International scams

Australian travellers of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds have fallen victim to scams overseas. The examples listed below will alert you to some common scams, which evolve constantly, and the precautions you should take.

Airport taxi scam

Unlicensed, unmetered drivers often congregate in airport arrivals halls of major tourist destinations, offering flat-rate fees to drive foreign tourists to their chosen destination. We recommend you only follow signage or advice of authorities to official taxi service providers who most often remain outside the terminal in their vehicle.

Jet ski/motorcycle/car hire scam

Be aware of the risks of hiring jet skis, motorcycles, vehicles and other forms of personal transport, and thoroughly check over any vehicle for damage before hiring. Australian travellers have reported harassment and threats of violence by transport operators for returning vehicles that had allegedly been damaged. Ensure your insurance covers you for use of recreational transport, especially when you are not licensed in Australia, and never hand over your passport as collateral.

Wrong change scam

One of the most common scams is to be overcharged by merchants, taxi drivers or ticket agents, or being provided with incorrect change (i.e. being given change from $10 when you had paid with a $100 bill). We recommend you familiarize yourself with local currency, avoid using currency of high denominations when paying for inexpensive items and pay attention to ensure correct change.

Credit card skimming scam

'Card skimming' is the illegal copying of information from the magnetic strip of a credit or ATM card. If you are in a shop and the assistant wants to swipe your card out of your sight, or in a second machine, you should ask for your card back straight away and either pay with a cheque or cash, or not make the purchase. We advise you to never share your PIN or keep a written copy of the PIN close to your card.

Pickpocketing/diversion scam

Particularly in crowded areas with high tourist traffic, you may encounter scenarios in which your attention is diverted from your valuables and onto something else. We advise you to be vigilant in such areas, alert to your surroundings and treat any unusual diversion, such as a crowd of beggars jostling you or an unsolicited offer of assistance from a group of persons, as a potential pickpocket attempt.

Visa-related scams

Travellers have been scammed into purchasing visas for travel which are either unnecessary or unlawful. There are a number of third parties that have established websites that charge a fee for submitting your visa application on your behalf. You should only apply through links or organisations recommended by the diplomatic or consular mission of the country you are going to visit and remember to read our travel advice for information on entry/exit requirements for your destination.

Major sporting events/festivals accommodation scam

Scammers can exploit the high demand for accommodation or tickets during major sporting events or popular festivals by setting up fake websites, posting fake ads for hotel rooms and holiday rentals on genuine websites, or offering fake accommodation/ticketing packages. We recommend you make a considered judgment when looking at accommodation and ticket options and only use a reputable website.

Common internet scams, often originating outside of Australia, include:

  • Nigerian letter scam, where help is sought placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts
  • Business and employment scams, where large salaries and luxury overseas accommodations are promised for up-front payment of work permits, visa and immigration fees
  • Relationship scam, where Australians are defrauded or have their lives endangered by bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes
  • Friend/relative-in-need scam, where friends and family of an Australian travelling have been contacted by bogus doctors and hospitals requesting payment for urgent medical care for their loved one
  • Hacked email/social networking scam, in which a hacker sends an email or personal message from a person's email or social media account requesting payment to return home

Detailed information about financial scams, what to look out for and how to protect yourself from scams can be found in The Little Black Book of Scams published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and SCAMwatch website. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not investigate international financial or internet crimes.

What to do if you are a victim

For overseas scams, make sure you contact local police authorities and always obtain a police report. Your travel insurance provider also may be able to assist and consular officers at Australian diplomatic missions can provide consular assistance in case of emergency overseas.

If you are a victim of a financial or internet scam, we advise you to contact your financial institution and/or the ACCC, obtain legal advice and not to travel overseas to seek restitution as there is a risk of physical assault from the perpetrators. Victims that have been defrauded and who travel to the originating country have had their lives endangered. Some victims have been killed. The Australian Federal Polices advises you to report the matter to your state or territory police service and request that your report be forwarded to INTERPOL.