Scams in the UK

WHAT SCAMS SHOULD I BE AWARE OF WHEN VISITING LONDON?

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  • Post last modified:February 18, 2024
  • Reading time:8 mins read

London is perfectly safe to visit. However, no city in the world is free of crime, and there are many street scams in London that visitors need to be wary of.
Fraudsters use a range of tactics to steal your cash and – in some cases – your identity. Some scams and tricks are as old as anything in the book, whereas others are deviously clever. However, you don’t need to fall victim to these scams if you know what to look for.
Most visits and tours in London are trouble-free, but it won’t hurt to watch out for these tricks and scams that sometimes catch out unsuspecting visitors.

Scams in the UK


Contactless Card-Readers On The Tube
One of the newest scams to hit the city is people carrying contactless card-readers in hidden places, such as bags or coats. Scammers will brush up against where you’ll typically keep your card (in a back pocket or the front of a rucksack). It only takes a few seconds for the payment to scan, so you might not even notice it’s happening. Contactless payments may be capped at £30, but it’s still a fair amount of spending money to lose on any trip to London. Protect yourself by wrapping your cards in foil, which acts as a barrier to the contactless signal, or try Defender Note.
Fake Theatre Tickets In Leicester Square
No visit to London would be complete without experiencing a West End show, but if you’re looking for a last-minute trip to the theatre, be aware of scammers selling fake tickets, especially in Leicester Square. However, the ticket booth TKTS is legitimate. It probably is if you’re tempted by an offer for a theatre deal that sounds too good to be true. Always buys tickets from licensed box offices or from the theatre itself. All in all, be cautious of individual sellers in theatreland.
Bag-Cutting Thieves
Like pickpockets, bag-cutting thieves operate within London’s busiest areas but go to greater extremes. Rather than taking belongings out of the top of a handbag, they work by cutting open the bottom with a knife and then placing another bag underneath to catch the contents that fall out. It’s also common for thieves to cut the sides of rucksacks to gain quick access to valuables within the bag, so always stay alert when carrying a bag through crowded places in London.
Fake Designer Products
If you’re looking for genuine designer products, London’s markets are not the place to find them. Street sellers often have a wide selection of fake goods that resemble their luxury counterparts. London markets are famous for their excellent vintage and second-hand offerings, whereas Regents Street and Bond Street are great places to find designer stores in London.
Fake Charity Collectors
Sadly, fake charity collectors exist, taking advantage of kind-hearted and sympathetic individuals. To collect in a public space, charities must be registered and have a license. All charity collectors must carry a collector’s permit, so before offering any money, ask to see this or any other official documentation, such as their charity’s registration number. Trust your instincts; if a collector seems vague about knowledge of the charity (or the use the money will be put to), don’t donate.
Borrowing Your Phone
Scammers like to prey on the general public’s generosity, and many will ask to borrow your phone for a scenario that is hard to refuse. They might say they’ve lost their child or their bag has been stolen, and while some cases may be genuine, always be cautious when handing over your phone to someone and make sure they’re always insight when they are using it.
Cameras At Atms
It’s always best to be wary when using an ATM in London. Watch out for anything that looks like it may be an addition to the machine, such as stick-on parts or cameras. Often these devices will be used to record your PIN and card details. If anything suspicious catches your eye, avoid the machine entirely and report it to the bank in question.
Thieves And Pickpockets
When visiting any city, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your belongings and secure them in a safe place in your bag. Avoid using handbags that gape open and keep valuables in inside compartments rather than outside pockets. Pickpocketing hotspots in London include Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Oxford Circus, and the Tube, although thieves can operate anyway, so always keep an eye out for suspicious behavior.
Group Photo Offer
No visit to London would be complete without a group photo to remember the trip. Many scammers know the general public’s trust when handing over a phone or camera to take a picture. Asking groups or families rather than individuals offering to take a photo is one way to ensure your phone (and all your precious memories from your city trip) won’t be stolen.
Fake Tickets Outside Music Venues
London is home to many popular music spots, including the O2, Wembley Arena, Alexandra Palace, and The Roundhouse. Often these venues have ticket sellers waiting around the premises hoping to catch someone looking to buy a last-minute ticket. Always be cautious of unlicensed ticket sellers – in some cases, they might genuinely be looking to sell a ticket. Still, it’s difficult to tell until the actual ticket is scanned (after you’ve handed over the money). Stick to well-known ticket trading platforms to avoid disappointment.
HOW TO AVOID COMMON TRAVEL SCAMS?
No matter where you travel in the world or how long you go, there’s always a risk of falling victim to any of these scams we’ve listed above, including many more that take place in big cities and at major tourist attractions. Although some scams are more common in certain cities than others, the chances of being at risk of a scam are almost impossible to guess. That’s why we recommend taking every precaution possible when traveling anywhere in Europe or the rest of the world.
Research Travel Scams
Despite the vast amount of information about the biggest and latest tourist scams that hit thousands of British holidaymakers each year, very few people research or check what scams are common in the area they’re traveling to before they go abroad. Unfortunately, most people won’t research travel or tourist scams unless they’ve fallen, victim.
Carry Small Amounts of Cash
Cash is one of the biggest targets for scammers. Whether it’s pickpocketing, using the “Slow Count” scam, or attempting to exchange legitimate money for counterfeit notes, you should always be mindful when carrying cash anywhere abroad.
One measure you can take to prevent being scammed or pickpocketed is to carry as little cash as possible. Most modern hotels and some accommodation come complete with a combination safe, so only taking cash you know you’re going to spend during the day and leaving the rest safely locked away in your room is a great idea.
Buy Some Comprehensive Travel Insurance
Despite how cheap and easy travel insurance is to buy, many people still travel abroad with no travel insurance whatsoever. Not only does it cover you with interruptions like flight delay compensation and lost baggage, but you could also be entitled to compensation if your money is lost or stolen. Like anything else, check for the best policy and prices, checking what you’re explicitly covered for.
Use Common Sense
This may seem like the most obvious answer, but it can be easy to ignore the hazards and let your guard down when you’re abroad and enjoying yourself. For example, leaving valuables such as your mobile phone or wallet/purse on show when in public is never a great idea.
Don’t Leave Bags Unattended.
Whether you’re taking in the sights or chilling out at a local café or restaurant, always make sure that your personal belongings are in sight and on your person. We recommend keeping all of your valuables off the show, such as in a backpack or handbag, so that scammers won’t be tempted to approach you. However, make sure that you don’t put down your bag or take it out of your sight!