Unveiling the 20 Most Common Travel Scams to Avoid in 2024

By Freya Tilly

Unveiling the 20 Most Common Travel Scams to Avoid in 2024

By Freya Tilly

Embarking on an adventure around the globe is an exciting prospect! But the potential for travel scams looms in the background. When thinking about how to plan your trip, you should consider safety and security. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into common travel scams to avoid, offering valuable insights and practical tips to safeguard your adventures.

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1. Pickpocketing in Tourist Hotspots

Pickpocketing is a common issue in many tourist hotspots. Scammers often work in crowded areas, taking advantage of distracted tourists to snatch wallets, passports, and other valuables. 

Avoid pickpocketing scams by staying focused on your surroundings, especially in crowded areas. Consider using secure backpacks or money belts that are more difficult for pickpockets to access.

Tips to Avoid Pickpocketing Scams

  • Use Anti-Theft Bags: Invest in a quality anti-theft backpack or money belt to keep your belongings secure.
  • Stay Alert in Crowded Places: Be extra cautious in crowded attractions, public transportation, and markets.

2. The Overpriced Taxi Ride

One of the oldest tricks in the book is the overpriced taxi ride. Unscrupulous, unlicensed drivers often target tourists at airports and popular tourist destinations, exploiting them with inflated flat-rate fees. Scammers may also employ tactics like meter manipulation, suggesting alternate destinations, or falsely claiming your chosen accommodation is closed. To counter these, always insist on using the meter, verify your destination on a map app, and seek advice from hotel staff regarding expected fares.

Tips to Avoid Overpriced Taxi Scams

  • Research Standard Fares: Before arriving at your destination, research the standard taxi fares to get an idea of what to expect. This knowledge will empower you to negotiate more confidently.
  • Use Official Taxi Services: Whenever possible, use official taxi services from designated taxi ranks or reputable companies. These services often have regulated fares and are more reliable.
  • Ask Locals for Advice: If in doubt about the appropriate fare, ask locals or check with your accommodation for advice on reasonable pricing. Locals are usually the best source of information.
  • Agree on Fare in Advance: Clarify the fare with the driver before starting the journey, and ensure that it includes any additional charges. This can help prevent disputes at the end of the ride.

3. Free Tuk-Tuk Tours & Free Taxi Tours

Beware of seemingly friendly tuk-tuk or taxi drivers offering cheap tours, as they might take you to commission-based shops, resulting in overcharging or selling substandard goods. Caution is advised when approached by seemingly friendly drivers offering to show you around town for free.

Unfortunately, some of these tours may turn into unwanted detours, leading unsuspecting travelers to commissioned shops. This not only wastes time but also diverts from the originally intended destination.

Tips to Avoid Free Tour Scams

  • Confirm the Route: Before embarking on a tuk-tuk tour, confirm the route with the driver. Establish clear expectations about the places you want to visit.
  • Set Expectations Upfront: Clearly communicate your preferences and intended destinations before the tour begins to avoid unexpected diversions.
  • Choose Reputable Drivers: Opt for tuk-tuk drivers with positive reviews or those recommended by trustworthy sources. Reputable drivers are less likely to engage in commission-based schemes.
  • Be Skeptical of “Free” Offers: Nothing is free! Exercise caution if a driver promotes a “free” tour, as this might be a strategy to lure tourists into commission-driven shops. You may also be asked to tip the driver for the “free” tour.

4. Beware of Fake Tickets and Tours

Purchasing tickets or tour packages from unofficial sources can lead to disappointment and financial loss. Always buy tickets from authorized sellers, and double-check the legitimacy of tour operators before handing over any money. Reading reviews and seeking recommendations from fellow travellers can be invaluable.

Tips to Avoid Fake Ticket Scams

  • Verify Ticket Sources: Purchase tickets only from authorized sellers or official websites.
  • Research Tour Operators: Before booking any tours, research the reputation of the tour operator. Look for reviews and recommendations from other travellers.

5. Fake Policemen and Authorities

Some scam artists pose as policemen or other authorities, claiming you’ve committed an offence and demanding on-the-spot fines. Before paying anything, insist on verifying their identity by calling the local police station. Genuine law enforcement officers will have no issue with this. Protect yourself by confirming their legitimacy before complying with any demands.

