Like any travel destination where there are tourists there are inevitably going to be con artists and scammers seeking to take advantage of the unsuspecting. Here are a few things to look out for and ways you can protect yourself from becoming their next target.
One popular scam involves a group of con artists working together and posing as metro clerks. They'll approach a tourist, request to examine their ticket and then promptly declare that it's not valid. They then demand an on-the-spot fine of anywhere between 500 and 1000 CZK. The quickest way to spot these phonies is to ask for their badges. Legitimate metro workers are required to produce their credentials any time they ask to check someone's ticket. If they don't show you their badges, insist that the police are called.
Another well-known hustle involves someone posing as a "lost tourist" who stops you and asks for help with directions. While you are conversing with the would-be crook two or more of his friends approach, claiming to be police officers and accusing you of doing something illegal (often illegal money exchange). They then insist that you hand over your wallet and passport, which they will promptly pocket and take off. The first tipoff to this scam is that the "tourist" will likely have a Czech accent that they are trying (poorly) to disguise. If anyone approaches you in this manner, smile, politely tell them you can't help and walk away.
Similar to the helpless tourist ploy, there are lots of swindlers pretending to be plain-clothes police officers. They claim to be investigating various criminal or illegal activity and demand to see identification. They may also ask to have a look at your money to verify that it isn't counterfeit. Don't fall for it. Czech police officers do not have the authority to verify passports or currency.
For the most part, money exchange offices are on the up and up and you can change your currency without incident. Some, however, particularly in the more touristy areas operate under somewhat questionable terms. One of the ways they trick unsuspecting tourists is by offering a favorable exchange rate but not revealing the fine print, such as a high minimum exchange amount. Others will hang signs in their windows advertising attractive rates which, upon further inspection, are actually for selling CZKs, not buying or exchanging which carry a much higher rate. Do your research before you do business with any random money exchange to ensure the one you choose is reputable.
Gentlemen visiting the Czech Republic should be particularly cautious of beautiful women who come over to flirt with them at a bar or club. Sure these women may be genuinely interested in you, but chances are much more likely that they're just interested in picking your pockets. Or they could be prostitutes looking for new clients. They are crafty and cunning and ripping off foreigners is how they make a living so don't get too excited.
When shopping, always be sure to count your money and verify that you receive the correct change. Some Czech people feel that Westerners (they'll know you by your accent) are all rich and therefore wouldn't notice or care about being shortchanged. It doesn't happen everywhere, but there are a few dishonest clerks, so pay attention.
The Czech Republic is a welcoming place full of friendly people eager to share their culture and heritage. But while most people there are honest and hardworking, there are some who choose to take the easy way out and use scamming tourists as a way to make their living. If you know what to expect beforehand you will be able to avoid becoming one of their victims and enjoy a scam-free trip.
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