What Scams Can Tourists Avoid in Spain?

As Spain’s tourism industry continues to evolve, so are the scams crooks use to rip off unsuspecting tourists. This trend is far from surprising, since Spain has one of the most vibrant tourism industries on the planet. In 2017 this European nation overtook the USA as the second most visited country in the world. Their tourism industry is second only to France, and this booming market has made a major impact on the local economy. Last year tourism generated €142 billion ($162 billion), which equates to 11.9% of Spain’s GDP. 

This staggering amount of revenue hasn’t gone unnoticed by scammers, since Spain is awash with tourist traps. Every year, 82.6 million foreigners descend upon this tantalizing European hot spot. Even though most visitors have the time of their lives, millions of tourists end up falling victims to a wide variety of scams. Throughout the years, Barcelona and Madrid have made a name for themselves as the pick pocket capitals of Europe. While most of the ways tourists get swindled are simple, some scams are surprisingly complex. From gangs of participants to fake petitions and officials, scammers routinely pull of feats that defy our expectations.

Tourist scams are constantly adapting, which makes staying on top of the trends essential for any avid traveler. Spain is Australia’s 22nd largest short-term destination, and over 88,500 Aussies visited last year. This is one of the most beloved travel destinations on the planet, so don’t let your vacation get ruined by a scam. To showcase what our readers should look out for, we compiled a list of the biggest Spanish scams of 2019. These tricks are just as common as they are ingenious, so make sure to keep an eye out for these unconventional hustles!

Top Scams to Avoid in Spain

Spanish scams
Don’t accept gifts from aggressive strangers.

Scam #3: Rosemary Gypsies – When travelling through the usual pickpocket hotspots, tourists are routinely greeted by an older gypsy woman who’s standing on the sidewalk.  Without asking, she will try to shove a a small rosemary plant into an unsuspecting visitor’s hand. For those who are naïve enough to accept it, she will say it’s for good luck and will try to read their palm. Even though this seems like a quaint local tradition, it’s far from well intentioned. While the tourist is distracted by the palm reading, hidden accomplises will snatch their wallet. 

If they are unsuccessful at pickpocketing their victim, the gypsy woman will aggressively demand to be paid. Once the foreigner extracts his wallet, other members of the gang will grab it and run off. This trick is well known around Barcelona, Cordoba, Madrid, Seville and Malaga, so it’s easy to avoid. Even if their offers are tempting, don’t interact with people who approach you with unsolicited gifts!

Spanish tourist scams
Don’t let fake police rob you.

Scam #2: Fake Police – Unfortunately, not all people in uniform are here to help. Under the guise of looking for drugs or counterfeit cash, plenty of nefarious criminals have shaken down tourists. Normally what happens is a stranger will come up to you and ask for directions. Once the conversation is over, the unsuspecting tourist will be approached by two uniformed police officers. They will claim that the person who previously asked for directions is a known counterfeiter or drug trafficker. Intent on soliciting a bribe, they start searching the tourist and steal their valuables.

Even though this is a scary predicament to find yourself in, there are options. If you haven’t broken the law, always be leery of random police approaching you. Ask to see their badge numbers and threaten to call the police if they act suspicious. This scam is common in party hotspots such as Ibiza, Barcelona & Madrid. There’s no reason for police to target law abiding visitors, so don’t let these crooks give the real police a bad name!

Pay attention when picking your taxi.

Scam #1: Inflated Taxi Fares – Even though their methods aren’t as intricate as the other entries on this list, taxi drivers are some of the most common perpetrators of scams in Spain. From charging outrageous flat rates to adding fake surcharges for luggage, the number of scams are endless. They are even known for doing slight of hand tricks such as exchanging 50 euro notes for 5 euro notes and demanding compensation. Others will have you prepay and back out halfway through the trip with the refund comprising of counterfeit bills. 

To avoid these scams, be extremely vigilant when getting a ride. Always pick a cab that’s using a taxi meter and review your bills carefully. There are no extra fees for luggage, so don’t let rogue drivers take advantage of you. Most taxi drivers are just doing their job, so don’t let the bad ones get away with their scams!

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