How to avoid common airport tourist scams

Travel 2019-4-29
How to avoid common airport tourist scams.jpg

Here are the top airport scams that could ruin your holiday and how to avoid them

As if travelling abroad wasn’t stressful enough, airport scams are happening to unsuspecting tourists all around the world every day, which is why we’ve put together this useful guide of the most common scams you might come across and how to avoid falling victim to them.

The staller

We all know how passing through security works - you empty your pockets, put your bags, shoes and valuables into a tray to be x-rayed, then step through the metal detector. After walking through you collect your stuff and go on your way…pretty simple right?

This mundane reality of airport life is what makes this scam so effective and so easy to fall for if you’re not paying attention.

How it works: The “staller” will be working with their partner who is in front of you both. The accomplice will pass through security as normal. As you put all valuables on the conveyor belt to be scanned, the staller who is directly in front of you will set off the alarm. It will take longer than usual for this person to pass through as they will keep emptying their pockets of jewellery, coins, keys, etc. and by the time it’s your turn, all your possessions will be long gone – picked up by their partner.

How to avoid: Don’t put any personal items on the conveyor belt until it’s your turn and there’s a clear path for you to pass straight through. If you’re unable to see your items after putting them through, alert a member of staff straight away.

The bump and grabber

This is probably one of the oldest tricks in the book but it’s still a firm favourite amongst pickpockets.

In highly populated areas, it’s hard to avoid other people or prevent being bumped into, but there are ways to ensure all your valuables are safe.

How it works: It’s as simple as it sounds – someone nearby will bump into you “accidentally”, apologise profusely and you’ll think nothing of it… until you discover your wallet or phone has gone.

How to avoid: Don’t keep all your valuables in one place, especially not somewhere that’s easily accessible. Invest in a traveller’s belt to so that you can stash your cash, phone and keys away from unwanted hands.

The currency scammer

Currency exchange desks in airports have a reputation for being a rip off, but some are a downright scam. Employees are known to use day and night rates, or just flat out not provide the correct money if you’re not paying close enough attention.

How it works: The cashier will take advantage if you’re not fluent in the language or are obviously unfamiliar with the currency. The most popular tricks are counting your currency so slowly that you lose interest.

How to avoid: Don’t wait until the last minute to buy your travel money. Go to your bank or a reputable bureaux de change. If you have time, you can get even better rates online and more bang for your buck.

The helper

After hours of travelling and tedious in-flight annoyances, every weary tourist would love to have someone carry their luggage out to the waiting taxi or hire car, but remember, nothing is free.

How it works: Someone - likely a friendly local - will approach you and offer to carry out your luggage. If you say yes, then your bags will held at ransom when you get to your car until you pay for their ‘help’.

How to avoid: Just say “no thank you” and walk away while making sure you keep a good grip on your bags, in case they try to grab them. Most will just leave you alone but if you do encounter one who is persistent, ensure you keep telling them “no” forcefully and eventually they will leave you alone.

The friendly conversationalist

This is one of the most common airport scams to be aware of, but it can also be one of the hardest to avoid, even if you are keeping a look out for it.

How it works: A “tourist” will come up to you and begin to engage you in conversation – either asking directions, advice or just general chit chat. While you are distracted, their partner will be rummaging through your belongings taking your mobile phone, wallet, passport and anything else of value they can get hold of.

How to avoid: Always keep an eye on all your possessions and have your valuables in less accessible places like inside pockets, travellers/money belt, etc. If you have a lot of bags, don’t stand in the middle of an empty place, try to have your back against a wall or close to manned desks with plenty of staff about.

If you have any of your own stories or advice you would like to share, let us know by either leaving a comment on Facebook or sending us a tweet - Our favourites will be added to this article.


Hitachi Hints and Tips is intended to be informative and interesting. It does not constitute financial advice, and you should always do further research when making any financial decisions. All information was correct at date of publication.
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