Our Top Tips on Avoiding Crime & Scams in Germany

Germany isn't the kind of place you will ever really feel unsafe, but as a tourist you will stick out like tofu at a bratwurst stand, so there are some sneaky scams you need to be aware of.

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Buskers and Beggars

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.

Pickpocketing in Germany

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.

Safety While Using the German Train System

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.

Fake Train Inspectors

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.

Credit Card Fraud in Germany

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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3 Comments

  • Dude from Munich said

    I can confirm Kreuzberg to be a pickpocketing hotspot. Be on the watch especially when you enter or leave the metro station Kottbusser Tor aka. "Kotti".

    There are usually organized groups of pickpocketers of foreign descent. Usually, some of them will try to start a distracting conversation or attempt to get close to you by pretending to "dance" or even pass a football to you in order to "dribble". While you are disctracted, the actual thief will be someone else sneaking up behind you. They will steal as you are disctracted by their partners and immediately hand the plunder over to a third person pretending to be a passenger. Even if the victim realizes what has happened and confronts the thief afterwards, the thief will just pretend to be innocent and empty his bags and pockets in front of the victim, as the "passenger" is long gone with the victim's belongings.



    You are wrong about Munich, though. Munich is one of the most safe cities in the whole world. It is not even remotely comparable to Berlin. Hasenbergl is an area in the north of munich and nowhere near the central station. It used to have a bad reputation among the people of munich due to its historical roots, but living there for more than 15 years, i can confirm it to be a very safe space. Most of the inhabitants are elderly people and families with lower income. There is no need to be afraid of anyone there. Your info is probably based on the old prejudices that have been burned into the minds of the people by the bad press Hasenbergl received in its founding years.

    München-Neuperlach is what is considered the new Hasenbergl right now. However, can neither confirm or deconfirm the actual situation there.

  • David from TravelScams.org said

    Thanks for sharing Phil! Although one of the world's safest, there're still a number of dangers to navigate around in Germany. If I may add, do beware of the petition scammers who will stuff a petition in your face while their accomplices go about pickpocketing your valuables, and the standard shell game/gambling games which are so prevalent around Europe.

  • Peter said

    I was in a hurry, and with my gf, on a u-bahn towards shoenefeld airport in Berlin. The fake inspectors spotted and targeted us. Our 72 hour ticket really has expired, but only for a matter of a few hours. Nevertheless, we were forced to pay ON spot. Were we not in a hurry catching a plane, we would have argued about this and that and possibly be calling the police, but given the time restriction, we found it better to pay the fine and catch the plane. We payed in cash and got some kind of "fake" receipt that looked genuine on the first sight. Only later inspection has revealed that neither the timing nor the u-bahn station were correct. There was no alternative but to pay in cash at that given moment. What a shame, when we had a really nice impression of the city prior to this event.

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