Scams that affect travellers
Australian travellers of all ages and backgrounds have been victims of scams overseas.
Before you go overseas, be aware of some of the common scams that happen to travellers. Take steps to minimise your risk.
This page discusses:
- taxi scams
- vehicle hire scams
- wrong charge and overcharging scams
- credit card skimming
- visa scams
- fake ticket scams
- massage and tea ceremony scams
- 'carry my bag' scams
- internet scams
If you're overseas and the victim of a scam, you can get more information on the Scammed overseas page.
Unlicensed, unmetered drivers often operate from airport arrivals halls and major tourist destinations. These drivers offer flat-rate fees to tourists. In many cases, the fees are much higher than metered fares.
Be aware of apparently friendly taxi drivers who offer you cheap tours. They will take you to shops where they receive a commission. You may be overcharged or sold worthless goods.
Some taxi drivers don't use their meter, especially in tourist spots or traffic jams. This is illegal in most countries.
To protect yourself from taxi scams:
- only use licensed taxis
- find out what transport services are available at the airport before you travel
- follow signage or advice of authorities to official taxi services only
- always ask if the driver will use the meter, or agree on the fare, before you get in a taxi
- at the start of your trip, take note of the vehicle number, the taxi company name and the driver's name
Unlicensed taxi drivers at airports will likely intercept you in the terminal. They'll try and convince you to use their services. Most licensed taxi providers will be outside the terminal in their vehicle at the official taxi rank.
Vehicle hire scams
Jet ski, motorcycle and car hire scams can happen overseas. Australians have been harassed and threatened by transport operators for returning allegedly damaged hire vehicles. Some operators have demanded 1000s of dollars and taken passports as collateral — they will keep your passport until you pay for the damage.
To protect yourself from scams, before you hire a vehicle:
- read online reviews of local travel companies
- check the vehicle and take photos of any previous damage
- check your insurance covers you for recreational vehicles, especially if you're unlicensed in Australia
Never leave your passport as a security deposit or collateral.
Learn more about the 'lost deposit' scam in the CHOICE guide on travel scams and tourist traps.
Wrong charge or overcharging scams
A common scam is to be overcharged by merchants, taxi drivers or ticket agents. They may also try to give you the wrong change — for example, giving you change for $10 when you paid with a $100 note.
Before you travel:
- familiarise yourself with local currency
- get a sense of how much things cost
When you're travelling, avoid using large bills to pay for small items.
Pay attention and take your time to check you have the correct change.
Learn more about the 'inflated bill' scam in the CHOICE guide on travel scams and tourist traps.
Credit card skimming scams
Card skimming is the illegal copying of information from the magnetic strip of a credit or ATM card.
Skimming usually occurs when you buy something and somebody takes your credit card out of your sight.
To reduce your risk of credit card skimming:
- ask for your card back straight away if a shop assistant wants to swipe your card out of your sight or in a second machine
- pay with a cheque or cash, or don't buy the item
- never share your PIN, or keep a copy of it with your card
Learn more about credit card scams in the CHOICE guide on travel scams and tourist traps.
In crowded tourist areas, thieves may create a diversion. Allowing thieves to pickpocket you while you are distracted from your valuables.
Ways to distract you may include a crowd of beggars jostling you or an offer of help from someone you don't know.
You can reduce your risk of pickpocketing by:
- staying alert in areas where pickpocketing is common
- treat any unusual event as a potential pickpocketing attempt
- put valuables in pockets that are harder to access
- use a tamper-proof backpack or handbag
Learn more about pickpockets in the CHOICE guide on travel scams and tourist traps.
Visa scams involve travellers buying visas that are not needed, illegal or overpriced.
Some third-party websites charge a fee to submit a visa application on your behalf. Some of these websites are fraudulent.
Avoid visa scams by:
- applying for visas using links or organisations recommended by the embassy or consulate of the country you're visiting
- reading the travel advice for information on entry and exit requirements before you travel
If you travel on a fake visa, you may be arrested, jailed or deported on arrival.
Learn more about visa scams in Australia from the Department of Home Affairs.
Fake ticket and festival accommodation scams
There is high demand for tickets and accommodation for major events, concerts, shows and festivals.
- set up fake websites
- use genuine websites to post fake ads for hotel rooms and holiday rentals
- offer fake accommodation and ticket packages
To avoid an accommodation or ticket scam:
- make a considered choice when you look at accommodation and ticket choices
- use a reputable website
There are legal ticket resellers, but if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
It may be a crime to buy from unlicensed ticket sellers. You could be arrested or jailed overseas.
Read more about ticket and online sales scams from the ACCC.
