Travellers, be it business, pleasure, or those returning to their home countries, are walking crime victims when viewed through the lens of hustlers and fraudsters. Arriving at or departing from an airport should be considered a safe place. Wrong. It can be a convenient place for a scammer: tourists are here today, gone tomorrow, and the next flight brings in another batch of potential victims.

Scams and hustles can occur anywhere – and they may not even be ‘illegal’ in nature – as many can occur by seemingly legitimate individuals. To beat the opportunists looking to fleece you of your hard-earned holiday cash, here are some of the scams now being perpetrated somewhere in the world as you read:

Excess Luggage

With airlines looking to squeeze a ‘fine’ out of passengers for every conceivable thing from in-flight sandwiches to over-weight luggage, travellers need to be wise to check-in staff who could charge them for straying over on their excess baggage. The best option is to keep within the luggage limit. Or at least pre-book excess luggage and keep the receipt for proof.

Pricy Porters

A common hustle is an effective one: a Good Samaritan porter offers to help tourists take their luggage. But it comes at a cost. Just before the exit, they will demand a ‘fee’ for their services, and if they don’t pay, there could be other ‘porters’ to gang up on in defence of their friend. The only way out of this is to pay to get their luggage back. The safest option is to keep hold of luggage, never let it out of sight and refuse a helping hand.

Airport Hustles To Avoid in 2024 - The Wise Traveller - Currency

Foreign Exchange Bureaux

With security around, travellers could safely think that being ripped off would be zero. Foreign exchange bureaux will offer exceptionally poor exchange rates, resulting in less money to spend or sky-high commissions, leaving them short-changed. The best option is to have some of the required currency with you before you enter the country. Check the exchange rates, avoid the bureaus and visit banks or respected money changers for decent rates.

Souvenirs and Duty-Free

While trinkets and other souvenirs are overpriced in the airport, duty-free should be another place where a traveller knows the rules. One common duty-free ‘semi-legal’ scam is that of allowable quantities. In some lesser-controlled airports, travellers will receive incorect advice on how much they are entitled to import duty-free for their destination, leaving the real potential of a customs fine and major hassles upon arrival. Don’t be fooled into special deals on alcohol. Know the legal limits and, as for souvenirs, do it away from the airport.


Thieves and pickpockets can work with skill and efficiency at airports, and their victims are on their way before they know what’s hit them. Some will walk away with unattended luggage, swap one for another, and scoop in for a laptop. Keep your luggage in sight and ahold at all times – and don’t be caught with your pants down at the toilets, where a thief could quickly enter and scoot off with an unattended bag. Keep wallets and purses covered, don’t flash big wads of cash and lock your luggage. Avoid being bumped, as it could be a thief at work, and never be distracted.

More Fees

Luggage trolley fees are becoming increasingly frequent, so be ready to struggle with your luggage if you don’t pay eye-watering amounts. Similarly, alcohol and food at airport cafes and restaurants are going sky-high as we speak. So buy beforehand and avoid the excessive charges.

Fake wifis

Beware of hackers lurking around and waiting to snatch your private information via fake wifis. They are highly cunning without you even knowing and stealing data. Always verify the wifi information with airport staff.

Airport Hustles To Avoid in 2024 - The Wise Traveller - Counting money at ATM

ATM fraud

This is a popular dupe for some travellers. A favourite for scammers is to ‘help’ an arriving tourist at an unfamiliar ATM. But their bank details and PINs are being secretly siphoned off. It is also common for ATMs to be modified by scammers which can read data, allowing scammers to replicate a credit card in minutes. The best option is never to ask for help at an ATM and to carry some extra cash to tide you over until you need an ATM outside the airport.

Andy Probert - The Wise TravellerAndy Probert is an independent journalist based in Turkey. He writes about travel, aviation, new tech and business. His work has appeared on the BBC, in The Daily Telegraph, Hurriyet Daily News and other newspapers worldwide.