14 Most Common Scams in Turkey

Istanbul, Goreme, Icmeler, Urgup, Dalyan, Antalya, Ankara, Izmir, Kalkan, Antalya, Fethiye, Alanya, Marmaris, Erdine, Konya, Bursa, Canakkale, Trabzon, Mardin, Bodrum, Side, Kudasasi


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One of the hottest destinations in the world, Turkey is where the world meets.

Since ancient times, the Trojans, Mongols, Romans, Greeks, Ottomans and many others have traversed these plains. Today, it sits right at the cross section between Asia and Europe. The result is a fascinating cultural experience.

However, despite being known as a country with friendly people, there is still a whole bunch of crooks out to fleece you of your money.

Getting recourse is difficult too, as the police does not have a good command of English. Further, from anecdotes, they are not readily willing to help.

So read on to learn how to protect yourself here!




1. Would you like a drink my friend?

Turkey bars and pubs

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This is such a common scam that in 2008, when police raided 6 nightclubs, they arrested over 100 people accused of this scam!

They include bar owners, bar girls, employees and sometimes even the police! Weapons and drugs were seized as well. It also happens globally (e.g. China, Greece, etc).

The scam is wickedly simple. A stranger (e.g a well dressed man fluent in English; a pair of random dudes, etc) first approaches you (usually targeting single travellers).

He asks if you have a lighter / know the way / can help take a photo or what have you. As the conversation flows and rapport is built, he asks if you would like to grab a drink with him.

Should you accept, you will be brought to a “highly recommended” restaurant or bar. Girls will join you, and you will be coerced into buying drinks, which will easily turn into a thousand dollar bill.

If you have not passed out from a spiked drink, be prepared to be escorted to the nearby ATM machine by a group of hooligans to make payment.

Rule of thumb:

But what if you really want to make a few local friends? There are a few questions you should ponder:

  • Does the restaurant / bar seem legitimate? i.e. are there customers?
  • Is the stranger reading from a script? Evasive about things?
  • Is he / she only bringing you to a particular restaurant or bar?
  • Pretend that you have company by suggesting to go another place where you have a few friends at
  • Only drink what your waiter or you have poured
  • Take a photograph together


2. Shoe shine scam

One common trick these scammers use is to pretend to drop their shoe shine equipment accidentally beside you.

Should you help pick it up, they will offer to provide shoe shine services to you for free.

Should you accept, two things will happen.

First, the scammer will strike up a conversation during the service, and casually mention add on services he is providing you.

Alternatively, he may began telling you about his sad life story, making you feel bad for him.

At the end of it all, you will be charged with a hefty bill. Argue, and you will suddenly find other shoe shiners surrounding you.

Rule of thumb:

Decline and walk away.


3. Fake carpets / coins / goods

Turkey bazaar carpets

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Be especially wary of “helpful” souls wandering around in Sultanahment and the Grand Bazaar who offer to bring you around the shops.

The scammer will claim that he knows the sellers with the best quality items and that he can get for you a “local price”.

Reality however, is that he will bring you somewhere where lousy quality items are sold at an inflated price. And he gets a cut.

In Turkey, carpets are a hot seller. To exploit this, many Chinese fakes are sold.

Other common fakes are coins and artefacts claimed to be from the Byzantine or Roman eras sold at historical sites such as in the town of Selcuk.

Some shady shops to be careful of: Benny’s Shop / Benny’s Leather in the Kusadasi Bazaar,

Rule of thumb:

Learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff, or only visit licensed, experienced dealers with a good reputation.

You can find these by doing some online research or by asking your hotel staff.

There are many fake goods out there that look authentic. So if you don’t how to differentiate them, play it safe and not buy.


4. Pickpockets

Crowded streets, train stations, public transportation, markets, shopping malls, tourist attractions, hotels, nightspots or anywhere tourists hang out at are pickpockets’ favourite spots.