Tips to Avoid Fake Police Scams

  • Verify Identity: Ask for identification and insist on verifying their identity by contacting the local police station.
  • Be Wary of On-the-Spot Fines: Genuine authorities typically issue fines through official channels rather than demanding immediate cash payments.

6. Free Wi-Fi Scams

Free public Wi-Fi is a tempting offer, but it can also be a hotspot for cybercriminals. Avoid accessing sensitive information or making online transactions when connected to public networks. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for an extra layer of security.

Tips to Avoid Wi-Fi Scams

  • Use VPNs: Consider using a VPN to encrypt your internet connection and protect your data.
  • Use Mobile Data: Instead of connecting to potentially unsafe public Wi-Fi networks, stay connected with a secure travel SIM card (we suggest an eSIM from Airalo).
  • Avoid Sensitive Transactions: Refrain from accessing sensitive information, such as online banking, when connected to public Wi-Fi.

7. The Overbooked Hotel

In the hotel overbooking scam, taxi drivers take advantage of unsuspecting travelers by falsely claiming that their booked accommodation is overbooked or closed. Upon arrival, the driver informs the guest that their chosen hotel is not available. This could be accompanied by a variety of plausible-sounding reasons such as renovations, unforeseen circumstances, or sudden closures. Seizing the opportunity, the driver then redirects the traveler to an alternative hotel, often claiming it to be comparable or even superior, but at a higher cost.

Tips to Avoid the Overbooked Hotel Scam

  • Confirm Reservations Directly: Prior to your trip, confirm your hotel reservations directly with the hotel through their official website or contact information. This minimizes the risk of misinformation.
  • Be Skeptical of Last-Minute Changes: Exercise caution if the driver informs you of unexpected changes at the last minute. Scammers often use urgency to pressure travelers into accepting alternative accommodations without proper verification.
  • Insist on Original Destination: If faced with claims of overbooking, insist on reaching your original destination and do not be coerced into alternative locations.
  • Utilize Smartphones: Use smartphones with navigation apps to guide drivers and ensure a secure journey.

8. Unauthorised Accommodation Deals

Booking accommodation through unofficial websites or accepting deals from individuals on the street can lead to scams. For example, the hotel may not be as advertised or may not exist at all! Stick to reputable booking platforms and verify the legitimacy of any offers by contacting the accommodation directly.

Tips to Avoid Unauthorised Accommodation Scams

  • Use Trusted Booking Platforms: Stick to well-known and trusted accommodation booking platforms to ensure the legitimacy of your reservations.
  • Verify Offers: If someone approaches you with a seemingly attractive accommodation offer, verify its authenticity by contacting the accommodation directly.

9. ATM Card Skimming

he ATM card skimming scam is a sophisticated method employed by fraudsters to capture sensitive information from the magnetic stripe of ATM or credit/debit cards. Criminals attach skimming devices to ATM machines, which are designed to inconspicuously record the data from the magnetic stripe when a card is inserted for a legitimate transaction. 

Additionally, hidden cameras or pinhole cameras may be installed to capture the victim’s PIN as they enter it on the keypad. With the stolen data, scammers can create duplicate cards or make unauthorized online transactions, resulting in financial losses for the unsuspecting cardholder.

Tips to Avoid Card Skimming Scams

  • Inspect the ATM: Before using an ATM, check for any unusual devices attached to the card reader and keypad.
  • Choose Secure Locations: Use ATMs in well-lit, secure locations, such as bank branches, to reduce the risk of skimming.
  • Cover the Keypad: Shield the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN to prevent hidden cameras from capturing your personal information.
  • Regularly Check Bank Statements: Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unauthorized transactions. Report any suspicious activity to your bank immediately.
Sketchy ATM - Travel Scams to Avoid

10. Street Games and Betting Scams

Street games and betting scams are common tactics used by fraudsters to exploit unsuspecting tourists. These scams often involve seemingly friendly locals inviting travelers to participate in games or bets with the promise of easy winnings. However, the games are rigged, and the scammers employ sleight of hand or manipulation to ensure the tourist loses money. 

