23 Most Common Tourist Scams in Greece

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Image source: onthebeach.co.uk

 

With extensive coastlines and islands in the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas; an ancient culture which has had a significant influence on Western society; being the birthplace of the Platonic ideals, the Socratic Method and the Olympics, Greece is indeed a place of marvel in Europe.

However, there are a number of crooks in the country carrying out petty crime and scams against tourists.

Read on further to learn how to protect yourself in the Hellenic Republic!

 

 

A. TOURIST ACTIVITIES

1. Street pickpockets

 

How it works:

With the influx of tourists in Greece, the country has also seen a pickup in pickpocket cases.

Just in late 2017, a major pickpocketing gang that was raking in earnings in excess of €3,500 a day was busted.

You can find them roaming at:

  • Busy streets: the Plaka area and Kaningos Square in Athens, street in Syntagma, Heraklion in Crete, pedestrian bridge from Piraues metro station to the other side of the seaport
  • Tourist attractions: the Akropolis area and at the Arch of Hadrian.

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

Do watch out for child pickpockets as well.

 

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. Photo taking scam

Image source: latimes.com

 

How it works:

There are scammers who hang around tourist attractions looking for tourists and offering to help you take a photo.

Should you accept, they will help you a photo and then demand a ridiculous sum of money.

 

What to do:

Reject such offers – you can simply ask a fellow tourist / another stranger to help you take a photo for free.

 

3. Ring scam

 

How it works:

This is a scam popular in France (as video above shows), but one you can find it in Greece as well.

A gypsy will coincidentally find a gold ring on the floor, point at the “18k” hallmark on the ring and offer it to you.

Trust me, there ARE people who take it. It can be very convincing. It goes something like this:

Scammer: “Sir, did you drop this ring?”
You: “No, I did not”
Scammer: “Well, you can give it to your wife (phrased in a way that means no harm for you to take it, and you can even benefit from it). Why not? It will make her happy. They might also insist that their religion (or use some cock and bull reason) prevents them from keeping the ring.

If you do, the gypsy will demand your money in return. She can simply say:

Scammer: “Sir, I am hungry, could you give me some money / change for a croissant?”

When you give, they will ask for more. Most people tend to give as they have accepted / taken something from the scammer. Reciprocity is a very powerful thing.

Sometimes, the scammer might walk away and reappear 5 minutes later to demand your money. Whatever it is, they will stop at nothing to get money from you.

Do note that besides a gold ring, it can be anything else that looks valuable or expensive.

A more scheming gypsy will pretend that she found “your” gold ring and is “helping” you get it back. This is to build up trust between her and you.

By the time you protest that it is not your ring, the gypsy will have pestered you for money for all sorts of things, such as transport or even their starving children.

The most scheming ones will have an accomplice steal from you while you are protesting.

 

What to do:

Don’t engage. If it is not yours, don’t take it. Keep a lookout for suspicious people and gold stuff on the ground! It is mere useless polished brass.

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

 

4. Would you like to get a drink?

Image source: hipgreece.com

 

How it works:

You might be approached on the street by a friendly stranger who offers to bring you to a bar full of beautiful ladies (quite common at Syntagma).

There are many ways this scam can play out:

  • First, the drink might be outrageously priced.
  • Next, you might get swamped by the working girls who will order outrageously priced lady drinks on your tab.
  • Finally, drinks that they get you might also be spiked and you will be robbed when you are unconscious.

Based on reports, it seems like Hollywood Bar in Athens is THE bar where scammers like to bring their victims to.

 

What to do:

Firmly reject, or test them by offering to bring them to your hotel bar or some other bar instead.

Do not flaunt your valuables – leave them in your hotel / hostel safe which you can further secure with hotel safety tools.

 

5. Free flowers

 

How it works:

Another variation of common scams in Europe such as the friendship band scam in Italy, you might find a lady approach you offering free flowers.

Despite your insistence not to accept it, she will hound you persistently to say it is free.

To keep her away, you decide to accept it but once you do, payment will be demanded.

 

What to do:

Decline firmly.

 

6. Fake (luxury) products

Image source: infraredatelier.wordpress.com

 

How it works:

A scam everywhere around the world, you will find these peddled by touts around the Plaka and Monastiraki areas.

