Be skeptical of fake officials, selfie-taking tourists behind you at the ATM and Airbnb hosts demanding wire transfers, warns Rick Steves.
Europe is a surprisingly creative place when it comes to travel scams. Many of the most successful gambits require a naively trusting tourist, but seasoned travelers can be taken in, too. We should all be wary of the numerous subtle scams – a cabbie pads your fare, a hotel business-center computer records your password, or a waiter offers a special with a "special" increased price. But if you're cautious and not overly trusting, you should have no problem. Here are some of the latest travel scams I've discovered on my travels, and how to skirt them.
You're searching online for an apartment to rent in Paris and contact the owner Pierre through Airbnb. Suddenly you get a private email from Pierre saying he can give you a better deal on the side – avoiding the website commission. The price is right, and the location is fantastic, but Pierre wants you to wire the money directly to his bank account. "I've got others interested too, so you'd better do it quick," he writes. But once you wire the money, Pierre disappears along with the listing, and there's no way to get your money back.
Best defense: When booking accommodations, never wire money directly to a foreign bank account. Stick with a reputable, secure reservation website and use a credit card so you can dispute any fraudulent transactions.
In the heart of Barcelona you are about to use an ATM when another tourist stands on the sidewalk with a selfie stick and starts taking pictures. You don't think much about it as you withdraw your money and head into the Metro. Five minutes later, after being jostled in a crowded subway car, you find that your wallet is missing. When you frantically call your bank, you find out that someone with your PIN has already withdrawn hundreds of euros from a different ATM. It turns out the "tourist" with the selfie stick was actually taking a video as you entered your PIN on the ATM keypad. His accomplice then targeted you in the subway.