Getting scammed it seems is a universal problem and one that no country or continent is safe from. Of course Europe is no different, and if you travel to any European country it’s crucial to be aware of scams and tricks as people attempt to dupe you out of your cash. Europeans have developed the art of scamming it seems and come up with some unique and effective techniques for getting each other’s cash. Here we will look at some of the most common tricks they try to pull so that you’ll be protected when you’re next travelling or when you next check your inbox and see an email from another country.
We’ve all encountered e-mails from princes and princesses who are on the run from their evil Fathers and who need our help in transferring the cash to England. For our trouble they offer us a princely 50% of the cash to keep or thereabouts and we get to feel warm and fuzzy knowing that we saved the life of a foreign dignitary.
Some of these are from Asia, but a great deal now are from Easter Europe which is quickly becoming the home of the online scam as well as hacking. If you get an e-mail in broken English asking you to give over your bank details then be smart and ignore it. Apply the golden rule: if it seems too good to be true then it probably is. (And the other golden rule – don’t give your details to anyone who contacts you rather than you contacting them).
Pay Day Loan Sites
This is an issue I’ve experienced myself and one that nearly lost me a lot of money. Pay day loans are essentially short-term loans with incredibly high interest rates that people take out with the intention of paying back within a few weeks. One of those pay day sites in the UK is called ‘Wonga’ and was recently featured on the program ‘Watchdog’ for failing to carry out security checks. The site allows you to put in anyone’s bank details for them to take their repayments out of, and this is something that scam artists take advantage of – in short by stealing card details and then ‘nominating’ victims to pay off the loans they take out. I lost £600 just before I went on holiday, but fortunately my bank was very helpful in getting the cash back. Still though, it was a nasty fright and it’s something that is still going on. The only way you can really protect yourself is to be careful who you give your card to, to check our account often and make sure you’re with a bank that will be eager to help you out.
In European countries just like the US it is a legal requirement to have car insurance in order to drive. This car insurance will then pay out the cost of repairs should you damage someone else’s vehicle, but a number of tricky Europeans have begun taking advantage of this. What they’ll do is to slam on their brakes right in front of you causing you to crash into the back of them. Damage to the back of a car is damning so you’ll be ‘to blame’ in the eyes of the law, and the scam artist will then rinse your insurance policy for as much cash as they can leaving you to pay a big excess and inflated insurance premiums. Renting a car when you’re out there can help with this as the damage will then be caused by the rental company’s insurance. Make sure though that even if it is your car, you don’t accept offers to settle the matter privately as you’ll find they try and get even more money out of you that way and that you won’t be protected by the law.
I know a friend who experienced this first hand while in Europe, but fortunately no money was lost that time. In this scam, the perpetrators somehow get hold of your personal details while you’re abroad and then call members of your family such as your grandparents to inform them that you’re being held by the local embassy or police and that they need to transfer lots of money to get you back. Of course many older relatives will have no way to verify whether what they’re saying is true, and in a fluster they’ll often hand over the details losing a lot of money while at the same time being horribly shaken by the prospect. In my friend’s case there was no information he was aware of online connecting him to his grandparents so don’t underestimate what they’re capable of. Fortunately in his case the grandparents simply rang him up – so make sure you provide your family with a way to contact you, and warn them about these kinds of scams.
In the UK PPI is ‘Payment Protection Insurance’ and this is something the banks recently got into trouble for miss selling. Basically banks were encouraging people to take out expensive insurance on their loans to make sure they’d be able to pay them back, but in many cases these insurance policies were neither comprehensive nor good deals and it was possible to get better elsewhere.
Thus the government clamped down and miss-selling PPI became known for the scam it was, but that has created a whole new problem as lots of companies will now text UK citizens out of the blue offering them PPI insurance and telling them they have the right to claim thousands of pounds. Again the rule is to ignore anything unless it was you who did the enquiring.
Everyone knows about pick pockets, and European cities are just as much a place to be careful as any crowded area. There are some particular tricks to be aware of here though, one of which is prostitutes in countries like Bulgaria. They will come up to you forcefully trying to sell you their services and might use the distraction as a chance to touch you around the groin- be careful though as this is often in fact a distraction and a ‘smokescreen’ that they use to get their hand around your wallet.
Pubs are another place to be careful in Europe and again pickpockets and general trouble makers are rife. What you might have missed though are the bartenders, who will often take advantage of the fact that you are a) tipsy and b) less familiar with the local currency by giving you the incorrect change. To avoid this problem, try to give the exact amount, or ask to pay by card.
While you’ll come across a lot of beggars in the built up areas of Europe, it’s the ones who are trying to peddle things that you need to be careful of. In particular watch out for gypsies selling heather, and people making ‘friendship bracelets’. Don’t let them put these items on you, because once they have they’ll then demand you pay and can get aggressive if you refuse. The same can go for many small markets, so try to use your judgement when assessing these characters and refuse to even touch anything unless you’re interested in buying/trust the person trying to sell it.
Likewise you should be careful of buying anything on the street. This goes for jewellery that people appear to find on the floor then offer to sell you (an old trick) or widescreen TVs that people just happen to have in their boot. If you’re travelling in particular then you won’t be able to easily take faulty or broken goods back, so it’s best to stick to buying from international stores or wait for the airport where you’ll get duty free.