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yk Mar 30th, 2009 02:29 PM

Have you been Scammed while traveling in Europe? Share your stories.
There are scams everywhere, at home, on line, all over the world. Traveling to a foreign country, not speaking the language and/or knowing the local rules and customs can make one an easier target for unscrupulous people who want to take advantage of tourists. Do you have a SCAM story to share? Would you mind sharing it with us to serve as a warning for all of us?

Here are some scams I recall reading here:
~ Classic Gold Ring scam or other street card game scams
~ Beautiful lady at the Bar scam - targeting single male who is asked to buy the lady a couple of drinks, only to find out later that the bar charges are through the roof
~ Taxi scam - taken for a ride; or non-existent "surcharges"
~ Restauran scam - told by waiter that tip/service charge isn't included even though it is
~ Hotel bait-and-switch scam - Show up at hotel and told it's fully booked, and you have been assigned to a sister hotel which is at a less convenient location and less comfortable
~ Apartment rental scam - photos on rental website looks nothing like the actual apartment

P_M Mar 30th, 2009 03:19 PM

Just a couple of times but nothing major. About 15 years ago we were in London and we bought some theatre tickets from a kiosk in the mall and I paid with my credit card. But instead of processing the transaction as a sale, they ran it as a cash advance. I had no idea they had done this until I got home and got my bill. Of course I was charged the usual interest and cash advance fees. It wasn't the end of the world, but it did tick me off.

Also before I was a Fodorite I made a few credit card charges in Ireland where they converted the charge to US$. At the time I did not know this was Dynamic Currency Conversion, which of course is a rip-off.

These days I usually pay cash when traveling in Europe.

zeppole Mar 30th, 2009 03:28 PM

I'm not sure getting switched to a sister hotel is a scam.

I was stopped on the street in Madrid, outside the Prado, but a young man with a map asking for help with directions. His English was very poor, and when I tried to find out what language he did speak, I got very odd answers. We were soon accosted by a much older man who flashed a odd-looking badge, declared he was a policeman, and demanded to see everyone's passport. As I began explain that mine was at my hotel, I suddenly realized it was a scam. I ran.

zeppole Mar 30th, 2009 03:28 PM

Oh, and a taxi driver in Brussels switched off his meter than charged me twice the rate.

P_M Mar 30th, 2009 03:36 PM

zeppole, thanks for the reminder, a taxi driver in Athens did the same to me. I fell for it once, but after that whenever Athens cabbies tried to cheat me I threatened to take their cab number and go to the police. That's when they suddenly backed down and charged a fair rate.

nibblette Mar 30th, 2009 03:38 PM

We were a victim of a taxi scam. On one of our first trips overseas, we took a taxi from our hotel to the Plaka in Athens. We assumed he was using the meter. No! He tried to charge us an outrageous amount (can't remember exact #) but it was 10 times more than our last ride! We argued with the driver and threatened to call the police. We ended giving him slightly more than the previous fare.
Important lesson but it taught us to always check for the meter now. Yes, there have been others that tried the scam. And arguments that the meter is broken.

In Greece, same trip, a taxi took us to " a very special restaurant". It was very remote but he told us he would pick us up after. Well, after we checked the prices (outrageous of course), we tried to get him to get us. He did not answer! We walked 1/2 mile to a nearby town where we had lunch.

In Portugal, the driver charged us double for the luggage.

We also had waiters in Italy and France tell us that service was not included in the restaurant bills. We were more savvy and done our research and knew they were lying.

I have more stories, just have to think some.

How bout starting another thread about the kindness of strangers during travels? I have a lot of those stories too.

yk Mar 30th, 2009 03:42 PM

Great suggestion about taking down the taxi driver's # and reporting it to the Police! I would have NEVER thought of that! (Taxi scams are one of the reasons why I travel light and prefer to use public transportation.)

nibblette Mar 30th, 2009 03:43 PM

Just to show taxi scams are not unique to overseas, had a driver try to take me on a "tour" of Philly after picking me up from train station. My meeting was about 1 mile from the station. He didn't realize I knew Philly. I looked up from my notes to see he was trying to drive OUT of the city. I told him to turn around and gave him the exact directions on how to get to my meeting. And no, I did NOT leave a tip.

zeppole Mar 30th, 2009 03:48 PM

Athens is notorious for taxi overcharging.

I actually consider getting overcharged for a taxi fare one of the minor hazards of being a tourist, and suspect it's happened to me more than I know. (By the way, in Italy, the driver has a legal right to charge you extra for your luggage.) I don't like it, but it doesn't ruin a trip for me like, say, attempted robbery. Where I live in Italy, taxis are so expensive, legitimate metered rides have cost me more than the rip-off in Belgium. When I'm traveling, there are times when I would probably part with my life savings to a taxi driver, I'm just so tired.

