London is perfectly safe to visit. However, no city in the world is free of crime and there are many street scams in London that visitors need to be wary of. Fraudsters use a range of tactics to steal your cash and – in some cases – your identity. Some scams and tricks are as old as anything in the book, whereas others are deviously clever.
However, you don’t need to fall victim to any of these scams if you know what to look for. Most visits and tours in London are trouble-free, but it won’t hurt to watch out for these tricks and scams that sometimes catch out unsuspecting visitors.
Fake theatre tickets
There’s no denying that a trip to London isn’t complete without a West End show experience. Unfortunately, London’s tricksters understand and capitalise on this fact. Some people offer discounted tickets to unsuspecting tourists in Leicester Square, but a lot of those tickets are fake. If it sounds too good to be true, just walk away. Only buy theatre tickets from licensed vendors (the TKTS ticket booth in Leicester Square is legitimate).
You might assume that pickpockets belong in films such as Oliver Twist. Unfortunately, pickpockets are very real, and they usually work in busy areas like Leicester Square, Oxford Circus, Trafalgar Square and the Tube. Keep your belongings hidden in your bag’s inner compartments rather than your pockets.
‘Bag cutters’ are like pickpockets, but they go to greater lengths to steal belongings. Instead of trying to remove possessions from your bag, they’ll cut a hole in the bottom of it and catch the contents in their own bag. Always remain alert when visiting the busy tourist attractions in London.
Fake charity collectors
Nobody wants to say ‘no’ to a charity collector. Some people play on those feelings of guilt to steal your money. In London, charity collectors must carry a permit to work in a public space. Don’t be afraid to ask for proof before parting ways with your hard-earned cash.
London is home to an abundance of designer shops, but you probably won’t find genuine luxury goods at a market. Some products may appear identical to the real thing, but you need to know what you’re really paying for. If you want genuine products, head to Bond Street or Regents Street. Don’t avoid London’s markets entirely – they’re the best places to find vintage and second-hand offerings.
Suspicious cash machines
Some of London’s tech-savvy fraudsters attach cameras to ATMs to record your card details and PIN number. Another common scam is to replace the card slot with a fake one that acts as a ‘skimmer’.
Once an unsuspecting member of the public inserts their card, the reader scans the details and ‘keeps’ the card. The thieves lie in wait nearby for the cardholder to leave the ATM and simply pop the fake card slot out to retrieve the stolen card.
The newspaper trick
Some of London’s thieves are very daring and seemingly friendly. They might approach you for a bit of chit-chat while subtly placing a newspaper on top of your belongings. When they leave you, they’ll retrieve their newspaper along with your valuables. Avoid keeping your possessions on tables or out in the open.
There’s nothing like a mock auction to drive up the price of a product. Fake bidders will stand at street market auctions to generate interest in goods that are actually worthless. Don’t fall victim to such a scheme – stick to designer stores if you want genuine goods for a fair price.
Contactless card readers
One of the newest scams in London is also one of the hardest to avoid. Scammers brush up against tourists in busy areas with a contactless card reader. They can steal up to £30 from your bank account without you even realising. Consider wrapping your cards in foil or purchasing a Defender Note to protect your identity and finances.
If you’d like the guidance of an expert guide and London local on your trip, make sure to check out our London tours page. Our tours provide you with a hassle-free, convenient way to see everything the city has to offer.