Massage or tea ceremony scams
In a massage or tea ceremony scam, you may be approached in public. You're invited for a massage, to a teahouse service, or to practise English at a nearby café or bar.
After the services have been provided, you will be given an inflated bill. You won't be allowed to leave until the bill is paid.
Some Australians have been violently assaulted.
To avoid being a victim of this type of scam:
- don't accept invitations from people you don't know
- be clear on how much services cost before you go ahead
- organise massages and similar services through your hotel or reputable provider
Learn more about how to identify and protect yourself from scams on Scamwatch.
This scam involves an associate or 'friend' asking you to take a bag or package on an international flight or across a border.
They may offer to pay you, or they may trick you into thinking you're helping their family. These types of scams can be connected to relationship scams.
The bag may contain prohibited items, such as drugs.
- Never carry a bag or package for anyone you've just met.
- If you carry something for someone you know and trust, find out what's in it. Look inside.
Even if it isn't drugs, it could be a restricted or prohibited item in your next destination. Check if you can bring it into Australia (Australian Border Force).
Learn more about other tourist traps and scams (CHOICE).
Internet scams often start outside Australia, while the victim is still in Australia. Some seek to defraud you while you're in Australia. Others aim to lure you overseas with promises of romance, money or jobs.
Nigerian letter scam
The Nigerian letter scam usually starts with an email from someone you don't know. The scammer may say they need your help to transfer money internationally and offer to pay you if you help them.
The scammer may ask for your personal or bank details upfront. They may also ask you to put large sums of money in an overseas bank account first. They may invite you overseas to collect the payment they promised you.
Never respond or hand over your details to someone you don't know. Never go overseas to collect your payment or try to get your money back.
See more about the Nigerian letter scam on ScamWatch.
Business and employment scams
You may be promised large salaries and luxury overseas accommodation as part of a new job.
Scammers ask for up-front payment for work permits, visas and immigration fees. Never hand over your personal details or money unless you're certain it is legitimate.
If someone offers you work overseas, do your research first. Make sure the person and their organisation are legitimate. Make sure the job they're offering you is legal.
Learn more about business and employment scams on ScamWatch.
Dating and relationship scams
Scammers often target Australians with dating and relationship scams. They target people of all ages. Some specifically target mature Australians. They use fake profiles on Australian dating websites.
- Be cautious of anyone you meet online from overseas.
- Learn the signs of a relationship scam. Know what to watch for.
- Never send money.
- If you've already given them money, don't go overseas to try to get it back
- Always confirm their identity and that they are legitimate before going overseas to meet them.
Learn more about internet friendship, dating and marriage scams on ScamWatch.
Friend or relative-in-need scams
Scammers may phone, email or message your friends and family while you're travelling. Some pretend to be from a hospital and claim you need urgent medical care. They ask your family for payment for your urgent medical care.
Some scammers are hackers. They get into one of your email or social media accounts, pretend to be you and contact people you know. They often ask for money to travel home or for a medical emergency.
- Protect your passwords. Be careful overseas when logging in to public computers. Avoid public, unsecured WiFi networks.
- Stay in touch with your family and friends. Contact them regularly so they know you're safe.
Learn more about scams to help a family member on ScamWatch.
What to do if you're the victim of a scam
In Australia, it's a matter for your state or territory police and the ACCC. Overseas, contact the local police in your destination.
If you are a victim of a financial or internet scam:
- contact your bank or financial institution
- contact the ACCC
- get legal advice
Do not travel overseas to try to get your money back.
Victims of scams that travel to the country where it started have had their lives endangered. Some have been killed.
The Australian Federal Police recommends you report the scam to your state or territory police. Ask for the police report to be sent to INTERPOL.
If you're overseas and have been the victim of a scam, contact local police. Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Contact your travel insurer. Most have a 24-hour emergency number you can call from overseas.
DFAT doesn't investigate international financial or internet crimes. However, consular officers at Australian embassies and consulates can provide consular assistance.
- See our general advice on what to do if you've been scammed overseas.
- Read our travel advice for your destinations. Check our advice about staying safe.
- The Australian Government is limited in how and when it can help scam victims overseas. See the Consular Services Charter.
- See the Little Black Book of Scams (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission)
- Learn about scams on SCAMwatch (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission)
- See advice on avoiding tourist traps and scams (CHOICE)
- Be wary of gifts or bags people give you while you're away. Check if you can bring it into Australia (Australian Border Force).
- Learn more about avoiding international scams and financial crimes (INTERPOL).
It's traumatic to be robbed or mugged. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Even if you've taken steps to reduce your risks.
Read what to do if you're overseas and have been scammed. Know what to do and where to get help.