By now you’re probably starting to plan your next adventure abroad. You’ve found where you want to stay, researched the many places you want to visit (particularly if you’re a backpacker), and what belongings you want to take. That being said, falling victim to common crimes and scams around Europe is definitely not something you want to have playing on your mind. Sadly, crimes against tourists are not uncommon in European countries with many not even being reported, and with an 80% increase in crime rates from 2013, there’s reason to be cautious.
In truth, as unfortunate as a lot of these crimes are, they can be prevented if you take reasonable steps to protect yourself. We want to help you stay secure, so we’ve put together some easy-to-follow advice to help you to avoid the most common scams tourists experience around Europe. Take a look to find out how often these crimes happen and how you can avoid being targeted.
If you’re planning to venture around Europe using public transport such as night trains or buses, it’s worthwhile being on guard when you’re travelling, as this is a prime opportunity for thieves to target tourists. Here, criminals can steal valuables by searching through your luggage while you’re sleeping or even take your luggage altogether.
To help prevent this, the best piece of equipment to bring with you is a padlock for your luggage. These can deter opportunistic thieves from attempting to steal your possessions from inside your bag. These are incredibly cost-effective as a security option, and they can be locked in a variety of different ways, including combination, PIN code or with a key. This makes them ideal for keeping laptops, cameras and other expensive pieces of technology safe during long-haul journeys.
Worryingly, this isn’t the only travel scam used by locals on tourists. Travellers should be wary of taxi drivers who overcharge them by taking longer routes. As a bit of advice, it’s best to research firms in advance, and book through a trusted taxi service in the area, which you can easily do through sites like TaxiFareFinder.
Street crime is one of the main forms in which tourists report falling prey to theft and pickpocketing. While this can happen in any European city, the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona is regarded as the pickpocket capital, with over 300 cases reported every day. With large crowds of people in the streets throughout the day in most major cities, thieves can easily get close to tourists unseen, and take valuables before you even notice. One of the most common forms of street crime is through distracting tourists to then quickly sneak into your pockets and take your phone and wallet.
There are a number of ways that thieves distract tourists in the streets, but the most common is “accidentally” bumping into you and grabbing your valuables. Another popular scam, according to Word Nomads, is by approaching you with a survey while an accomplice searches your bags. Creative we know, but the most tactful way of avoiding this kind of petty theft is through securing your valuables in a discreet bag such as a money belt; a small pouch that can be worn under clothing. And of course, remember to stay vigilant in busy crowds and when walking at night!
The majority of European hotels are welcoming and are more than happy to help travellers in any way they can. However, with a lot of tourists choosing to book hotels independently without a holiday package, some hotels will take advantage. As well as falling victim to hotel fraud, a common scam that’s been reported is hotel “staff” asking to check your room. Thieves posing as hotel staff will ask to inspect the room (usually at night, when a guest will be less likely to say no), and while one is talking to the guests, the other member will be searching through their belongings.
Ordinarily, hotel staff will only service your room while you are out – if staff ask to search your room, the best course of action is to ask them to wait outside the room for a moment. Close the door, and dial reception from the room phone, and verify that the inspection is genuine; if not, a member of staff can then contact the police and have the scammers removed from the hotel.
An unfortunate situation for anyone to experience, but one way to make sure you’re safe from hotel fraud is to book your holiday as part of a package so that you’re covered by a travel agency, as well as having travel insurance. If you’re travelling around Europe, it’s best to keep your holiday essentials in the hotel safe whenever you are not using them, even when you’re in the room. That way, only you have access to your belongings throughout your stay, even if thieves manage to enter the room.
Money and ATM Scams
Card cloning and giving counterfeit money as change is a particularly popular crime in places such as Hungary, as thieves take advantage of tourists who might not be familiar with a foreign currency. It’s scary to think that card cloning is incredibly easy to do as well, with readers available to purchase online and attachable to ATMs throughout any major city.
To avoid this from happening to you, make sure that you only take cash from trusted establishments like a bank, and use the machine or desks inside the building as these are less likely to have been tampered with. Try to minimise how often you use your card in shops and restaurants if you can, too. If you’re travelling to a country that doesn’t use the Euro as its currency, we recommend researching the appearance and value of each denomination, and the security marks on every note to prove authenticity of any cash you receive from locals.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of jetting off to a foreign country, but taking these security tips into account whilst travelling could save you a world of worry if anything goes wrong. Have you had any holiday mishaps when you’ve travelled abroad? Let us know by tweeting @TalkWithSafe.