You might also find street touts pushing these products such as fake perfumes, iPhones and iPads around tourist attractions.

If you wish to buy, bargain, because the prices are not worth it.

 

What to do:

Avoid buying.

 

7. Unpriced food and beverage items

Image source: realgreekexperiences.com

 

How it works:

At certain cafes or restaurants, you might find unpriced menus and that should be a big red flag.

When the bill arrives, you will be in for a shock.

 

What to do:

Dine only at places with clearly displayed prices. Also, check out online reviews or ask your hotel staff for reputable places to have a meal.

 

8. What time is it?

 

How it works:

If you are asked what time it is in Greece, be very careful.

Should you take your phone out to check, it may be snatched immediately.

 

What to do:

Feign ignorance and walk off.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Public transport pickpockets

Image source: ipernity.com

 

How it works:

Metros in Greece are one of the favourite hunting grounds of pickpockets.

Frequently targeted places include:

  • Metros: Blue metro line / train to and from Athens Airport, green line to and from Piraeus (the Athens Port), Larissa station, Monastriaki station, Syntagma station, Omonia station,
  • Bus: X96 bus in Piraeus particularly at Karaiskaki Square, Airport Bus (78) in Thessaloniki
  • Ferry: at Piraeus

Some of their methods involve:

  • One person blocks at the door, the other steals from behind.
  • Some are as nimble as acrobats, and able to time it perfectly such that they can snatch your stuff and jump out when the doors are just about to close.
  • Other times, especially at escalators, they might trip you or bump into you. Next moment, your valuables are gone.
  • Or they may block you at the train’s doors or at the escalator by pretending to tie their shoe lacespretend to drop something (phone, cigarette, etc), and an accomplice will steal from 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. Ferry tickets scam

Image source: greeceturkeytours.com

 

How it works:

You may be approached by a stranger on the street, who makes small talk with you to try to gain your trust. (e.g. where are you from, oh I know someone / something there as well!).

Once trust is built up, he will recommend a friend’s / family member’s tourist agency where they are running a promotion on exclusive ferry tickets to a quiet island.

Should you accept, upon getting to the agency, you will find that the tickets were in such great demand that unfortunately, they have been sold out already.

As such, the scammer will now recommend an expensive cruise package or fancy hotel stay instead.

 

What to do:

Beware of friendly strangers and such kinds of offers on the streets (common all around the world, e.g. Morocco, Philippines, etc).

If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

 

3. Faulty motorbike / ATV rentals and insurance scam

Image source: blog.santomaris.gr

 

How it works:

Similar to the scam in Thailand or Vietnam, there are rogue shop operators who rent out faulty motorbikes / ATVs.

When you return the vehicle, they will demand that you pay a repair fee.

Or you may have gotten into an accident due to the vehicle being faulty in the first place, causing further damage to the vehicle and being asked for a larger repair fee.

The even more unscrupulous ones will try to disguise a basic insurance plan as a full insurance coverage plan.

However, should you get into an accident, the insurance would not cover that and you would have to pay any exorbitant amount which they demand.

 

What to do:

Inspect the vehicle and test drive it before signing the contract. Also read through the insurance contract and terms and conditions carefully.

Take a photo of the vehicle before use as well, taking note of potentially problematic spots like existing scratches.

Do not rent it if your gut feels uncomfortable – better be safe than sorry.

 

4. Overcharging taxis

Image source: athensairporttaxi.com

 

How it works:

A common and fast one to pull off, there are taxi drivers who claim that their meter is down.

Then, they charge you an outrageous price at the end of the trip.

Taxis waiting at airports and touristy areas are infamous for pulling this off by charging close to double the usual fare.

 

What to do:

Board the legal taxis which are yellow, have lights on their roofs and use a meter, unless you know the price well and are able to haggle and agree on a price at the start of the trip.

You could do some research online (e.g. online taxi fare estimator), use the taxi app Just Beat (as contributed by a reader, as Uber is no longer operating in Greece) or check with your hotel staff how much a route should cost.

 

5. Airport taxi touts

Image source: news.gtp.gr

 

How it works:

You will find airport touts, who offer you a ride on their unofficial taxi without having to queue. This happens everywhere around the world and in Europe (e.g. Turkey, Hungary, etc).

