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Fake friends, card cloning and dented rentals – SureSave identifies common European travel scams

May 28, 2014 Corporate No Comments Email Email

As Australian travellers start to head overseas for their European summer holidays, SureSave, a leading travel insurance provider for travel agents, has weighed in on some of the most creative travel scams affecting travellers in Europe.

Michael Callaghan, Executive General Manager at SureSave, explains that while Europe is a very safe place, there are some fairly commonplace scams which can catch travellers out.

“It’s very difficult to determine exactly how many people are victims of scams as many go unreported, but scammers are relatively common across all of Europe. There are scams that show up time and time again, including pickpocketing, card skimming, and various confidence tricks. It pays to be informed, aware and to be watchful at all times,” says Callaghan.

Callaghan says that Europe is SureSave’s leading region for luggage and personal effects claims.

“Travellers can reduce their likelihood of being targeted by scammers or thieves by questioning inappropriate actions or advances, blending in with the locals, and keeping their belongings out of sight and closely guarded,” says Callaghan.

Callaghan says travellers should trust their instincts, and if something doesn’t feel right or seems too good to be true, it probably is.

While scammers usually target cash, some can target luggage and personal effects. According to SureSave statistics, wallets, smartphones, cameras, laptops and tablets are the most commonly stolen items. Passports are also increasingly attractive to thieves.


  • All tied up: There are so many variations of this scam that it’s almost impossible to go through them all. Typically, someone will approach you and place something on you. This could be as innocuous as tying a piece of string around your wrist, putting a flower in your pocket or placing a trinket in your hand.  The person will then demand payment for the object, in some cases very aggressively.
  • Taken for a ride: A traveller rents a car, ATV, jet-ski or motorcycle from a local business and presents their credit card details or passport as security. After they return their rental, they discover a mysterious scratch or dent on the vehicle that appears as if by magic, with the company then demanding payment or charging their credit card without permission. Make sure you find out where the reputable rental companies can be found and always take photos of your rental before you head off.
  • Paying attention: Pickpocketing and petty theft is a common occurrence across Europe, however unlike some other scams there are several ways travellers can protect themselves. Pickpockets and other thieves almost never work alone – typically, one distracts you while the other rifles through your bag. Any overt attempt to grab your attention might also be an attempt to grab your wallet, so keep especially vigilant when in crowds, on public transport or near groups of beggars with children. As an example, a traveller could be seated at a café, when a ‘lost traveller’ approaches and places a map over their belongings on the table. While they ask for directions, the lost traveller proceeds to slide the victim’s wallet or phone off the table top from under the map.
  • Talk isn’t cheap: There are several variations on this scam, but typically it involves travellers being approached by an overly talkative, insistent stranger. The stranger gets the traveller talking and invites them to a shop, bar or eatery of the stranger’s choosing – a nice gesture by all means. But in reality, it’s just a ploy to get travellers to buy their overpriced stuff. Or they could simply demand payment for showing travellers around.
  • Credit card con: Credit and debit card fraud is becoming very prevalent in Europe as syndicates develop more and more sophisticated technology. It is reported that this crime is commonly committed by waiters and shopkeepers, however skimming devices that are physically attached to ATMs are also on the rise. Travellers should make sure their credit card is always in sight and always closely scrutinise all ATMs for attachments.

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