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
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 things to watch out for, and it always pays to be careful.
A. TOURIST SPOTS/ACTIVITIES
Petty crime in Europe is almost synonymous with pickpocketing, and as one of central countries in Europe, you are bound to find many of these pickpocket-ers here, but not as often as in Spain. Check out the link for a variety of creative techniques these criminals can use.
A slightly “unique” one spotted in Germany is the drunken pickpocket-er. 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/she can nick off you.
The usual spots in Germany are obvious – crowded public transport (train stations, on the train/bus), especially those nearby tourist locations (some examples – Berlin: Alexanderplatz, Kreuzberg; Munich: Hasenbergal; Hamburg: Munckebergstrasse; Frankfurt train stations)
Rule of thumb: be extra careful around crowded areas; use a money belt/do not bring too much cash out/keep it securely
2. The Berlin Pass
Not technically a scam per se, but still one to watch out for as it is a tourist trap by a British company. There have been many reports of issues with ticket collections and 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
1. Scammers selling already validated train tickets
The German train system works similar to several other European countries, where to board the train, you just 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”, and scammers prey on 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 really 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, and 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 now. 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, whereas a real one will allow you the option to pay later.
3. Airport taxis
Although it is illegal for taxi drivers to solicit for passengers, it has been reported that there a number of these 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 taxi stand/Uber
This is a common scam throughout Europe, Berlin especially, usually one 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: if possible, try to only use ATM machines inside banks, and avoid those in dark streets and at tourist attractions.
3. Petition signing
A common scam in perpetuated in Europe (see: Spain; France), 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 snatched at without your realization
Rule of thumb: spot these scammers from afar as they are quite obvious and avoid
4. Street gambling games
This is another popular scam in Europe, and a common variation is the “shell game” – the street vendor hides an item in three cups and moves them around, and 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 which cup contains the item, or simply having an accomplice keep winning and doubling his money.
When you attempt to play, you will always lose no matter how sure you are, 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 was 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: control your curiosity and avoid joining in
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 that he/she needs for a specific purpose. 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, and will head off with it.
Rule of thumb: Ignore
6. Spiked drinks
As common sense dictates, never accept a drink from someone else, it is never free.
Rule of thumb: Reject
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 by claiming 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.
D. GETTING HELP
1. Emergency numbers to call
Police: 110 or 112
Fire brigade: 112
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