12 Most Common Tourist Scams in Germany

Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Dresden, Cologne, Frankfurt, Rothenburg, Berchtesdagen, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Nuremburg, Hannover, Leipzig, Bremen, Essen, Dortmund, Bonn, Wiesbaden, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Freiburg, Aachen, Mainz, Augsburg

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Admired globally for its economic prowess, precision engineering capabilities and world class efficiency, Germany is also a fascinating place to visit. As the largest country in central Europe, Germany has inspired Europe’s historical influences, cuisine and architecture, and it is also one of the most modern and safest country on the continent.

That being said however, there are still a couple of things and petty crime to watch out for, and it always pays to be careful. Read on to learn more!

 

A. TOURIST SPOTS/ACTIVITIES

1. Pickpocketing

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Petty crime in Europe is almost synonymous with pickpocketing. As one of the central countries in Europe, you are bound to find many pickpockets here, but not as many as in Spain or the Netherlands. Check out the links for a variety of creative techniques these criminals can use.

A slightly “unique” one spotted in Germany is the drunk pickpocket. He/she comes over to say hi, embraces you warmly, all the while with a stray hand trying to find valuables (e.g. necklace, wallets, etc) he can nick off you.

The usual spots in Germany are the crowded public transport (train stations, on the train/bus), especially those nearby tourist locations (e.g. – Berlin: Alexanderplatz, Kreuzberg; Munich: Hasenbergal; Hamburg: Munckebergstrasse; Frankfurt train stations).

Rule of thumb:

If you want to avoid becoming a victim, stay alert especially in busy places and keep your cash safe and secure. Only carry small amounts of cash around with you. Avoid carrying the purse or wallet in the back pocket. Also, use a spare walletmoney belt or anti-theft bag to further protect yourself from pickpockets.

Further, keep most of your valuables and passport in the hotel safe. Carry around a photocopy of your passport instead. Also, consider using hotel safety tools such as a hotel safe lock or door jammer to further strengthen the security of your hotel room.

 

2. The Berlin Pass

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Not technically a scam per se, but one to watch out for as a tourist trap by a British company.

There have been many reports of issues with ticket collections. Also, most users end up spending more than they would save from using it.

Rule of thumb:

Depending on your schedule, other tourist schemes might be more value for money.

 

B. TRANSPORTATION

1. Scammers selling already validated train tickets

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The German train system works similar to several other European countries. Before boarding the train, you have to validate it by stamping it in a machine on the platform. For those new to the country, they might not be able to recognize the “stamp”. Thus, scammers exploit this by selling already validated tickets.

Using a validated ticket (which is usually sold cheaper than the original price) puts you at risk of paying a much bigger fine if caught and so is not worth the risk.

Rule of thumb:

Just buy your train tickets from the official counter.

 

2. Fake train ticket inspectors

In Germany, train ticket inspectors can either be in uniform or in plainsclothes. However, fake inspectors have fake badges as well, so you can’t differentiate a real from a fake based on these alone.

The only way to tell a fake is if the inspector demands that you pay on the spot. A real inspector can allow you to pay later by printing out a notice for you.

Rule of thumb:

A fake inspector will claim that your legit ticket is invalid and demand that a fine be paid on the spot. On the other hand, a real one will allow you the option to pay later.

Should you suspect the authenticity of the inspector, ask for identification and threaten to call the company to verify his identification.

 

3. Airport taxis

Although it is illegal for taxi drivers to solicit for passengers, there are still a number of drivers who break off from the regular cab queue to approach customers.

Needless to say, the fare they charge will be much higher than the one you pay if you had taken a cab from the regular queue.

Rule of thumb:

Get a cab from the official queue/taxi stand or use Uber.

 

C. MISC

1. Beggars

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This is a common scam throughout Europe (e.g. Hungary, France). In Germany, you will find them in Berlin especially, and usually carried out by gypsy women.

Do not bother donating, as you will either attract more gypsies, who might rob you when it gets chaotic, or further hounding by the one you donated to, to give more. Do not be deceived by the “pitiful looking kids” they bring around with them as well, or the fake “disabled” beggars you see.

Rule of thumb: simply avoid

 

2. ATM/Bank card skimming

It is difficult to imagine this scam (skimming of PIN codes) occurring in Germany, but it does occur.

Some telltale signs are a glue residue around card reader, loose parts of the machine or if some suspicious items are placed on the machine which could be used to house a camera.

Rule of thumb:

Try to only use ATM machines inside banks, and avoid those in dark streets and at tourist attractions. Also avoid using at night.

 

3. Petition signing

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A common scam perpetuated in Europe (e.g. SpainFrance, etc), these scammers are usually pickpockets in disguise.

Working as a group, they would surround you and shove clipboards/forms in your face. Once you are distracted, your valuables will be stolen.

Rule of thumb:

Spot these scammers from afar as they are quite obvious and stay far away from them.

 

4. Street gambling games

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This is another popular scam in Europe (e.g. UK), and a common variation is the “shell game”. The street vendor hides an item in three cups and moves them around. You win if you guess which cup contains the item.

The key to this scam which not many realize is that the crowd around the game are mostly accomplices of the scammer! They can tempt you to play by having a “stupid” guy who keeps guessing the wrong cup when it is painfully obvious. Or they could tempt tourists’ greed by allowing an accomplice to win multiple times.

When you attempt to play, you will lose no matter what, due to the sleight of hand trick involved. At the final move, the scammer will reveal the cup with the item slightly for you to be sure. However, the real reason is because the scammer is actually taking the item out of the cup without you realizing it.

Further, joining in the crowd places you at risk of being pickpocketed.

Rule of thumb:

Stay far away from this setup.

 

5. Gypsy “change” scam

A gypsy might come up to you with a hand full of coins, and asks if you have specific coins to change with.

Should you take out a handful of coins as well, the scammer would exchange coins with your stash so quickly that you would not realize what was being changed. She will then disappear in a blink of an eye.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly decline the request.

 

6. Spiked drinks

As common sense dictates, never accept a drink from someone else, it is never free.

Rule of thumb:

Never accept a drink from anyone. Watch how your drink is made and also keep a close watch of it throughout your time in the bar/pub. If possible, order a can/bottle where is more difficult for the staff to tamper with.

 

7. Cell phone rental scams

Similar to the Berlin Pass, this not technically a scam per se, but more a buyer’s beware situation.

Cell phone rental shops in Germany advertise that there is no rental fee charged should you return the phone within two weeks. However, the fees and add on fees involved are exorbitant.

Rule of thumb:

Read the terms and conditions carefully.

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

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  • Police: 110 or 112
  • Fire brigade: 112
  • Ambulance: 112

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1 Comment

  1. Ankita

    Thanks for sharing these useful tips. Thanks a million.

    Reply

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