Common Expat Scams to Beware Of (Part One)


Common Expat Scams to Beware Of (Part One)

While you’re often safe abroad it pays to be aware of possible risks. Scammers exist in every nation and they may see a naive expat as an easy target. Say to yourself; if it looks too good to be true, then it is too good to be true.


Unfortunately pickpockets and thieves are found in every country so it pays for you to keep any items such as wallets, phones, bags etc… Close to your person. One technique that pickpockets use is to work as a team. One of them would see thieves purposely bump into their victim then hug the person as an act of apology. Whilst the victim is distracted by the stranger embracing them the other thief pilfers their pockets.

Another technique often used is the bird poo technique. The surprising splat of bird poo landing on you from a great height is followed by the swift appearance of a stranger who towels you down. In the confusion, valuables are removed from your person, never to be seen again. Another variation of the same scam has someone ‘accidentally’ spilling something (a drink or condiment, usually) on you.

Money transfer scam

According to the UK based National Fraud Authority many expats are contacted by email, telephone or letter in what at first appears to be a simple money making scheme. Newspaper advertisements are also often used to snag an expats attention. Some expats have been told that the money they are transferring is for trading shares overseas or that they are helping distribute charity funds.

The idea behind the scam is simple and involves the expat receiving a payment into their bank account which they can then withdraw in cash and send on to the criminals behind the scheme. For their trouble, the expat can earn as much as 20% in commission. If you do fall for this scam then you are at high risk of being arrested for laundering cash, a conviction that could least to a 14-year jail sentence.

Airport taxi scam

A common scam aimed at travellers. Drivers taking you into a town or to a hotel often try every trick in the book to squeeze some extra cash out of their customers. These tactics range from asking you for an inflated fare to driving around the streets to raise the price higher. This is usually harmless, but you should only travel with licensed taxis and, if you can’t pay in advance, agree on a fee before starting out and don’t pay until you get where you want to be. This scam is commonplace all over the world so be careful!

Broken down car scam

This scam has been used in many locations but the number of instances in Spain made headlines in 2012. Gangs of highway robbers target people in foreign-registered vehicles. The thieves then trick their victims with fake accidents, pleas for help, loud noises and fake break downs. One strategy favoured by the thieves is one where motorists may be driving along the motorway and not notice that there’s a car driving close behind them. Someone in the following car throws a stone or other object at the vehicle they’re following, creating a loud bang.

The driver of the front car pulls over to check the noise, the following car does likewise to ‘offer assistance’. It’s when the driver is distracted by this ‘help’ that their car is robbed. If you think your car may have been in a collision and you pull over, lock the car as soon as you get out and mount a guard on both sides of the vehicle. Keep all bags and valuables in a locked boot.

Fake police scam

Countries such as Thailand are notorious for this scam. The scammers are dressed as police officers who will stop you or pull you over. Then they will demand to see your passport, which of course will have something wrong with it.

They will then say that your troubles will be over and that you will be let go if you pay a fine. To them, in cash, right then. This scam also often involves real police officers looking for an easy buck from the foreigner. Often simply standing your ground and offering to go the nearest police station will usually see the matter magically resolved.

Have you encountered any scams whilst living as an expat? Let us know via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and the Expat Hub forum.

The Expat Hub
This post was written by
If you’ve already moved abroad, if you’re in the process of moving abroad or if you’re only thinking about it, the Expat Hub is here for you. For expatriates looking for advice, support and information, we’re the number one online stop.