Sultanhamet Square, Taksim Square, Cumhurriyet Caddesi and Istiklal Caddesi are particular ones to take note at.

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

Rule of thumb:

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.

Only carry small amounts of cash in a cheap spare wallet that you wouldn’t mind losing. Do not leave it in your back pocket.

As for your valuables / emergency cash, conceal them securely in a money belt or hidden pouch and in a sturdy anti-theft bag that is slash resistant, lockable, and difficult to unzip by others. Keep your bag in front of you.

However, do keep most of your valuables and passport in the hotel safe. Carry around a photocopy of your passport instead.

If you would like, you can use hotel safety tools such as a hotel safe lock or door jammer to strengthen the security of your hotel room.


5. Overcharging items / services

Some stall owners / service providers are highly opportunistic.

Should you not enquire about the price first before purchasing (it can be anything, such as a souvenir, a taxi ride or even a shoe shine service), be prepared to be hit with an astronomical bill after.

Even worse, there are restaurants who might charge you for items that you did not order.

Rule of thumb:

Always negotiate the price before and check your bill after.

Also, always negotiate in Lira, the local currency (and keep local petty cash with you), as a foreign currency will often be charged a higher price.


6. No change back / more money needed

As the title suggests, some stall owners / service providers / taxi drivers will “forget” to pass you your change. This is done by distracting / engaging you in a conversation.

A reverse of this is for stall owners / service providers / taxi drivers to pretend to have received less than what you have paid.

They do this by quickly hiding the cash that you have paid them (sleight of hand) and claim to have received less.

Rule of thumb:

Whenever you expect change back, keep a mental note and not get distracted.

When handing money over, count the notes out loud and slowly. Make sure to look carefully at how the other party counts the notes.


7. Currency scam

Turkey currency Lira

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Just like the overcharging scam, always clarify the currency before doing any transaction.

Rule of thumb:

There’s a huge difference between Euro and Lira.

So besides checking verbally with the stall owner, check your credit card bill as well should you use it.


8. “Free” sunbeds

If you were to take a free sunbed at resorts (especially those in Bodrum), be prepared to face a barrage of touts asking you to buy overpriced food, drinks and items.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly decline.



1. Unscrupulous taxi drivers

Turkey taxi cab

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There are the common ones such as those who rig their meters, insist on not using their meters or insist that they have no change.

Some may even swap your notes, e.g. you pass them a 50 Lira note, and it becomes a 5 Lira note suddenly (sleight of hand). The driver then shouts at you to pay more.

In the past, some even switch the meter to a night-time charge (2x more than) while in the day, but this charge no longer exists!

The sly ones will meddle with the meters while you are not looking. Others may even grab your luggage, lock it in the boot, and drive you to a bar and get you into the whole bar scam.

Rule of thumb:

One tip is to avoid taking taxis at tourist spots, such as at the Sultanahmet area (Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar).

Or simply use the metro system – it is convenient and good.

If you still prefer taking a cab, pay using small, local currency and take a photo of the car number first.


2. Your car / wheel is damaged

Happens on the road, where a driver will signal certain parts of your car (wheels are the easiest) that are damaged.

This helpful driver will claim to be a mechanic, and help you replace the spare part by heading to a workshop nearby.

Apparently, there is nothing wrong with your car. What happens is that either the original part is taken away, repainted and returned.

Or it will be swapped with a part that is of lousier quality. Further, the mechanic will demand a huge fee for his service.

Rule of thumb:

Examine whichever part it is yourself and firmly decline the offer.


3. New friends made on the train

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A scammer might come up to you, strike a conversation and be a companion on the trip since you both are conveniently on the same way.

Next, they might offer you food or drinks laced with a fast acting sedative (it is colorless, odourless, tasteless).

When you pass out, you will be robbed.

Rule of thumb:

Never accept food or drinks from a stranger, unless it is something difficult to tamper with like a sealed bottle or can.

Even then, it is better to be safe than sorry.


