The Five Most Common Scams to Look Out for in London

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London is a beautiful city known for its magnificent architecture, which makes it an incredibly popular destination for tourism. While its attractions have helped London become such a well-loved and iconic city, there are a number of scams that are specifically designed to target tourists. In this blog we will be outlining some of the most popular cons to keep an eye out for when visiting the Big Smoke!

1. People Asking if They Can Take a Photo For You

This scam is particularly common when visiting some of London’s monuments and famous buildings such as Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London. This scam will often take place when somebody sees a group of people struggling to take photos outside of one of these famous landmarks — the individual will then offer to take the picture themselves and subsequently run off with the phone. To avoid this, be wary of your surroundings and make sure you hold onto your phone tightly when visiting busy areas. 

photo of a couple taking a photo of themselves outside big ben

2. Inauthentic Theatre Tickets 

The selling and trading of inauthentic theatre tickets often takes place in Leicester Square and China Town, where people may approach you offering unbelievably cheap tickets to London’s most-loved West End shows. If you’re approached by somebody selling tickets at a discounted price, do not fall for it as it’s more than likely that the tickets will be fake. 

photo of the sign of oxford street and west end sign

3. Fake ATM Machines 

One of London’s most prominent scams involves fake ATM machines which are scattered throughout London. These machines will often feature a camera which will detect and read your card information and pin number, which can then be used to make payments on your card. While it can be initially difficult to spot a fake ATM machine, it is best to stay away from machines that are located in the middle of a street and aren’t part of a larger building. It is also wise to search around the machine for a camera attached to the frame! As a general rule, try to search for an ATM machine that is attached to a shopping centre or bank to ensure that it is legitimate and always cover your pin number with your other hand.

photo of an ATM machine

4. Pickpocketing

While this is not necessarily a scam, pickpocketing occurs all over London and is something to be aware of when visiting the city. Areas where pickpocketing commonly occurs are Liverpool Street, Shoreditch, Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Camden. These areas are notoriously busy and crowded, making them prime locations for theft. While general pickpocketing can be avoided by keeping your valuables in a zip-up bag close to your person, bike thieves also operate around London who will cycle past busy streets and grab phones and bags out of people’s hands. To avoid this, do not text while you walk and keep your bag on your back or on your shoulder. 

photo for someone taking a wallet out of someone's back pocket on a busy street

5. Contactless Card Machines

While contactless payment is incredibly convenient in today’s world, it has also created a new means for thieves to steal money from unsuspecting individuals. Similar to pickpocketing, this is likely to take place in some of the more crowded and busy areas of London. This scam involves thieves inputting a certain amount of money into a contactless payment machine and holding the machine near to bags and pockets in the hope of obtaining funds through contactless means. When this scam first started occurring, the maximum amount that one could spend via contactless payment was £30, however this has since increased to £100. To avoid this, keep your phone in an inside pocket of your bag and try to keep a good distance from those around you. 

photo of a contactless card machine and debit card