P_M Mar 30th, 2009 03:56 PM

I agree w/nibblette that taxi scams are everywhere including the US. Like yk I prefer public transportation whenever possible. Since we don't have great public transport in the US I usually opt for shuttle vans.

P_M Mar 30th, 2009 03:59 PM

Let me clarify that--if I'm in an American city and I don't have a car, I often use shuttle vans for transport to/from the airport.

iris1745 Mar 30th, 2009 04:03 PM

Hi yk; How about scamming ourselves. The last time to Rome, we took the train from the airport. Walked outside where there were a number of taxi's and we hired one. As he was putting the luggage into the taxi, we asked him how much? 20euros. We both thought it was too much and so had him take the luggage back out. Before we knew it, all the taxi's were gone. Had to wait about 15 minutes to hail another. The cost to the hotel, 32euros. Dumb Then there was the time we boarded the Metro in Paris and it was packed. My wife had no place to hold onto, so I had one hand up high holding onto a pole and the other holding onto my wife. Just before the car started to move, five kids jumped on and before the doors closed, they jumped off. I had a difficult time finding that 1400FF in my pocket. Refused to believe I had my pocket picked. About $200US. We were with friends and after a while had fun with it, me being where the fun was being directed. Then the last time in Paris with our daughter and husband, he had his camera stolen on the Metro. That was tough, because he had taken a lot of pictures. iris1745/dick

farrermog Mar 30th, 2009 04:19 PM

If it's any comfort see my 'Thieves - they're everywhere' post on the Australia & the Pacific forum -

nibblette Mar 30th, 2009 04:25 PM

DCC scam in London. Checking out, I was presented with a CC receipt listing an amount in US$. I knew about the scam and asked the clerk to redo it in pounds. She said it was in pounds, the US$ amount is just listing what the equivalent would be. I pointed out that no GBP was listed at all. Then she claimed that it was automatic and she couldn't change it. I finally demanded her manager who canceled the original transaction and redid it in GBP.

Attempted robbery in Rome: bunch of kids surrounded us and put cardboard under my chin. The police saw them and chased them away.

nytraveler Mar 30th, 2009 05:13 PM

No - I've never been scammed in europe - in more than 70 trips. but then I'm from NYC.

Once Prague cab driver did try to scam us by going the long way around - but he lost. I paid what I knew the fare should be and when he protested told him to call the police. His language was quite colorful (although I don't understand Czech, his meaning was clear).

If you keep your wits about you (and aren't greedy in one sense or another) people can;t scam you.

zeppole Mar 30th, 2009 05:16 PM

I've met many new yorkers who didn't think they'd been scammed on their travels. They are some of the easiest marks just because they are so sure they can't be conned or scammed. Ignorance however is bliss.

yk Mar 30th, 2009 05:29 PM

I bet I have been scammed at least a few times without me realizing (esp if it was just for a euro or 2); plus I was pretty naive when I started traveling solo to Europe in my late teens.

The only scam I recall in recent years was taking the taxi in Paris. There were 4 of us with luggage. When we arrived at our hotel, the driver insisted that there is a surcharge for persons 3 & 4 (in reality, only the 4th person incurs a surcharge) PLUS surcharge for all the luggage (in reality, the first piece of luggage is free). So he ended up getting a few extra euros out of us. Since I had no idea what all the taxi rules were, I could not argue with him whether he was right or wrong.

During the same trip, we had our hotel call for a taxi for us to get to CDG on our departure day. It was during the October 07 transit worker strike, so we had no othe way of getting to CDG except calling for a taxi. I thought the driver was trying to scam us because the meter was already running when he showed up. But the truth is that he was NOT scamming us - as it was the rule that if you call for a taxi, the driver starts the meter from the moment he makes his way to you.

With such complicated taxi rules, it's impossible to know it all for every cities/towns we visit.

StCirq Mar 30th, 2009 05:48 PM

Nope, 120+ trips and never been scammed, to my knowledge. Of course, the greatest scammers scam you without your knowledge, so who knows? At any rate, I have enough language training to deal with most people in Europe in their native languages, and I think that helps enormously. I'm also frighteningly bold for a person who looks like a sweet, diminutive middle-aged lady. An ability to yell out in a taxi driver's native language "You'd better take the Avenue Bosquet, coz I'm not paying extra to go around the Ecole Militaire!" helps so much. Or to tell the rug merchant in Marrakesh "I wouldn't let my camel sleep on your ill-begotten carpet" is priceless and gets you many hundreds of dollars off the purchase eventually. Being on your toes and having spent a lifetime studying languages is major armor against being scammed.

nicbur Mar 30th, 2009 06:38 PM

StCirq: I want you on my next trip!

panecott Mar 30th, 2009 07:01 PM

I've never been scammed in a foreign country, but I have been scammed twice in NY, my home town - the mustard scam and the revolving door scam.
They got me both times.

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