Don’t fall for the persistent demands of these guys, who target those tired and in a rush.

They will rush you to their car, promise a discounted fee to entice you, get you to your destination and then demand an exorbitant fee.

The scarier ones might even drive you somewhere secluded and then proceed to rob you.

 

What to do:

Board the official taxis at the official line.

 

6. Rigged meters

Image source: athenswalkingtours.gr

 

How it works:

Sometimes, taking a cab with the meter running is not necessarily the most reliable bet, as there have been reports of taxis with rigged meters.

Watch out for these red flags:

  • Tampered / missing meter seal
  • Only fare is displayed (without distance and waiting time)
  • Not being able to find taxi name, taxi operator number, taxi car plate number inside the cab
  • Driver clicking something, probably a hidden switch
  • If driver drives slowly at a high speed area to prevent the meter from jumping too wildly

 

What to do:

Stay alert on the ride. If you suspect something amiss, note the taxi name and car plate number.

Also, ask for a receipt as Greek legislation dictates that a receipt containing the fare, taxi registration number and driver’s name is supposed to be given out at the end of the trip.

 

7. Sleight of hand

Image source: gbtimes.com

 

How it works:

Always be careful when handing over notes (big ones especially) to taxi drivers.

There have been reports where the driver might pretend that you have given a smaller note by swapping your notes with a smaller note which he has.  He then asks you to top up.

 

What to do:

Count aloud the notes while passing it over to the driver slowly. Watch as the driver counts and stay focused as he may try to distract you.

 

8. Long-hauling cab driver

Image source: enetpress.gr

 

How it works:

For scammers, this is an easy one to pull off. This is because many tourists do not know their bearings well in a foreign city, so rouge drivers can simply take a longer route to your destination.

Once caught in such a scam, it is difficult to get out as the driver can simply insist that the route is the correct one.

What is worse if you get a driver who stops at multiple other locations instead of the one you requested, suggesting you purchase something as these are places where he gets a kickback.

 

What to do:

For longer routes especially, it’s a good idea to read the maps / use GPS to get a sense of your bearings.

Do some research to find how long and what route the driver should take, or you could simply ask your hotel staff about this.

Firmly reject any suggestions to stop by certain places.

 

9. Car break-in

 

How it works:

Should you rent a car, do park at bright areas or closed / guarded car parks.

This is because there have been reports of thefts of car radios which are then resold at the Monastiraki flea market.

 

What to do:

Park at bright or guarded areas.

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Fake police

 

How it works:

Do not be surprised / keep your cool should you be approached by police officers.

Fake police will flash their police badges, and then proceed to ask to check your money and ID. One excuse they use is that they claim that there are many counterfeit notes around.

Do not pass them any, as they will simply steal some of your money or swap your real bills with fake ones.

Some of them work in groups as well, where one will pose as a fellow tourist or local and chat you up first to lower your guard.

Once your guard is lowered, the fake police officers will appear, accuse you of a crime and demand to check your money and identification.

At this point, the scammer who is posing as a fellow tourist / local will pressure you to follow their instructions so as not to fall foul of the law.

 

What to do:

Ask to check their badges, identification, and which police station they come from. Threaten to call the police hotline (end of this article) or to settle the case at the police station.

Remember also to never give up your passport if asked. Instead, show only a photocopy of your passport.

In such cases, it is also useful to have a cheap spare wallet with little cash inside just sufficient for daily transactions, while the rest of your valuables are hidden securely in your money belt or hidden pouch.

This way, the scammers might simply let you go since you do not seem to have much cash on you.

Even if not, you can simply give up that wallet or the cash in it with minimal loss to yourself and save a ton of trouble.

 

2. ATM theft

 

How it works:

There have been reports of robberies at ATMs in Omonia, Metaxourgio, Monastiraki and Syntagma.

Besides robberies, ATMs have also been rigged with card skimmers (to capture your card details) and cameras (to capture your PIN). A common set up is as shown in the image above:

 

What to do:

Avoid using ATMs in secluded, dark areas and at night.

Instead, try to use the ones in controlled places such as in banks. Make sure to scan your environment for any suspicious characters before withdrawing your cash.

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.