Classic examples include shell games, card games, or games involving hidden items. Street performers may encourage bystanders to bet on the outcome, but the entire setup is designed to trick participants into losing their money. Keep in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Tips to Avoid Street Game and Betting Scams

  • Exercise Caution: Be wary of unsolicited invitations to participate in street games or bets, especially if large sums of money are involved.
  • Trust Your Instincts: If a situation feels suspicious or too good to be true, trust your instincts and walk away.
  • Educate Yourself: Learn about common street games and betting scams prevalent in the area you’re visiting. Awareness of the tactics used can help you steer clear of such situations.
  • Keep Valuables Secure: Scammers may attempt to distract participants during the game, providing an opportunity for accomplices to pickpocket. Keep your valuables secure and be cautious of your surroundings.

11. Currency Exchange Scams

In popular tourist destinations, currency exchange scams are not uncommon. Unscrupulous individuals may offer seemingly favorable rates, only to shortchange you or employ sleight of hand to trick you out of your money.

Tips to Avoid Currency Exchange Scams

  • Use Official Exchange Services: Stick to official currency exchange services, such as banks or authorized exchange offices, to ensure fair rates.
  • Count Your Money: Always count your money in front of the exchange agent before leaving to avoid disputes.

12. The Wrong Change Scam

In regions where currency bills may look similar, scammers may attempt to give incorrect change to travelers. The hope is that the traveler won’t notice the switch, leading to an additional profit for the scammer.

Tips to Avoid Wrong Change Scams

  • Count Carefully: Count your change carefully after any transaction, especially when dealing with larger bills.
  • Know the Currency Denominations: Familiarize yourself with the local currency and pay attention to the denominations.
  • Pay with Card Where Possible: Be cautious with cash payments and announce payment amounts to avoid incorrect change.

13. Fake Souvenirs and Goods

When shopping for souvenirs, be wary of counterfeit products and fake goods. Some sellers may try to pass off low-quality items as authentic, leaving you with subpar souvenirs and an empty wallet.

Tips to Avoid Fake Souvenirs

  • Buy from Reputable Shops: Purchase souvenirs from reputable shops and markets known for selling authentic products.
  • Check for Authenticity: Be cautious when a deal seems too good, and carefully inspect the quality and authenticity of the items you’re purchasing.

14. The Switcheroo Scam

The switcheroo scam is a deceptive tactic employed by scammers to trick tourists during transactions. In this scam, a vendor or seller may present an item to the buyer, typically a high-value or desirable product. However, during the exchange, the scammer swiftly swaps the genuine item with a counterfeit or inferior version. This switch often goes unnoticed by the victim until they inspect the purchased item more closely or later realize the deception.

Tips to Avoid the Switcheroo Scam

  • Inspect Items Thoroughly: Before finalizing any purchase, carefully inspect the item you are buying. Check for authenticity, quality, and any signs of damage or tampering.
  • Be Mindful of Distractions: Scammers may use distractions or engage in friendly conversation during the transaction to divert your attention. Stay focused on the exchange itself.
  • Clarify Details Beforehand: Clearly communicate and confirm details such as the product’s condition, specifications, and any accompanying accessories before making the payment.
  • Document the Transaction: If possible, document the transaction by taking photos or videos of the item and the exchange process. This documentation can serve as evidence in case a dispute arises.
  • Use Reputable Sellers: Whenever possible, make purchases from reputable and established sellers or stores. Research the reputation of the seller and read reviews from other customers.

15. Carry My Bag Scam

In this scam, a seemingly friendly local may approach you, requesting assistance with carrying their bag or luggage. While you’re distracted by the act of helping, an accomplice could attempt to pickpocket you or steal your belongings. To avoid falling victim to this scam, politely decline offers to carry someone else’s bag, especially from strangers, and stay focused on securing your own belongings.

This scam highlights the importance of being cautious when approached by strangers seeking assistance, as it could be a tactic to divert your attention and create an opportunity for theft. Travelers are advised to prioritize their own security and belongings, especially in unfamiliar environments.

Tips to Avoid the Carry My Bag Scam

  • Politely decline offers to carry someone else’s bag, especially from strangers.
  • Stay focused on securing your own belongings and remain vigilant in crowded areas

16. Motorcycle or Jet Ski Rentals Scam

When renting motorcycles or jet skis, travelers may encounter scams where rental operators demand substantial sums or retain passports as collateral until damage payments are made. Some operators may exaggerate damages or claim pre-existing issues. 

To safeguard against these scams, it’s essential to conduct thorough research, read online reviews of local rental services, inspect the vehicle or equipment meticulously, document any pre-existing damage with photos or videos, and verify insurance coverage for recreational vehicles, especially if unlicensed in the destination.

