Poland is a part of the global tourism market with increasing number of visitors, particularly after joining the European Union in 2004. But sadly petty crime has gone global too. The best way to avoid falling victim to a crime is to be a good observer. Traveling should be fun and not a frustrating experience. Knowing what (or who) to avoid will definitely help you a great deal.
Here are a few examples of scams you need to be aware of travelling in Poland.
This is probably the most common crime and usually works like this: someone creates a distraction, and someone else steals your wallet. Pickpockets often work in teams. So be aware that some crowds on the bus may be artificial, especially when you are surrounded by big guys holding plastic bags in their hands.
Take care of your wallet when you are entering or on any of the Warsaw public transportation (buses, 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 in one of the Baltic resorts during the summer season - Sopot, Gdansk or Gdynia are the major pick pocketing destinations, thieves come from other parts of Poland just to spend (your money) on summer holidays at the sea. Pickpockets often ask a question or bump into the victim. You have to beware of groups of children surrounding you, begging for money or food.
There's a growing black market for stolen credit card numbers in Krakow.
Some visitors have fallen victim to credit card scams, like 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 something else.
Most restaurants, cafes and shops now have wireless machines, so you can keep a hold of your card.
This should be a person willing to help. But, unfortunately, some "good Samaritans" are actually con artists. Some will hang around at train stations and ask if you need assistance purchasing a ticket - then 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 standing there, looking after your car and demanding payment for their "services".
Make yourself familiar with Polish currency and the bills you'll be dealing 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 nights and weekend rates on the meter during a weekday.
Some 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 - you know what I mean?
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.
Police are there to help you. But in many tourist destinations, there are people "using" police uniforms for totally different purposes. It's easy to be tricked when you're not familiar with the official uniforms.
But not even A grade uniform recognition skills will help you with one con; 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. 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.
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, (Club Saxon and Hard Candy). Usually after they were invited to have a drink by young Polish women, 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 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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