 

3. Fake apartment listings

Image source: independent.co.uk

 

How it works:

Fake apartment listers and fake apartment platform sites are some of the worst scums in the world.

Do be wary of the red flags such as prices that seem too good to be true, or illogical descriptions because they simply copy and paste without any edits and dodgy sounding reviews.

Also, payment only by bank transfer off the platform and to a foreign bank account is almost a sure sign of a scam as transfers are non-transferable.

Another to watch out for is if the “owner” refuses to provide more details or to allow for a tour of the place.

 

What to do:

Book only though legitimate listing sites.

Next, check out reviews of the place which you are booking. Then, you can test the owner by requesting for a visit before booking even if you don’t actually intend to do so.

 

4. Snatch thefts

 

How it works:

There are many variations of snatch thefts, the first is that of a simple snatch of your phone / jewelry from behind you, and then running into a getaway car to escape.

  • Reported hot spots are the Athens districts of Monastiraki or Omonia (red light district) and near the railway stations of Larissa and Peloponissos.

The second happens at restaurants, where victims are usually in a relaxed state and distracted in conversation.

  • A bag, wallet or camera slung around the chair, or left on an adjacent seat are super easy pickings for thieves. The either steal it stealthily, or do a distract and grab.
  • If you have laid out your valuables on the table, another trick scammers use is to lay out a map over them and to ask for directions. When take the map, they will take your valuables along as well.

The third favourite spot for thieves are at hotels, as you will be carrying all your valuables out and are usually distracted while handling the registration process.

A fourth spot is at the beach, as tourists are usually very relaxed in such areas and might not have their valuables in their line of sight especially if they head to the waters.

  • Some beaches to be careful at include beaches in Mykonos, Kamari beach in Santorini, Naxos beach in Cyclades and Neoi Poroi, etc

A fifth spot is at the areas around nightclubs, where “prostitute pickpockets” line the streets, pretending to proposition tourists by grabbing them but in reality, are trying to steal your valuables.

 

What to do:

Stay alert at crowded places, and even at seemingly safe places like at a restaurant or hotel:

  • Do not lay your valuables out on the table or expose them unnecessarily in public.
  • Keep your bags in your line of sight and as close as possible (e.g. on your lap when at a restaurant).
  • Ideally, use a money belt or hidden pouch to conceal your valuables securely.

 

While out walking / on a vehicle on the road or streets:

  • Watch out for motorcyclists who seem to tail you, especially if they have a pillion rider (accomplice).
  • Carry your valuables in a bag across your body with a cross body anti-theft bag, away from the road / windows of your car / bus.
  • Do not carry items in your hands such as a mobile phone when walking by the road or when beside the window in a car / bus.
  • Avoid wearing obvious jewelry which can be easily ripped off your body.

 

 

5. Your hotel isn’t safe

 

How it works:

A variation on the place is closed scam (e.g. in Brazil, Sri Lanka, etc), you might find taxi drivers who tell you that the hotel you are staying at isn’t safe and that they know somewhere else which is better.

That is of course, a place where he gets a commission. Further, it is usually a lousy quality hotel that comes with an inflated price.

 

What to do:

Reject the offer.

 

6. Your restaurant is closed / isn’t good

Image source: travelgreecetraveleurope.com

 

How it works:

One more commonly perpetuated by cab drivers than by a tout on the street, the driver may claim that the restaurant you are going is either closed or no longer good.

However, he knows a place by the sea which is cheap and good… The place is of course, one where he gets a kickback.

 

What to do:

Insist on your original location, especially if you have already done your research, don’t let it go to waste.

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Image source: tribune.com.pk

 

  • Emergency: 112
  • Ambulance: 166
  • Fire department: 199
  • Police: 100
  • Tourist police: 171
  • General telephone information: 11888

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1 Comment

  1. Petros Karoutsos

    I am sad to inform you that Uber is not operating in Greece anymore,until further notice. The local taxi alternative is TaxiBeat or just Beat (they changed their name after Mercedes Benz bought them). Anyway they are very reliable. I live in Athens and I only use their service. Just download the Beat app and take it from there. Please beware of gypsies and call for help if you need it. We are plagued by their deeds as well and we will gladly assist you. Greeks in general speak foreign languages so try in your mother tongue first.

    Reply

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