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One in 10 fall for a tourist scam: check these common scams before you travel

We asked our Which? members to share their experiences of scams abroad to help you avoid disaster on holiday

One in 10 people have fallen victim to a tourist scam while on holiday and 51% of those people lost money as a result, new research from Which? shows.

We asked 1,322 of our Which? members to tell us about any scams they fell for, or noticed, while they were on holiday and found one in 10 had fallen victim at some point in their lives.

And of those who were tricked by a tourist scam, 51% lost money as a result.

The majority lost between £10 and £50, but an unlucky 9% of people who lost money parted with £500 or more.

We reveal some of the most common tourist scams operating across the globe and share an interactive map you can use to find out which scams to avoid before you travel.

Common tourist scams in Europe, North America and South America

If you’re off to Buenos Aires and a bird poos on you, keep your wits about you as someone could be using this as a distraction to take your bags.

And if you’re headed to Cologne on holiday and go to a department store, watch out for shopping ‘assistants’ who either look out of place or get too close to you – they might not actually work there and nick your wallet.

Some of the most commonly reported scams involved the scammer distracting their victims, often with fake bird poo, a crowd of children or a commotion, to pickpocket them or run off with their bags.

Others involved someone giving tourists roses, henna tattoos or charm bracelets ‘for free’ only to be followed around and demand payment for the gifts.

Outside Gare du Nord in Paris, France

One person reported a ticket scam in Paris: ‘At Gare Du Nord I was scammed by a man posing as station assistant. He had a bogus badge and advised us to buy bulk metro tickets.

‘He took our money but they were only valid for one journey.’

Someone else was harassed in Barbados: ‘A man put a bracelet on one of our children before we could stop him.

‘He then demanded money and started to get aggressive when we said we didn’t want it. Very frustrating. We gave him money to shut him up and make him go away. Horrible.’

Another person reported a scam at a café in Pisa where a waiter brought out the cheque twice – the first time to see where they pulled their wallet from and the second to distract them as they pick-pocketed the wallet.

It can be distressing if your credit or debit card is stolen has been used to purchase goods.

You have rights to get your money back if your card has been lost or stolen, but you must act promptly.

Busy crowd in a buzzing city

Map of reported tourist scams worldwide

We asked more than 1,000 of our members about their experiences with scams on holiday and found one in 10 had fallen victim to a scam at some point in their lives.

Our research found tourist scams operating across the world, including in Europe, North America, South America, North Africa, South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia.

Click on the alerts in each location to see the tourist scam that’s been reported.

Timeshare traps

A lot of people also reported getting trapped in timeshare sales pitches after ‘winning’ something in a tourist questionnaire, with some resorting to threatening to call the police before being allowed to leave.

Timeshare scams often work by offering ‘free’ holidays to entice people into attending a seminar where they later get pressured into committing to a dodgy timeshare deal.

Read our guidance on timeshares and high-pressure sales tactics for more information.

How to spot a holiday scam

Being scammed on holiday, even if it is for just a few euros, can ruin your day.

Stay vigilant, keep your possessions secure and trust your gut instinct if something doesn’t seem right.

If you’re about to go on holiday, there are a few red flags to watch out for when booking – including if something looks too good to be true.

Make sure you know how to spot a holiday scam before you travel.

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