Fake Cops and Pickpocket Strippers: These Are the Strangest Tourist Scams in Europe

Beware of fake fees and pickpocketing strippers

A citizen on patrol warning passengers of pickpockets in Barcelona

Punctured tire pirates. Fake police. And yes, pickpocket strippers.

These are the most common, and occasionally most bizarre, travels scams you’ll find across Europe. USA Today outlined some of the unusual crimes targeting foreign tourists, broken down by country and utilizing data from the insurance firm AIG Europe.

One popular method is the “set-up scam,” involving a purposeful commotion that distracts onlookers while they’re gawking at, say, a woman stripping in front of a street vendor to prove she wasn’t a shoplifter (meanwhile, her accomplices are pickpocketing the crowd.)

Other well-known scams include shell games, hidden surcharges (popular in taxis and in gentleman’s clubs), incorrect change and, in Italy, “tourist police” who demand to see your wallet to check for counterfeit money and drugs … along with “highway pirates” who puncture your tires, follow you and then pretend to help while robbing you.

Advice? Keep your hands in your pockets, your eyes down, wear a money belt, don’t get distracted and avoid ticket scalpers and taxis with no identifying info. But also? Keep an open mind. As USA Today helpfully notes, “[Europe is] safer than America. Muggings in Europe are uncommon. Thieves want to separate you from your money painlessly. Europe travel scams are easy to avoid if you recognize them.”

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