Vacation is a beautiful and delightful time. Of course, we all love vacations. It is so good to just forget everyday life and explore something interesting, exciting, meet new people or just lie down on the beach. But unfortunately, sometimes when going on a trip, we forget about necessary precautions and often lose our guard.
Sadly, fraud and swindle very common in Europe, but I believe that it can happen everywhere. Almost every country has dishonest people and any tourist can be a victim when traveling.
Knowing criminal tricks and being more attentive, always can help to protect yourself.
Here the most famous way to cheat travelers:
Pickpocketing is a very famous crime in Europe and thousands of tourists become victims every year. It is not only upsetting situation, but also ruin the long-awaited vacation, creating big problems such as cancelling credit cards, replacing passport or bothering your relatives or friends to send you money.
Most of the time pickpockets work in groups. Distractions are the one tactic that they use. They try diverting your attention by accidentally push you, bump into you, stay too close, talk to you, or perform some actions that can help them to steal your stuff.
Why is it happening? The answer is simple: because you assume that pickpockets supposed to look very suspicions and don't realize that most of them are actually young girls and boys, women or men and usually all well-dressed. You would never expect them to be thieves. You feel comfortable around them, relax and stop being alert.
Needless to say, that pickpockets work in all touristic areas, public transportation, subways, escalators, train stations, museums, cafes, beaches, stores and any crowded spots.
This is another very popular scam in Europe: a group of young girls with clipboards, usually deaf-mute, ask you to sign a petition for charity. If you sign it, they will ask for a donation and will not let you go until you give them money. While the naive tourist is reading and signing the petition, other members of the group will try to pickpocket the victim.
Be very careful about using your phone, texting or talking in a crowded area, close to the door of transportation, especially subway or about careless walking and talking on the phone. Thieves will reach in and snatch your phone and it will be so fast that you can't barely understand what happened.
Someone politely and nicely, but extremely annoyingly offers free a friendship bracelet. After you star to talk, they will try to grab you by the wrist to put on the bracelet, then ask for payment. It can also be used as a distraction for stealing your stuff.
Don't take anything from anybody. Remember: nothing is free, except cheese in a mousetrap.
In Florence, we experienced a minor incident with one of these guys on Piazza della Signoria. We noticed that one man stuck in a youthful tourist and tried to put a bracelet on his wrist. The young guy, kept saying: “Thanks, I don't need it!” and desperately tried to walk away. A later group of men with friendship bracelets started to walk around the young tourist and kept bugging him, so at some point, my husband pulled this young men from that circle and helped him to escape from those impudent and annoying “friends.” Next, one man of that group was yelling at us so badly and stupidly loud that security came right away and stood between us, not to let him touch us. Security smiled and says: “Good you don't understand what he says… So many bad words…” But…even with so much swearing, I am very glad we helped that young tourist escape and avoid this crime. In 10 minutes, an immigration car shows up on the Piazza della Signoria and all these brave men run away.
It was only 20 minutes of “adventure” and the rest of the day was wonderful and enjoyable. Later we met amazing people who let us into Piazza Santa Croce, to watch a very popular game called Calcio Storico Fiorentino. This game is a combination of soccer, rugby and wrestling originated in 16th century Florence and played today in historical costume. Was fun to watch it.
When a couple walking and enjoying Paris, for example, a man will show up and unexpectedly gives the rose to your lady. The woman might take a rose without even thinking because she will be all in the beauty of Paris. Her hand might do it by itself. As soon as it happened, men who offer a rose will persistently ask for money. Ladies, please control yourselves and don't take the rose. This is just another swindler's trick, and you don't want to get into bad and embracing situations.
Street games are a classic scam. It can be anything: guess which of the three plastic cups got the ball in or raffling the valuable prize or even selling cute dancing paper Mickey Mouse. Of course, when people play and concentrate on these games someone will clean out their pockets or bags. Also, there are many street performances that gather large crowds and can be a good field for pickpocketing as well.
When tourists do photography, especially selfie or taking portraits of each other, the trustful looking person shows up and kindly offer to photograph you together. There might be two variants: first – “friendly photographer” will ask for money; second – he will just run away with your gadget. Most likely second variant.
Some taxi drivers will try taking advantage of tourists because they don't know the city. The local taxi drivers will choose a longer route, stand in traffic jams so that people will pay a larger amount.
Some thieves will drive up on a scooter, snatch a bag from the victim's shoulder, and then ride off so fast. Be aware!
Anyone can be a potential target of a pickpocket or other scams, but you might prevent all these problems if you take a few extra precautions:
Do good research about your destinations before undertake your trip. Learn more about the city, map, areas to avoid, areas where you want to stay and what kind of crimes are common in that country.
Make a copy of your passport and put a copy in all your baggage.
Know police and emergency telephone numbers.
Find out address and phone number of your country's embassy.
Pickpockets are always seeking vulnerable targets.
The prime ones might be:
a) People with lots of luggage, because they won't be capable to watch over so much stuff;
b) People who flush valuables, such as phones, wallets, etc.
C) people who fall for distractions
Keep your phone, wallet or other valuables out of sight and use them with caution. Don't hang your purse on the back of the chair or on the side. Don't leave your stuff without attention.
Be extra careful at touristic attractions, museums, public transportation, ATM machines, shopping malls and in crowds. Swindlers can often get close to you without becoming suspicious. Don't lose your guard, don't trust anyone, don't accept the help offered from strangers, check your surroundings, and try not to look like a tourist or looking lost, because if you do you will automatically become a target.
A very good idea is to wear a money belt underneath your clothes. It might be a waist or ankle belt or might be sewn extra hidden pocket right inside your clothes, jeans, bras and hide the majority of cash there, and keep a small amount of cash in your purse or pocket, which you can use for transportation or to buy drinks or food. Hidden pocket of course the Grandma's way, but might work perfectly. Also, you can split cash and credit cards between the family members or put them into different pockets of your clothes. In addition, good help to have a small wallet, because in the crowded spot you can just hold it in your hand inside your pocket. Good idea to have crossbody purse, because it will be not easy to snatch it from your shoulder.
Leave cash, jewelry and valuables in the safe in your hotel room. Take with you only what you need.
Order taxi carefully and from known sources. Do the research, read forums or reviews and what other people recommend. Try to find another safe way to get from A to B. Sometimes alternative way can be easier, better and cheaper and you don't have to take a taxi at all.
Many people go on vacations without travel insurance, but it can be a costly mistake. I would recommend you to buy travel insurance before your trip.
If you have benefits from a work, check if travel insurance is included in your work benefits, if not, find out the companies or brokers who sell them. In Canada most popular companies: Manulife, Blue Cross or Great-West Life. Don't purchase insurance from the banks, usually it is more expensive.
Call your credit cards. Sometimes when you book vacations and pay by credit card, they might offer some coverage as well. My master card includes coverage for lost or delayed luggage.
Also consider purchasing Trip cancellation and interruption insurance. Buying insurance together with tickets will be cheaper than separate.
And of course, read through all insurance agreements just to properly understand your coverage. There might be lots of tricks and traps too.
Hopefully, you will not use it, but I think it is good to have it. Just in case… It is a kind of peace of mind.
Traveling in Europe is an amazing opportunity, and it shouldn't be spoiled by pickpockets and scammers. As long as you are vigilant and careful, you will be perfectly safe.
Don't let anyone ruin your vacation!