Common Scams Targeting Tourists Everywhere

It's well known overseas tourists are easy prey for local tricksters and con artists around the world. Often times a naive tourist who is easily distracted and often confused around the local customs and ways in the country they are visiting easily stand out from the crowd to any experienced scammer.

There are just so many ways in which we can become the prey to these predators, including everything from taxi rorts to kidnapping. Many national travel alert websites provide current information about the types of scams to be wary of, and we should endeavor to educate ourselves before traveling overseas by visiting these websites.

Many of the most common scams we are likely to find ourselves victim to include credit card and ATM scams, or money changer scams where a traveler and his or her money are permanently separated. ATM fraud for example can occur after visiting an ATM fitted with a card skimming device.

Card-Skimming-Device-ATM An example of a card skimming device, fitted with a pinhole camera to record victim's PIN's.

Australia's Department Of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) warns travels of a number of recent reports in Bali and Jakarta, Indonesia of taxi drivers driving off without allowing passengers to remove their bags, only to return and force them to withdraw cash to secure the return of their possessions.

A representative of DFAT stated,

'Lone female travelers appear most vulnerable. You should only use official taxi companies that can be booked by phone or from stands at major hotels and from inside the airport. You should check taxis carefully as unscrupulous operators have vehicles that look similar to those run by reputable companies.'


A popular destination for Australians is Fiji, and while the nation sits relatively low on the list of places where scams are likely, visitors should remain vigilant. ATM and credit card fraud is the main threat for tourists visiting Fiji with card skimming devices reported being used on the islands. Tourists should take care not to expose their PIN and to monitor their transaction statements while overseas, and after returning home.


Generally considered as one of the safest countries in the world to holiday, tourists visiting Singapore have been known to fall victim to the 'outrage of modesty' scam. The country maintains a strict moral code including a range of modesty laws around the prohibitive use of inappropriate language or behavior, which can attract a heavy penalty including fines or imprisonment. A number of tourists to Singapore have reported falling victim to modesty scams by having been issued with 'fake fines' and the confiscation of passports, reports DFAT.


There a just so many types of scams in Thailand, including credit card and ATM fraud, jet-ski scams, investment and gem scams. Jet-ski scams can in particular represent a dangerous set of circumstances for the unwary tourist, as victims are ambushed after returning the jet-ski with the proprietor of the business claiming the jet-ski has been damaged. Tourists are pressured with the threat of violence to part with large sums of money in compensation for the 'damage'.

Often times gangs are armed with knives and threaten violence towards the tourist. DFAT said many Australian travelers have reported harassment and threats of violence by jet-ski operators on tourist beaches including; Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Tourists hiring any equipment, including jet-ski's or motor scooters should always take detailed photographs of jet-ski's or other equipment prior to using them. By producing this evidence at the time of the dispute, it may help to settle the matter quickly.


Money scams are big business in many countries, which can involve a vendor selling dodgy or fake products including hand bags, watches or even pre-paid tour packages. In Thailand, gem scams are extremely common especially in and around Bangkok. Always do your homework prior to committing to purchase any gems or high value products.


One of the biggest scams for tourists visiting China are the massage scams. According to DFAT, victims are usually approached and invited inside for a massage and teahouse service, or to a cafe or bar nearby for various reasons, including to 'practice English'.

Following the 'service', a victim is handed a massive bill and prevented from leaving until payment is made in full by credit card. DFAT warned physical violence, including serious assault and credit card skimming or payment duplication can occur during these scenarios.

A representative from the Departmant of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated:

'In Shanghai, male foreigners can be targeted on the Bund and around East Nanjing Road and People’s Square and occasionally Hongqiao by people offering ‘massages’. The foreigner is guided to a building and after the massage is provided, threatened and sometimes assaulted by a group of men connected with the establishment. Foreigners have been forced to pay large sums of money.'


Travelers in China should also remain vigilant when it comes to ATM fraud, including fake ATM's. The best advice when using an ATM in China is to only make withdrawals from ATM's located inside secure areas, such as a bank branch, and only make withdrawals during daylight hours.

What To Do When Falling Victim To A Scam

If you suspect you have become the victim of a scam in any country, you should immediately contact the local police and your Embassy or consulate, followed by your travel insurance provider.

Local police will often ask for proof of the scam in order for a travel insurance claim to be processed, so if possible take someone along with you when you pay a visit to the local police station to file a report. Taking out travel insurance before leaving home is a must these days, especially if you intend on visiting a 'high scam risk' country. Compare policies online and select the policy that best suits your unique circumstances.

Sandra Hawkins

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