11 Most Common Tourist Scams in Germany

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

Image source: tourist-destinations.net

 

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 how to protect yourself here!

 

 

A. TOURIST ATTRACTIONS / ACTIVITIES

1. Pickpocketing

 

How it works:

The pickpocket hot spots in Germany are:

  • Crowded public transport (train stations, on the train / bus),
  • Especially those near tourist locations (e.g. – Berlin: Alexanderplatz, Kreuzberg; Munich: Hasenbergal; Hamburg: Munckebergstrasse; Frankfurt train stations)
  • Street markets and fairs

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelery / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround him or her and then work like this:

  • One will keep a lookout and block passer-bys from seeing the scene
  • Another will push or distract the target (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it)
  • A third will steal your valuable / slash your bag and then passes it on
  • The last will hide the loot under a jacket / items and then escapes with it

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.

 

What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done in a crowded environment.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

This is because once you are targeted, you will almost definitely lose your valuables in a split second.

To make it impossible for thieves to steal from you, we recommend:

  • Carry small amounts of cash in a cheap spare wallet that you wouldn’t mind losing. Do not leave it in your back pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables securely in a slim fitting money belt or hidden pouch.
  • Store larger valuables in an anti-theft bag that is slash resistant and lockable. Keep it in front of you.
  • Keep most of your valuables in your hotel / hostel safe, which can be further secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Carry around a photocopy of your passport instead instead of the actual one.

 

 

2. Petition signing

Image source: mustseeberlin.com

 

How it works:

A common scam perpetuated in Europe (e.g. AustriaItaly, 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.

 

What to do:

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

And as mentioned earlier, arm yourself with a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to conceal your valuables securely.

 

3. Street gambling games

Image source: notyourtypicaltourist.com

 

How it works:

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 your 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 see. However, what he is really doing taking the item out of the cup without you realizing it.

Not to mention, partaking in the crowd places you at risk of being pick-pocketed.

 

What to do:

Stay far away from this setup.

 

4. Gypsy “change” scam

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

Firmly decline.

 

5. Beggars

Image source: revue.ch

 

How it works:

This is a common scam throughout Europe (e.g. Hungary, France).

In Germany, you will find them in Berlin especially, and beggars are usually gypsy women.

Do not donate, as you will either attract more gypsies, who might rob you when it gets chaotic, or get hounded further by the one you donated to, to give more.

Also, do not be deceived by the “pitiful looking kids” they bring around with them as well, or the fake “disabled” beggars you see.

 

What to do:

Simply avoid.

And as mentioned earlier, arm yourself with an anti-theft bag or a money belt or hidden pouch to conceal your valuables securely.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Scammers selling already validated train tickets

Image source: german-way.com

 

How it works:

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 at a discounted price to tempt your greed.

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

 

What to do:

Just buy your train tickets from the official counter.

 

2. Fake train ticket inspectors

Image source: thelocal.de

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

A fake inspector will claim that your legitimate 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 train company to verify his identification.

 

3. Airport taxis

Image source: nuberlin.com

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. ATM / Bank card skimming

 

How it works:

It is difficult to imagine rigged ATMs in Germany, but they do exist.

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.

 

What to do:

Try to only use ATM machines in controlled environments such as in the banks, and avoid those in dark streets and at tourist attractions. Also avoid using at night.

Next, look out for these red flags:

Also, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet. That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.

 

2. Spiked drinks

Image source: thelocal.de

 

How it works:

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

 

What to do:

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 drink where is more difficult for the staff to tamper with.

Finally, do not flaunt your valuables – keep most of them in your hotel safe which you can further secure with hotel safety tools such as a door jammer or hotel safety lock.

 

3. Cell phone rental scams

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

Read the terms and conditions carefully.

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Image source: sputniknews.com

 

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

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6 Comments

  1. Ankita

    Thanks for sharing these useful tips. Thanks a million.

    Reply
  2. Don Higgings

    “fake disabled beggars” – interesting concept….

    “Don’t bother donating – you’ll only encourage them”. This is the kind of thing my dad would say. They’re people, not pigeons, and they’re homeless, or at the very least job-less.

    Reply
    • Martin Geliot

      Begging IS a job unfortunately. Beggars are often pimped too, rotated around popular spots by their pimps even.

      I have been hassled while buying tickets this week thrice already. I just want these people to fuck off.

      If you are in a country with a welfare system, leave it to the system you pay for.

      Reply
    • Ipeed Freely

      you honestly believe they are homeless and whatever they claim to be?
      Whilst there are the genuine few that have fallen on hard times, 99% are con artists, fact. It is a scam for the gullible.
      Oh, BTW, can you give me your bank account details so I can transfer lottery winnings to your account.

      Reply
      • Harry Grant

        Yes, I have seen this many times in Berlin and Hamburg. And they don’t look like fake homeless but in Berlin it will be young guys hanging out waiting to victimize the vulnerable or unaware.

        Reply
  3. Harry Grant

    Berlin is VERY dangerous. There are big packs of men usually hanging out in streets from the center to eastern part of the city. So, the “bump” and “Roll” is what I saw happen in Potsdamer Platz.

    Reply

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