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Even though Amsterdam ranks among the safest destinations in the world, it is easy enough to fall for several types of scams whilst visiting the city. These infamous swindles range from seemingly pointless tricks that only cost victims a few euros, to much more damaging ones involving drugs or stolen property. Read on to discover what to watch out for whilst spending time in Amsterdam.
There’s a division of scammers in Amsterdam that make money by selling used public transport tickets to tourists. These shady characters tend to claim that these useless items are actually worth something and that they are selling them at a discounted price (even though they probably found the tickets in question lying on the street).
Purchasing suspiciously cheap bikes from street ‘merchants’ really isn’t worth the risk in Amsterdam. These bikes are almost always stolen which means that buying one is a criminal offence under Dutch law. It is also common for merchants to flog off broken bikes to tourists, that appear fine from a distance, but soon fall apart after money has exchanged hands.
According to reports posted by Amsterdam’s police force, tricksters sometimes pose as police officers to steal from tourists. These groups often flash fake badges and state that they are searching for counterfeit money or drugs. While rummaging through marks’ bags they will discretely steal cash or other valuables, then pretend as though everything is in order and disappear. Always remember that real Dutch police officers rarely conduct searches like this on the street and anyone that wants to look inside your bag is probably a thief.
If someone randomly offers to take you around Amsterdam by boat – say whilst your sat with friends in a pub or café – it is probably a scam. People aren’t that friendly anywhere in the world and this kindly boat owner will likely wait till your stuck out on the water before demanding an arbitrary payment for his services.
Street dealers in Amsterdam tend to target tourists and usually hang around popular areas like the Red Light District looking for marks. These sketchy individuals make their money by selling very low quality drugs, cut with other potentially dangerous chemicals. There has been several cases of intentional drug poisoning in Amsterdam over the past few years which have been linked to street dealers (so yeah, probably just avoid them altogether).
Sometimes street dealers will offer clients a small sample and let them try a dap of MDMA or cocaine before buying. While this might seem like a freeby, dealers will often demand money afterwards and threaten anyone that doesn’t pay up – even if they’ve decided against buying the drugs.
Amsterdam’s an expensive city when it comes to accommodation and it is currently experiencing a pretty harsh housing crisis. Many scam artists capitalise on these issues by posting fake accommodation listings on Craigslist, Facebook or Marktplaats. After agreeing to let people stay at their fake listings, these tricksters ask marks to transfer them money through services like Western Union, then break off contact when they receive the money. It is advisable to avoid searching for private apartments altogether when looking for short-term accommodation in Amsterdam and instead rely on reputable websites like hotels.com or airbnb.
Many fast food kiosks in Amsterdam’s more touristy areas don’t openly display their prices and wait until customers have taken their orders before presenting them with an unreasonably high bill. For example, a single slice of pizza at these stores sometimes costs over €5. Although this mark-up isn’t there too financially damaging , there are plenty of other better, fairly priced takeout joints in Amsterdam that actually disclose their prices to customers beforehand.
Over the past few years there have been several reports of fraudster taxi drivers at Schiphol Airport ripping off sizeable amounts of money from foreigners. These fake cab services shuttle people from the airport to their hotels and then ask for unbelievably high payments (over €1000 according to this article). This journey takes approximately 30 minutes and should only cost around €40 to €80. To avoid fraudster drivers, make sure to mosey on over to Schiphol’s clearly marked, official taxi rank, rather than jumping in a cab outside the airport’s entrance.
Amsterdam has its fair share of pickpockets and these opportunist S.O.B.s generally hang around places that are frequented by large groups of tourists – e.g. Centraal Station or Dam Square. Some pickpockets distract people by asking directions, while others simply prey on people that aren’t paying attention to their belongings. To avoid becoming a target, always keep your valuables close and think twice before chatting to strangers on the street.