4. Ferry cruise touts

Turkey ferrySource credit

The boat tickets which touts on the streets sell are way overpriced.

Rule of thumb:

Buy from the official outlets or simply head to the Galata Bridge for a local ferry.



1. Getting robbed while drunk

Turkey beer Efes

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This is not exactly a scam technically. But because of the Turkish law where you cannot make a claim while drunk, you will become a prime target of robbers when you drink in public.

Rule of thumb:

If you do go out drinking, control your consumption and stay alert.

Further, keep your valuables and passport in the hotel safe. Avoid flaunting your wealth, expensive electronics or jewelry in public.

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


2. A credit card machine that doesn’t work

And the next thing that happens, is that your credit card is charged twice.

Rule of thumb:

Try to use cash, rather than credit cards as much as possible.

Always check your credit card transactions as well whenever it’s available online to dispute any charges.



1. Istanbul tourism police hotline

Istanbul tourism police car

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Contact: +90 212 527 45 03

Address: Emniyet Müdürlüğü Turizm Şube Müdürlüğü Yerebatan Cad. No: 6 Sultanahmet, Istanbul


2. Emergency numbers to call

  • Medical emergency / ambulance: 112
  • Fire: 110
  • Police: 155

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  1. K

    Also… this round of snacks/drinks is on the house.. but then afterwards they are on your bill. (istanbul tourist center)

    Putting a balloon in a kids hand and then asking money. (kusadasi)

    • Admin

      Thanks for pointing these out Koja!

  2. taxicab fares

    These are great tips! As a local in Istanbul, I want to share another tip for travelers: Metered taxis are readily available 24 hours a day at all around the city. If you have internet connection on your laptop or mobile device, always use https://taksiyle.com/en/istanbul just before taking a taxi from airport, hotel or restaurant. It will help you to avoid potential taxi scams in Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya and other metropolitan areas in Turkey and give an outline about the routes between departure and destination.

  3. Frequent Traveller

    Beware of Turkish nationals approaching you in hotels claiming to have lived in Italy or France or any of these countries and offering to help you find a good restaurant. You will be taken to shady joints where food would be delivered and asked to pay a hefty amount of money. These places are normally full of hooligans who are in on the scam. You will not be able to escape without paying at least a few hundred dollars for a dinner worth a few bucks.

  4. Paul Thompson

    If your staying ın the Mercure Hotel Topkapı Istanbul Be aware of a slım guy wıth gray haır casualy dressed callıng hımself Alexandro sayıng he,s an armenıan natıonal who ıs ın the constructıon busıness and works ın Iraq. Thıs guy wıll pretend to be your frıend and wıll offer to show you around town and drıve you to a small bar ın K.M Celebı Mah Buyukparmakkapı sok no 30A beyoglu owned by ABDULLAH NURCIN who ıs also a scammer. The bar wıll be full of russıan bouncers and have some woman and thıs guy Alexandro wıll ınvıte them to your table and offer them a frıendly drınk but you wıll be made to pay for the bıll and ıt wıll cost you thousands of dollars whıch you wıll be forced to pay or you wıll be assaulted and taken to a cashlıne and. made to wıthdraw money. Thıs Guy Alexandro ıs ınvolved and works for these people and wıll say he’s payıng but when the bıll comes he wıll say for you to pay half whıch ıs a large amount of money. Do not get ınvolved wıth thıs guy or these people as they are scammers.

  5. Fast communicator

    Also, it seems there is some kind of communication between scammers, like twitter or similar. Once they mark you as wanting an item, a guy on every corner tries to offer you the same thing. Maybe they even take your picture. I found it way too probable that they knew what I was looking for before I even started looking. Made it impossible to haggle.

  6. lucio tan

    it happens just now ( sept 09,2017) a guy approach me and giving a friendly talk and drink and the bill sky rocketed to 9,000 lira..

