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Germany isn't the kind of place you will ever really feel unsafe, but there are some sneaky scams you need to be aware of. Here's what you need to know about local cons and fraud in Germany.
These are in abundance throughout most German cities. Some are harmless, adding colour and culture, but there are some pesky beggars that will try anything to get your cash.
These kind of beggars are usually scammers who have signs made up in a variety languages, telling their sob story. Even if you give them money they will try and get more, and distract you while their child steals from your bag.
This can happen anywhere, but be extra careful on public transport and tourist hotspots.
Some main areas you will need to keep a lookout are Alexanderplatz in Berlin, as well as parks in Kreuzberg. Stealing from people dining at a cafe or restaurant is common in Berlin. Never leave your bag unattended hanging on the back of a chair or casually leave your wallet/purse on the table.
The Hasenbergal district in Munich, around the main station.
In Hamburg be cautious around the Munckebergstrasse main station, on the Reeperbahn.
And in Frankfurt most crime is concentrated in the red light district, around the central train station, where many drug dealers and junkies hang out.
Distraction techniques are often favoured by pickpockets. One child will distract you with some brochures or questions while their mate lifts valuables from your bag. Others will use a large poster or paper to show you something which creates a shield, hiding the other pickpocket who steals from you.
Public transport ticketing on the Ubahn and Sbahn relies a lot on a trust system. You buy a ticket on the platform, and stamp it in a machine to validate it. Once validated you can travel in the one direction for two hours, using most forms of transport.
There are people who will try and sell you already validated tickets on the platform, for cheaper than usual. If you are caught buying from them you will be in a lot of strife. Also you may not get to properly check the date and time on the ticket, and before you know it the seller's disappeared, and you're left with a useless ticket.
While traveling on the train, keep your valuables on you. Stow your clothes and less valuable items overhead.
There's also a scam that some travellers have warned about, which are fake ticket inspectors. Most inspectors are in plain clothes, but they show their badge so you know they're genuine. Scammers are said to be using fake badges, and telling tourists they catch that they have to pay the fine on the spot. Real inspectors will give you the option of printing out a penalty notice for you to pay later.
ATM skimming is becoming more common in Germany, where criminals manipulate cash machines to skim PIN codes and draw money.
There are ways to spot them, but it's hard to be sure. You can check if there's any glue residue around the card reader, or feel if anything feels loose. Also check around to see if there's anything that a hidden camera may be able to be placed in. A brochure stand or even an empty packet of cigarettes on top of the machine.
If this all sounds a bit daunting, the best thing to do is use ATMs that are inside banks. Avoid stand alone ATMs in dark places, or heavily populated places like malls and train stations.
Credit card fraud is increasing across Germany. The US Bureau of Diplomatic Security reports that between 2014 and 2015, there was a 15% increase of fraud via stolen credit/debit cards not using a PIN.
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