International scams

International travel often comes with ups and downs. The downside of travel can happen most commonly as international scans. Familiarize yourself with the most common types of travel scams. Be aware of your surroundings when abroad and never send money to someone overseas if you have not met in person.

You should also review this helpful infographic that quickly and easily explains the most popular and common travel scams.

The U.S. Department of State provides a list of the following common scams:

Romance Scam is when someone you have not met in person quickly offers friendship, romance, and/or marriage. Always remain skeptical if the person asks for money to pay hospital bills, visa fees, or legal expenses and/or seems to have many sudden problems overseas.

Grandparent/Relative Scam is when a person contacts grandparents or other relatives pretending to be a grandchild, niece, nephew, or another family member who needs money right away. The scammer usually asks the person contacted to keep it a secret. Reach out immediately and directly to the family member purportedly needing money to verify the situation.

Drug Trafficking Scam is when the scammer makes contact by phone or email and offers a job overseas, the opportunity to do charity work, or requests someone to transport documents/items for them. Typically, the scammer offers to pay all travel expenses and offers free luggage and/or asks the person to stop in a third country to pick up something. The luggage will contain drugs, and the victim may face arrest at the destination.

Scams Targeting U.S. Citizens Abroad

The Wallet/Money Drop Scam is when the scammer picks up a wallet or money and asks if it belongs to the tourist, showing a wad of currency, and tries to get the tourist to touch it. Another person approaches and claims the wallet belongs to him, then accuses the tourist of trying to steal it. The two scammers then either threaten to call the police unless the tourist pays them not to get the police involved, or they ask to see the visitor’s money to prove s/he didn’t steal theirs. When the tourist takes out his money, they grab it and flee.

The Restaurant/Bar Scam is when a young “English student” or attractive female offers to show a tourist around town and then invites him/her to enjoy food or drink at a nearby establishment. The visitor is often taken to a dimly lit back room and given a menu with small print. Sometimes, the visitor’s beverages will be spiked with drugs to impair vision and/or judgment. When the bill arrives, the host leaves and the establishment sends very large men to force the visitor to pay an exorbitant bill before leaving the premises or face assault.



The Card Games Scam is one of the most classic travel scams. Scammers will set up a game on crowded sidewalks in high tourist areas. They use three shells (or cups) with a small ball underneath one. They move them around and then stop, asking the audience to bet which one the ball is under. Their accomplices in the audience guess correctly the first few times, and then they let regular tourists get involved. They allow the tourists to win and place higher and higher bets, until the scammer palms the ball and causes the tourists to lose – sometimes hundreds of dollars.