    • Sajid

      This is exactly what happened to me Lucio, Few weeks ago on 13 September 2017. The bill came over 6000TL and he agree to pay half. As i didnt had the money, they scorted me to a cash machine to take out the money 3000 and something TL to pay them. I wonder what would happened if I didn’t had the money that night.

      • vincent

        That just happen to me yesterday. 01/11/2017 I been in a bar with a friendly guy to have some beers. Then girl joins us and chat with us and drink some juice on your arms. Until I had enough and decide to leeve. The bill climb to 2000 tl and I refuse to pay that much for 2 beers and some juice. They were very menacing and I start to think about fight but they was like 10 in the bar. That was’nt a good idea. Then I start to talk about police and they sudantly let me go without paying.. I try to take somme pic but they dont let me do it of course.. But the best part is, I been to the police and they refuse to be involve because it dose’nt cost me any thing.. Crasy world man.. Be carefull

  7. John

    I just got back from Izmir area and the men in the street markets who approach you and attempt to show you goods in their shop nearby “it costs nothing to look” are all now currently claiming to have lived in Manchester for 3 years. “do you know Manchester nice city”. I wonder is it because of the recent global news about Manchester that has caused these people to all co-incidentally have lived In Manchester for three years?. Turkey is safe but you must keep wits about you and learn to say no very quickly. Do not engage in long conversations walk away fast. It is highly unlikely that I should meet six men all who lived In Manchester for 3 years in 4 days.

  8. Sandy

    NEVER EVER accept a drink from a stranger. NEVER EVER accept offer of ‘help’from a stranger, usually young guys. Do NOT get angry with a market tout (laugh them off) as you don’t know if they are on hash or are connected to the local mafia. Friendly banter can change in a flick to ANGER! NEVER EVER lend money – you will NOT get it back. And the list goes on.

    • stu

      Oh yes those scary people on that menacing hash lol.
      Please come out from under your rock

  9. Mizanur


    I shall be traveling Istanbul solo in mid Dec. Upon reading those scam stories, I am really in a scary state thinking as to howshall U travel alone for a week in Istanbul.

    Therefore seek your expert opinion suitable location and scam un-friendly budget hotel. I am also ready to spend few more bucks for a safe hotel located in a safe location. Please note, beside visiting prime attraction, I am also much interested to explore night clubs and pubs in the evening.

    Thanks in advance for your suggestion.

  10. Alex McMillan

    Also keep in mind Turkish police is also part of the mafia. Never trust them. In Turkey, you are alone. Anything can happen to you. It is much smarter and better to go to a more civilized country than Turkey.

  11. Denise Hodgson

    Never ever trust a Turk. Also never consider buying a holiday home. They take your money, promise the world and run off with your money. I have had 13 years of hell trying to get my money back from a guy who is still trading in Antalya. His name is Fatih Selek and used to trade under Fasimex. He has an accomplice who works for Tourist Co in Antalya whos name is Hakan Seven.

  12. !!

    Watch out for Sanlier travel agency! It is a scam!! They put a table outside the IST custom and claimed to be affiliated with Turkish Airline. They asked my friend to put down a deposit ($1500 USD) for a free tour and said it will be refunded after the tour. Of course, it is a scam! The deposit was never returned. Please be careful and don’t fall for it!

    They will give a fake receipt which says Sanlier Travel Agency. Email shows sanlier.travel@gmail.com and Gsm: +905418140026

    • stu

      who puts down 1500 usd for a free tour as a deposit. A fool and their money are easily parted…

  13. Sandy

    Have visited Turkey many times – never had a prob because my ‘radar’ is up 24/7 – I have become all too cynical/skeptical especially in Bodrum, Taksim, Sultanahmet. But have had met wonderful people and had amazing experiences!!! So ENJOY!!

    • ankush sahdev

      hi sandy,im about to move to turkey next month.kindly provide sum helpful notes to live comfortably in istanbul.
      as i read so many scams ,,its sumwat scary to b alone there.hehe


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