The Most Common Scams
Although it is fairly rare, there are those who attempt to scam tourists, especially in Budapest. For instance, one variation which occurs on Vaci street in Budapest is for a couple of attractive girls to approach a male traveler or small group of male travelers asking for directions to a bar. Eventually, they invite the travelers to visit the bar with them, which is actually just a front for the scam. When the bill arrives, the total is for hundreds of Euros and the travelers are not allowed to leave until the bill is paid. This trick is also sometimes played in Prague.
Another Budapest scam is for a person claiming to be an undercover police officer to approach you, flash an ID, and ask to inspect your wallet for counterfeit money (you can guess what happens then). Another variation is for one scammer to approach you and ask for a light or strike up a conversation. Then his partner arrives pretending to be the undercover officer and accuses you of conducting a drug deal or other criminal activity with the first individual. If a police officer without a uniform approaches you, do not hand over your wallet or purse for inspection, but instead ask to be taken to a police station first, or even to a nearby hotel lobby. This will quickly take care of the problem (unless you really are dealing in drugs or counterfeit money, in which case your situation could turn out to be considerably more complicated).
Yet another scam is for someone to offer to change money with you on the street, often near an exchange office. We’ll keep this one simple; don’t change money on the streets, and if someone approaches you with an offer to do so, don’t even engage with him or her.
For the most part though, just maintaining situational awareness and employing some common sense is enough to avoid problems such as the ones described above. For instance, ask yourself, “When have beautiful young girls ever needed to approach strangers on the street to find someone to have a drink with them?” Or “Would I be suspicious if a police officer tried this back home?”
Be smart while traveling!
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