. Paying more to sit together unnecessary says Which?

    Paying for seats to sit together can be a waste of money says Which? They asked ten airlines whether or not they seat families, couples and groups together. All of them confirmed they do apart from Ryanair and Wizz Air. Ryanair has become famous for its add on fees and appears to be using the strategy to wring more money from its customers.
  8. 8. Ireland's selfie protection plan

    Ireland is considering the introduction of safe 'selfie seats' at beauty spots to protect photo-taking visitors from injury and death. Junior health minister Jim Daly has submitted a proposal to the Irish tourism authority for camera phone stands that would help travellers find the best places to take a photo for social media sites without putting themselves at risk. Self portrait-related accidents have occurred at sites including the Cliffs of Moher. Mr Daly said: "People love taking images of themselves in areas of natural beauty, but often it is almost impossible to find a steady location or to know where the best shot is."
  9. 9. Now Norwegian needs to cut its own costs

    Norwegian, the airline that forged a revolution in the price of long-haul flying, has said it will shift its focus away from growth and towards cutting costs. The budget operator has made headlines in recent years with its transatlantic fares starting from as little £140 one way, expanding its reach to 12 US cities as well as Argentina and the Caribbean. But the airlines chief executive has said it will need to change its strategy after announcing that it wanted to raise additional finance. Last year saw fellow low-cost long haul carrier Primera Air cease operations while another rival, Wow air, has been forced to cut routes.
  10. 10. Warning over bogus competitions

    Hoax-Slayer, a pressure group that highlights scam websites, has called on Facebook to remove fake pages for some of the UK's biggest travel operators. Butlins and Thomas Cook are among the companies whose identities have been hijacked for bogus competitions on the social media site, with the intention of obtaining users' personal details. "The only winners are the scammers who create the false pages," Hoax-Slayer say. Meanwhile, Thomas Cook is considering selling its fleet of 103 aircraft to offset continuing losses in its package travel business.

This month's top 6 offers

  1. Save 30% on a fabulous 3 nights in colourful Morocco

    The stunning Banyan Tree hotel, Tamouda Bay sits on a stunning private beach on the northern coast of Morocco and offers 5* luxury in individual villas all with their own private pool. There are additional indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness centre offering yoga and a great kids club, not forgetting the renowned Banyan Tree spa and 3 outstanding restaurants. This is the perfect resort for the whole family. Save 30% with our offer staying 3 nights in a Garden Pool Villa with breakfast and British Airways flights from £675pp. Valid Sep 2019.
  2. Save 20% on this luxury Greek holiday

    The award-winning Romanos hotel is perfectly located on the golden Dunes beach in the beautifully secluded Costa Navarino area of Greece. It is the ideal base from which to explore the natural beauty and culture of the local area, take in a round of golf, visit the recently renovated aquapark or just take it easy and enjoy the stunning views, decadent restaurants and excellent spa facilities at the hotel. Enjoy 7 nights and save 20% staying in a Deluxe Garden View room with breakfast and flights with British Airways from £1059pp. Valid 24 May - 30 Jun 2019.
  3. Save 15% on romantic Grenada getaway

    If you are looking for the perfect romantic Caribbean getaway you need look no futher than Laluna. Nestled into a private hillside on one of Grenada's most secluded beaches, this is a truly intimate resort for any lovebirds looking for a peace and privacy. With tastefully appointed cottage suites, authentic Asian Spa, beachfront yoga pavilion, and thatched roof Italian restaurant, this boutique resort could well be the most romantic in all of Grenada. Save 15% with our 7 night offer in a cottage suite including breakfast and flights withBritish Airways from £1675pp. Valid 23 Aug - 11 Oct 2019.
  4. Save 35% with this relaxing Phuket holiday

    Introducing contemporary design to the most exquisite location along a 600 metre beachfront at Emerald Bay just over a year ago, the luxury Rosewood Phuket is an idyllic tropical beach hideaway offering guests the most serene and natural setting to restore mind, body and spirit. Dine in one of the 3 exceptional restaurants, pamper yourself in the Asaya spa or just relax around the pool or on the beautiful beach. Save 35% with our offer, including breakfast, transfers and flights with Malaysian Airlines from £1735pp. Valid 16 Apr - 21 Jun 2019.
  5. Save 10% on this fabulous self-drive tour of Oregon

    Discover the wonders of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest with this two-week self-drive tour - from the hipster cities of Portland and Seattle to the unmistakable beauty of the Oregon coast. Take advantage of Delta Air Lines' new daily non-stop flight to Portland, where you can visit exquisite Japanese Gardens and sample the region's wine and other culinary delights. Then hit the road to take in the breathtaking and rugged snow-capped Cascade Mountains, the waterfall-laden Columbia River Gorge and the striking blue hue of Crater Lake National Park. You'll also see Lake Quinault and Mount Rainier amongst other beautiful sights. Save 10% with our offer inclusive of car hire, accommodation and flights with Delta from £1899pp. Valid 20 - 30 Sep 2019.
  6. 4 nights for the price of 3, San Clemente, Venice

    San Clemente Palace Kempinski is located on the private island of San Clemente and is only minutes away by complimentary boat from Piazza San Marco, Venice. It is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy true peace and tranquillity away from the crowds. Classically decorated guestrooms overlook the lagoon or the centuries-old park and you are free to indulge in one of the hotels three restaurants, relax around the outdoor pool or visit the state of the art fitness centre and tennis court. There are also herb-therapy massages available. Stay 4 nights for the price of 3 with our offer including water taxi transfers and flights with British Airways from £849pp. Valid 15 Jul - 26 Aug 2019.