Tips to Avoid Rental Scams

  • Thorough Research: Before renting a motorcycle or jet ski, conduct thorough research on local rental services. Read online reviews from other travelers to gauge the reputation and reliability of the rental operators.
  • Vehicle Inspection: Meticulously inspect the rented vehicle or equipment before accepting it. Document any pre-existing damage with photos or videos, ensuring clarity on the condition.
  • Verify Insurance Coverage: Check whether your travel insurance provides coverage for recreational vehicle rentals. Ensure that the insurance adequately protects against potential damages or disputes.
  • Deal with Licensed Operators: Opt for rental services operated by licensed and reputable providers. Authorized operators are more likely to adhere to fair practices and prioritize customer satisfaction.
  • Clarify Rental Terms: Before finalizing the rental, clarify the terms and conditions, including the rental duration, usage guidelines, and the process for addressing damages. Having a clear understanding of the agreement can prevent misunderstandings.
Motorbike Travel - Travel Scams to Avoid

17. Free Friendship Bracelet Scam

This scam involves friendly individuals offering free items such as friendship bracelets, only to later demand money or use aggressive tactics for payment. Travellers should be cautious when approached with unsolicited items and politely decline to avoid potential theft or confrontations. 

It’s crucial to stay vigilant and not accept items from strangers, especially in touristy areas where scammers may exploit aggressive sales tactics. Declining these offers helps travelers sidestep potential scams and maintain personal security during their journeys.

Tips to Avoid Free Bracelet Scams

  • Decline Unsolicited Items: Politely decline any unsolicited items offered by strangers, especially in busy tourist locations. Be cautious about accepting gifts, even seemingly harmless ones.
  • Avoid Engagement: Refrain from engaging in conversation or negotiations with individuals insisting on payment for items you did not agree to purchase. Keep walking to distance yourself from the situation.
  • Maintain Personal Security: Be mindful of your personal belongings and maintain situational awareness. Scammers may use distraction tactics or the offer of free items to create opportunities for theft or pickpocketing.
  • Say No Firmly: If approached by someone offering a free friendship bracelet, say no firmly and continue walking. Avoid prolonged interactions to minimize the chances of being drawn into a scam.

18. The Attraction You’re Going to is ‘Closed’ Scam

Description: Scammers may approach tourists claiming that the planned attraction is closed and redirect them to an alternative location. This tactic is designed to lead travelers away from their intended destination.

Avoidance Tips:

  • Verify the information about the attraction through reliable sources before altering your plans.
  • Exercise caution when confronted with claims of closures and consult official sources or maps.
  • Avoid falling for last-minute redirections and prioritize your original travel itinerary.

19. Juice Jacking (Public Charging Risks)

Juice Jacking is a cybersecurity threat that occurs when travelers use public charging stations to charge their electronic devices. Malicious actors tamper with these charging ports, typically USB ports, to install malware on users’ smartphones or other devices. By connecting their devices to compromised charging stations, unsuspecting users unknowingly expose their devices to potential data theft and unauthorized access. This type of attack can lead to the compromise of sensitive information, including personal data, login credentials, and financial details.

Tips to Avoid Public Charging Risks

  • Use AC Outlets: Whenever possible, opt for electrical outlets instead of USB ports for charging your devices. AC outlets are less susceptible to tampering and offer a more secure charging option.
  • Carry Personal Cables: Bring your own charging cables to minimize the need to use public charging stations. This ensures that you are connecting only to your personal charger, reducing the risk of data compromise.
  • Use External Batteries: Carry an external battery or power bank to charge your devices on the go. This eliminates the need to rely on public charging stations and reduces the risk of falling victim to Juice Jacking.
  • Disable Data Transfer: Adjust your device settings to disable data transfer when connected to a charging source. This adds an extra layer of protection against unauthorized access or data theft through compromised charging stations.

20. The Drug Deal Gone Bad Scam


The “Drug Deal Gone Bad” scam involves scammers attempting to involve unsuspecting travelers in a fake drug deal. In this scenario, scammers approach tourists, often in busy or touristy areas, and present an opportunity to witness or participate in what appears to be an illicit drug transaction. 

