6 Tips on Scams and Crime in Poland

Watch out for fake cops, dodgy taxi drivers, pickpockets and these crafty con artists when you go to Poland.

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Warsaw Old Town around the Zamkowy Square Photo © Getty Images/Didier Marti

Tourism in Poland is increasing each year, and with transport improvements helping to connect locals and travelers around the country, travel within Poland is getting easier. While Poland is generally a really safe country to travel, there are a few petty (sometimes smooth) criminals operating in the country. The best way to avoid falling victim to crime is to be alert. Knowing what (or who) to avoid will also help a heap.

Here are a few examples of scams and crime you need to be aware of while exploring in Poland.

1. Pickpockets in Poland

This is probably the most common crime. Pickpockets often work in teams, and they usually work like this: one person creates a distraction, and the other person steals your wallet. Be aware that some crowds on buses or public transport may be artificial – especially when you are surrounded by larger men holding plastic bags in their hands.

Take care of your wallet when you are on any of Warsaw's buses and trams downtown, or on Royal Trail (Trakt Krolewski) consisting of Krakowskie Przedmiescie, Nowy Swiat and Aleje Ujazdowskie between the Old Town and Rozbrat Square near Lazienki Garden.

Be careful when you're in these Baltic resorts during summer (June to August): Sopot, Gdansk or Gdynia. These are the major pick pocketing destinations, where thieves come from other parts of Poland just to steal distracted summer vacationers' money. Pickpockets often ask a question or bump into the victim. Be aware of groups of children surrounding you, who may be begging for money or food – and never give in to their requests, this just encourages the act.

2. Credit Card Security

There's a growing black market for stolen credit card numbers in Krakow.

Some visitors have fallen victim to credit card scams, such as this one: after a long day of travel, the victim is awakened when the hotel room phone rings. It's the receptionist apologizing for the late hour, but asking to verify credit-card details. The victim reads them out and drifts back to sleep. It's not until much later when they realize that "front desk" was actually a front for someone else.

Most restaurants, cafes and shops now have wireless machines, so you can keep a hold of your card. 

3. Good Samaritan Con Artists

Often travelers will find if something or someone seems too good to be true, they are. Unfortunately, some "good Samaritans" are actually con artists in Poland. These people will hang around at train stations and ask if you need assistance purchasing a ticket – then they will take your money and run.

You should also be wary of people at train stations who offer to show you to your seat. When you get there, they will demand payment.

Pay attention to people helping you to find a parking spot. In many cities, like Warsaw, Gdansk or Poznan there are men waiting around to look after your car, and then demand payment for their "services" when you return.

4. Dodgy Taxi Drivers

Make yourself familiar with Polish currency and the bills you're carrying and paying with.

Some taxi drivers try to cheat their foreign customers by insisting you didn't pay enough (and in the meantime they hide the money you actually paid and show you smaller bills).

Some will charge higher night time and weekend rates on the meter during a weekday. Others might quote you one fare and charge you double once you arrive at your destination.

And watch out for the "shortcuts" which happen to be much longer than actual route. Ask at your hotel for an estimate of how long a taxi ride will take and what it should cost, and make sure the driver knows you know.

Never take unmarked taxis – those without a logo and telephone numbers – they will charge you much more than the actual rate. Official taxis will always run a meter so you know exactly what fare you will be charged.

5. Fake Police in Poland

Police are there to help you. But, in some tourist destinations there are people wearing police uniforms for totally different purposes. It's easy to be tricked when you're not familiar with the official uniform.

Unfortunately, not even tip top uniform recognition skills will help you with one particular scam, such as this one: thieves claiming to be plain-clothed policemen come to assist you. The "policemen" then ask to see your ID and credit cards, and to be given PIN numbers. The fake police officer will then look through your wallet, giving it back to you saying everything is fine. But, he will be long gone by the time you realize some of your money is missing or credit cards are gone. No genuine law enforcement officer will ask you for your PIN.

6. Overpriced Drinks

In Krakow, foreigners are sometimes saddled with outrageous bills for drinks at certain bars and clubs (particularly on ul. sw. Tomasza, ul. Slawkowska, Florianska ,and sw. Marka), all occuring after they were invited to have a drink by young Polish women, who are obviously members of the scam group. Make sure you always check the prices before you order anything – including the prices of the drinks the girls are having.

If you need to call the police in an emergency, you can call the Europe-wide number 112. You may also dial 997 for police, 998 to report a fire, or 999 to summon an ambulance.

