London is one of the world’s most historic and dynamic cities. Most notably since its hosting of the 2012 Olympics, the number of visitors, especially those coming from overseas, have shot up to over 19 million tourists per year! This influx of travellers from all over the world has breathed in new life into the city that has allowed more establishments like restaurants, bars, shops, and markets to open and thrive. Sadly however, this great number of tourists have also given rise to the number of scams and cheats in the city. Read on to find out about the tourist scams in London that travellers should keep an eye out for!
***If you’re traveling to London, make sure to download our free London Transport Guide to help you navigate the city’s public transport systems!***
Top Tourist Scams in London
1. Fake theater tickets
Leicester Square is a known spot among locals for ticket scalpers and scammers who will attempt to sell you fake tickets to a West End show like Les Misérables and the Lion King. Often, these tickets will be way below market price. As tempting as it is, we advise not to fall for these “too good to be true” deals. More often than not, you’re being scammed. To make sure you have real tickets, book through official ticketing websites.
2. Fake luxury goods
London has its fair share of luxury boutiques and designer stores on Regent Street and Bond Street. But if you happen to be at one of London’s markets like Old Spitalfields and Portobello Road and chance upon a brand new luxury item at a suspiciously low price, there’s a high chance that it’s a counterfeit product. These London markets are better known for their second-hand items and vintage wares.
3. Cameras on ATM machines
This ATM scam in London not only targets tourists but unsuspecting Londoners as well. People have reported to authorities suspicious-looking ATM machines that have cameras attached to them. They’re meant to record your PIN number which then leads to stealing directly from your bank account. When taking cash out from an ATM machine, it’s best to go do it inside a bank or secure building.
4. Pickpocket hotspots
Unsuspecting tourists are always the easiest targets of pickpockets. Places like Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Oxford Circus and on the Tube in London are considered pickpocket hotspots! Always keep an eye on your belongings, wear your bags in front of you, and as much as possible try to focus on doing one thing at a time to avoid being distracted. Travellers must also be wary of thieves on bikes or scooters who make appearances in central London.
5. Fake charity collectors
Another one of the tourist scams in London to watch out for are these fake charities asking for donations. They’re set up in many places in London and are likely to be in places where there are actual legitimate charities. In the UK, charity donation collectors must always carry a collector’s permit and a have a registration number. Before you think of donating, it would be wise to ask for proof of the charity’s legitimacy first.
6. People trying to enter your building
Nowadays, more and more travellers to London opt to stay at apartments known as “flats” instead of hotels. Often, these flats are inside buildings shared with other residents. This has become an opportunity for thieves to prey on naive tourists who are unfamiliar with the building. Thieves will pretend to be a resident and ask you over the intercom to “buzz” them in. Make sure that you don’t fall for this!
7. The wandering waiter
The lesser known of the tourist scams in London is of the wandering waiter. Basically, this pretend-waiter targets people who want to sit at a restaurant’s al fresco tables. He will approach you and offer you a table but only if you give him your credit card as a security deposit. A few moments later, this ‘waiter’ will have run away with your credit card! Restaurants will never ask you for your credit card in this manner.
8. A person who offers to take your picture
For solo travellers, having a random person offer to take your souvenir photo in front of the Big Ben would seem like a plain act of kindness. As tempting as this offer might be, you have to think again and be suspicious of the person posing as a good samaritan because this is now one of the most common tourist scams in London. As you pose for your photos, the thief will quickly run away with your camera or your phone.
9. Taxi scam
This particular tourist scam in London targets travellers walking towards Paddington station to head to Heathrow airport. The scam unfolds when a taxi driver approaches you and tells you that the Heathrow Express service has been suspended. This is just a ruse to for you to instead take a very expensive taxi ride all the way to the airport. Make sure that you check inside with the right authorities before making any changes to your transport plan.