My Favourite Holiday

The actor has been exploring America's islands...

Actor Martin Clunes, aka Doc Martin, dodged poachers in Kenya and came close to amorous sea lions in California

What's your most memorable destination? Alaska blew me away big time. Flying into Kodiak, with its pine topped hills, snowy peaks and extraordinary crystal clear lakes was like something from a film.

Your best recent travel experience? I've spent much of the past year filming exploring American islands and got incredibly close to a colony of seals and sea lions on California's Channel Islands. We had to hide in these odd sand coloured boxes on wheels which were designed to stop them from seeing you. At one point we were just 2ft away from a pair of rutting sea lions, which was a real treat.

Any dodgy travel moments? I was almost hunted by poachers while filming in Kenya. A guard had pinpointed a hunted elephant's corpse on his GPS, which we decided to find. The director and I followed the guard on foot and got tangled in thorn bushes during the search. As our guard vanished we heard goat bells - the telltale sound of AK47-toting Somali hunters. I don't know what would have happened, but we certainly got out of those bushes in a hurry.

Your worst travel experience? I cried when my friend Mugie the lion was killed by hyenas. I was in Kenya filming a documentary about lion rehabilitation where the idea was to teach him to hunt on his own, but he didn't make it. I'd spent three years getting to know him, so it was heartbreaking when he died.

What's your favourite holiday hotel? For pure Hollywood glamour you can't beat The Peninsula in Beverly Hills. Breakfast is served beside the rooftop pool with hummingbirds buzzing around the pot plants and every bit of room service comes with a rose.

What's you favourite restaurant? My favourite restaurant in the world is Rick Stein's seafood restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall. I love the whole experience - the ferry ride across from Rock, the dining room and the service. I've been countless times and never had a bad meal there. It's also handy for when I'm filming Doc Martin in nearby Port Isaac.

Do you like theme parks? I used to love visiting them, but I'm no longer a fan of roller coasters. While filming Islands of America I spent a day on this rickety old wooden roller coaster on Coney Island, New York. Young Martin would have loved it, but I'm well over 6ft now, so I was petrified and kept picturing myself being decapitated by one of the wooden beams inches from my head.

What don't you like about holidays? I can't stand long transfers from the airport on short trips. So much so that on a recent four-night wedding anniversary trip to Capri, I booked a helicopter to take Philippa and me from the airport directly to the hotel.

Best piece of travel advice? Learn how to say hello, thank you and goodbye in every language. And smile. I do that whenever I travel and it makes a big difference.

For the full interview see Telegraph online

What people are saying

A selection of customer comments from Trustpilot

  • Everything taken care of for our anniversary

    We proposed a basic list of what we wanted to take in during a holiday in South Africa and Harvey from DialAFlight proposed the final schedule for us. The accommodation was superb and high quality, all situated in the right spots for the areas of interest we had identified. The flights and car hire were all as scheduled, and the 'grand finale' for us was the stay in the Pumba Game Reserve which was the highlight of the holiday. This is the first time we have used DialAFlight, but will certainly not be the last.

    Ray gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trustpilot. Sparkling footnote: Ray's name was pulled out of the hat in our monthly Trustpilot draw and a case of Prosecco is on its way.
  • What a brilliant service

    What a brilliant service. Two of us were flying to Perth and a month later three of us would be flying home from Sydney. Could not believe the deal DialAFlight got for us - especially as compare sites could not come up with a better one! Not only was the cost better but the personal touch was too, with personal calls to make sure we had understood and booked in correctly. Any questions were answered quickly and emails for booking in were easy and a total breeze. I cannot recommend DialAFlight enough and will definitely be using them for all my travels.

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  • Simple, straightforward and efficient

    We booked flights to Wellington, New Zealand, from Heathrow. The phone was answered promptly by a polite and knowledgeable employee. He gave us several options, which we considered. The next day we called again and booked. It was a simple and straightforward process handled with care. Thank you!

    Julia Hawker gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trustpilot.
  • Peace of mind for business trips

    Dealing with individuals that understand your requirements makes it a lot easier than your regular travel agent and being on call 24/7 certainly helps when things don't go according to plan.

    DialAFlight have very pleasant people to deal with, enthusiastic, reliable, they do exactly what they say they are going to do - which means I have peace of mind when sending my staff out to the field, knowing the will be looked after. Happy staff, happy clients.

    Gez Fairbairn gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trustpilot.

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