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4 Comments

  • Jerzy said

    Taxi Driver above played on me in Egypt. with accomplices.
    From aiport Hurghada Police could not find driver because I did not have taxi Number

  • cc said

    Nowe Miasto on Beera Meiselsa 24, Kraków.
    Incident on Wednesday night July 8th 2015
    THIS PLACE IS RUNNING A SCAM! !!
    It seems to be a common scam now that I saw it. This is what happened:
    1. Walking along the street nearby the bar when two girls across street are asking for directions.
    2. Crossed the street and they ask for directions to Hard Rock Cafe. I don’t know since I am jot from here so I pulled out my phone to look it up.
    3. Then they say forget since it’s too far and asked if I would join them for a drink nearby. I said sure why not since I was just walking around anyway.
    4. One them said tugged at hand to go ahead and the other one said she’ll come shortly and she pulled out her phone.
    5. It looked like a random bar the one who was with me picked.
    6. We sat at the bar and looked over the drink menu. I don’t really drink so I was asking for something without alcohol. I ended with canned apple juice and with a dash of ‘supposedly weak Polish vodka’. I didn’t see, smelled, or tasted any vodka. That was ok by me since it’s a cheap drink anyway though I should have just ordered water.
    7. The two girls ordered something in Polish but they never looked at the menu. The drink that they got looked like orange juice.
    8. The bill came to 369 Zlotys ($128.14 Canadian) !! That’s like more than 4 days of travel money!
    9. The bartender – a woman demanded payment right after serving the drinks and showing the amount on a calculator.
    10. I was never in this situation before in my life and being in a foreign place I decided to pay the bill. One of the girls said she’ll get the next set of drinks after. I paid feeling I was ripped off.
    11. The bartender at times would say she doesn’t know much English but I was beginning to get the feeling they all knew each other. And there was no else in the bar.
    12. I was just getting ready to leave when the two girls decided to order more drinks. I refused anything else and two of the same drinks they had previously.
    13. When the bill came I said it’s not mine so one of them took out her Mastercard to pay. The card was declined. It looked strange that the bartender was explaining to her in English why the card was declined! Bartender who said she didn’t know much English speaking to another Pole.
    14. The bartender turned to me with the calculator and demanded the money. I insisted that they girls pay for their own drinks this time. The older of the two girls started nagging at me to pay and then I was sure something was up.
    15. I looked around and didn’t see a bouncer or anyone else but I didn’t want to be cause a scene. I paid the bill which was for another 344.00 zlotys ($120.14 Canadian ) and was trying to get my head around what really happened here.
    16. One of the girls insisted that I drink something and I said no. She ordered a vodka shot and I made it clear I am not paying for it or drinking it. She asked if I had 20 zl and I just got up and left without giving anymore money.
    17. I left the bar about 12.00 midnight and came back to the hotel. I googled ‘bar scams’ for Krakow and read several identical stories. I called my bank in Canada and the advised to get the police involved. I went back to the bar and the door was locked but music was playing. I knocked really hard but no one opened. This was just before 3 am – about 3 hours after I was last in the bar. I hung around for a couple minutes and the same two girls walked out of the bar onto the street. They looked awkwardly surprised to see me and began to hurry towards a taxi. I tried to talk to them and the older was saying she needs to hurry for the taxi but there was several taxi all sitting nearby. Then when she won’t stop I tried to snap a their picture but it blurry and they ran into another bar nearby.
    18. I called the police but the girls had left in a taxi already. The police went into the bar and questioned the same bartender. ( Strange that the bartender opened the door when the police knocked but not when I knocked earlier and even harder )
    19. The police said there isn’t much they can do since the girls are gone and they can only take this as information.
    20. I asked the bartender when did the girls leave and she replied ” ..right after I left..” I explained to the police that she is lying and the police asked her in Polish. The police then explained to me that she said those were different girls who just left. WHAT A LIER AND SCAMMER!!
    DON’T GO TO THIS BAR – THEY ARE THIEVES AND SCAMMERS! The good people of Krakow should put them out of business!

  • Radiotechnieman said

    Had a strange thing yesterday.
    We drove on the S11 from Kórnik to Poznan when I saw a car on the emergency lane with yellow plates.
    A man was waving to cars to stop.
    Since I am Dutch I thought it was a Dutch car, but after stopping in front of the car I saw it was a British car.
    The man came to us (spoke good English, had tinted skin, maybe Roman...?)
    He said he had no gas and no money and a kid in the car.
    He gave me a business card and said he would give his golden ring and neckless as collateral and asked if we could lend him some money.
    I said we had none, only credit card. He said it's no problem, he had a little gas to go to a gas dispenser.
    It didn't feel right.
    I asked him why he didn't have any money or credit card when traveling to Poland. And giving him gas or money won't get him to England. He stumbled and only said "I have a kid the car"
    He didn't even seemed really upset that we didn't want to help him.
    I wonder if there are people who also have seen this.

  • Radiotechnieman said

    Also be aware of Romans trying to sell you fake phones and other crap on the parking places on the highway.
    We had this several times on the A4 near Kraków. They operate in groups and are very aware of the police. They seem to know when the police are coming because every time right before the cops come they hurry and disappear with their cars.

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