As the deal progresses, law enforcement, who are actually accomplices of the scammers, intervene, creating a sense of urgency and danger. The intention is to create a situation where the traveler is coerced into paying bribes to avoid legal troubles.

Tips to Avoid Drug Deal Scams

  • Avoid Illicit Activities: Steer clear of any invitation or involvement in activities that appear illegal or questionable, especially related to drugs. Legitimate law enforcement would not involve tourists in such scenarios.
  • Stay in Public Areas: Be cautious in public spaces and avoid secluded or isolated locations where scammers might try to carry out this type of scam. Busy and well-lit areas are generally safer.
  • Verify Law Enforcement: If approached by individuals claiming to be law enforcement officers, ask for official identification and verify their credentials. Legitimate officers should readily provide identification and be open to verification.
  • Refuse Involvement: Politely but firmly decline any offers or invitations to witness or participate in suspicious activities. Express disinterest and remove yourself from the situation immediately.


Navigating the intricate landscape of travel scams demands a combination of awareness, preparedness, and proactive measures. The scams discussed, from taxi overcharging to deceptive tour guides, underscores the importance of staying well-informed about common tactics employed by scammers. Trusting your instincts, verifying information through reliable sources, and exercising caution in unfamiliar environments are vital practices for safeguarding your travel experience. As scams can evolve, remaining current on the latest tactics and being adaptable enhance your ability to outsmart potential scammers. Ultimately, a well-informed traveler equipped with knowledge and a vigilant mindset stands resilient against the challenges posed by travel scams, ensuring that the journey remains a safe and enjoyable adventure.


What are the 4 most common travel scams?

The 4 most common travel scams include taxi overcharging, hotel overbooking deception, pickpocketing in crowded areas, and unauthorised tour guides leading to commission-based schemes.

How do I avoid travel scams?

Avoid travel scams by staying informed about common scams, trusting your instincts, and being cautious of unsolicited offers or invitations. Researching local scams before traveling and using reputable services enhance your scam awareness.

How do I protect myself from travel scams?

Protect yourself from travel scams by exclusively using licensed services, securing valuables in crowded areas, and verifying information from official sources. Vigilance, awareness, and adhering to protection measures reduce the risk of falling victim to scams.

How do tourist scams work?

Tourist scams often involve creating diversions or exploiting travellers’ unfamiliarity with the surroundings. Common tactics include overcharging, distraction through spills or offers, and directing tourists to commission-based shops.

What are the latest travel scams 2024?

Stay updated on the latest travel scams in 2024 by checking travel advisories, forums, and official sources. Scams can evolve, so being aware of current tactics helps you stay one step ahead.

Can a travel scammer access my bank account?

While travel scammers may attempt identity theft, accessing your bank account directly is less common. However, protect your personal information, avoid sharing sensitive details, and monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity.

How do you know if a travel agent is scamming you?

Signs of a scamming travel agent include pressure tactics, high upfront fees, vague itineraries, and unverifiable credentials. Research agents, read reviews, and use reputable agencies to ensure legitimacy.

How do I know if a travel site is legit?

Legitimate travel sites have secure payment options, transparent terms, and verifiable contact information. Look for customer reviews, check for SSL encryption, and use recognised booking platforms for assurance.

Where do most travel scams take place?

Travel scams can occur anywhere, but they are more prevalent in crowded tourist areas, transportation hubs, and destinations with a high influx of visitors. Stay vigilant in popular tourist spots to avoid falling victim to scams.

What to do if you get scammed while traveling?

If you get scammed while traveling, report the incident to local law enforcement, secure a police report, and inform your travel insurance provider. For financial scams, contact your bank and relevant authorities promptly.

Should I exchange money with street vendors offering better rates?

Stick to reputable currency exchange shops and avoid street vendors promising unrealistically favourable rates.

How can I shield myself from internet scams during my travels?

Exercise caution with unsolicited emails, maintain a secure password, avoid public computers, and stay in regular contact with family and friends. Never disclose personal or banking details to unknown individuals.

How can I protect myself from pickpockets while traveling?

Prioritize secure storage options like money belts, distribute essential documents, and stay vigilant in crowded areas. Avoid keeping valuables in easily accessible pockets.

Photo of author
Written By Freya Tilly

Freya is a travel writer from the UK. She loves discovering unique destinations, exploring old towns and hiking through beautiful natural landscapes.

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