European countries are considered like the safest countries in the world. While it is true that most European destinations do not present major risks, there is a risk that every country in the world is victim of: scam. While not dangerous for your health and safety, pickpockets can be a real pain for your wallet and personal items. Here are a few of the most common scam techniques used by European pickpockets, so that you can be prepared and save yourself of this frustrating situation.
1. Expensive junk
While not necessarily a literal robbery per se, many street vendors sell popular items for tourists on the streets at exorbitant prices. They do not always have a licence to do so and can be VERY insisting. The items can range from selfie sticks to souvenirs passing by umbrellas. Of course, if you are caught under pouring rain and would really use an umbrella, go ahead and buy one if you really feel the need. It will probably be cheaply made and cost you 10€, but if staying dry is worth the expense, it hurts your budget a little less. Other than in cases of emergency, I would suggest buying those items in less touristic areas store to save a few euros.
2. Not so magic tricks
Pickpockets can be surprisingly innovative and entertaining! It is not uncommon to see buskers or magicians performing on the streets. So, if you are being stopped while strolling down the streets to participate in a magic trick, you won’t be too surprised. Be careful though, many scammers hide behind street entertainers. While you are too distracted with the magic of the trick, often involving you staring at a specific object for a while or keeping your hands busy holding something, you are vulnerable for a robbery. Often the magician’s accomplice will take advantage of the situation and while you are not looking, take your wallet. It happened to a friend and I on a busy London street. Unfortunately for them, I was aware of this scam and while he asked my friend to manipulate a certain object and me to look at my friend’s hands, I was keeping my hand of my wallet and bag. I did not even keep my eyes on my friend’s hands because I wanted to make sure my friend’s wallet was safe too! I suggest that in a similar situation, you either refuse to participate or, if you don’t want to miss the chance to participate in a real magic trick, give your belongings to a friend for him or her to hold.
3. Spare some change?
There are beggars in most of European big cities. It is heartbreaking to see all those people that don’t have the same chances in life as others. The thing is many of them are scammers. They simulate a lifestyle or a situation where they look more pitiful than they usually are. It can either be a ‘’blind’’ person, a mother with her sick child (she might have borrowed the baby from someone, for all you know) or even a child alone on the streets. Those situations can trigger your emotional side and you are ready to open your wallet wide. Not only you are giving money directly and willingly into scammers’ pockets, you are also showing the whole world where your wallet is located and what is inside. Sometimes beggar’s accomplices are spying you from away to steal from you later. Even if it seems hard, I would suggest refusing with a polite no and a smile when being asked for change and never showing in the middle of busy city centres where you keep your cash. If you really want to donate money, keep loose change directly in your pockets, so that you don’t have to open your wallet.
4. Say Cheese!
It might be less of a problem in the selfies era we live in, but a classic scam in touristic attractions is the voluntary photographer. Picture this: you are admiring the Rome coliseum or the Eiffel tower with your family and friends. You have your expensive camera around your neck, ready to take beautiful shots, when a stranger offers to take a picture of your family in front of the attraction. You accept and while you are all preparing for a pose, you realise the stranger is gone… and your camera too! This is one is easy to avoid. Never accept when a stranger OFFERS to take a picture of your group. It might be just a friendly local, but the odds are he is possibly a pickpocket. Of course, if you need to have your picture taken, YOU can ask someone to do it. Chances that he or she was a pickpocket waiting for this opportunity are lower than if he or she offered.
5. Scam cab
I can never relax when I am taking a taxi abroad, because I try to stay alert to notice if a possible scam is occurring. Most travellers will take a least one taxi ride during their trip. Therefore, it is one of the most popular way to steal a few euros from clueless tourists. There are many ways to scam cab riders. For example, the driver can sneakily take a longer route to add a few numbers on the meter or he can tell the rider that the meter is broken and asks for an expensive amount arriving at the destination. Before taking a taxi, I would suggest asking a local or checking on the web to know approximately how much your ride should cost. In any situation, you will be ready to say something if you see the meter not matching the approximation. Remember to check what the legitimate taxi companies’ logos should look like before arriving. Many fake taxis companies wait for tourists at airports and are not licenced to provide the service.
Hopefully those tips will make your departure to the beautiful destinations of Europe a little less stressful! Remember to always stay vigilant AND enjoy every minute of your trip. Fun and safety can go well together. Wishing you happy and safe travels!