SCAM-sterdam! Stay out of trouble in Amsterdam

Like in any major city, rogue locals will try to scam an unsuspecting tourist in Amsterdam. If you remain smart, wary and alert, you should have a trouble-free visit.

Here's a list of the most common scams. You may encounter one, all or none of them.... but at least now you know to be on the lookout!

(Danger: unfeasibly beautiful tourist attraction ahead.... and there it is!)

Fake Notes & Fake Cops

Visitors to the Netherlands posting on a popular travel forum say some individuals may pretend to be police officers and question you over drug possession or counterfeit currency.

This is preying on a widespread fear in Europe that the central currency, the Euro, is easily forged and put into circulation.

There was a flood of fake 100Euro notes in the Netherlands in 2004 and many businesses in smaller towns stopped accepting them - you may still find some reluctance.

Here're some tips on spotting a fake Euro note:

  • Euro notes are made of 100% cotton material, making them hard, stiff and firm when touched; not flimsy.
  • Hold the note against plain light and look for the whole denomination number on all corners on both sides of the bank note. The number should be perfectly printed. There should be a dark security stripe across the note.
  • The hologram image changes from the value to a window or to a door symbol when turned in the light. The denomination number on the back should also change from purple to a green.
  • You can carry small battery-operated ultra violet lights to check notes. Under the UV light you should see the signature of the president of the European Central Bank and the flag symbols turn green, the star symbols turn orange.

Taxi Scams

Taxi drivers waiting outside the main airport may also be criminals who take you to a location away from your accommodation so they can rob you.

Many people consider the legitimate taxi drivers to be no better than thieves. The industry is heavily regulated. The drivers think the rules are unfair, so when there are none of the official taxi-police around they make up their own rules. They'll refuse to use the meter and charge flat fees regardless of distance, or simply make up a fare because it's a quiet night!

Even if they do agree to take you and switch on the meter the fare will make your eyes water in pain, 40 Euros or more from the airport to the city centre is common. With such good public transport in Amsterdam, why bother with a taxi?

White Van Men & Others

Watch out for the white van scam, where a pair of men in a white van approach and say they work for Bose. They'll typically say they are lost and ask a tourist for directions to a location. In exchange, they offer discounted products in a box, but when you give over your cash and take the boxes, you find they are empty.

Souvenir shops many be dodgy as well, as one tourist said he received a fake 20 euro bill after a shopkeeper apparently sent him all around the store so he could scam him.

(Why is this giant clog is chained to the ground - who is going to steal it and how?)

Scammers will often wait outside transportation centers and offer to take tourists to certain hotels, but re-direct you to some other establishment.

Transport hubs are also fairly risky after dark, when you will run the risk of having people try to "help" you with various tasks or trying to pickpocket or rob you.

Beggars will not leave you alone if you give into their requests for money. It is better just to say no and walk away without giving them anything.

These are all fairly standard scams and traps for visitors to any city, just be travel-wise.

Accommodation Scam

There is a major scam surrounding accommodation booking which is big in Amsterdam, but you usually get taken before you arrive.

It is possible to find short-term rentals and other housing opportunities using sites like Craigslist and Gumtree, but criminals are now posting bogus properties with a cheap price. You can narrow down which accommodations are suspect by simply reading the ad. Often, a scammer will use poor language, pictures that look too good to be true, and web sites with bad designs. These web sites often have very similar URLs to other rental ads.

Asking the ad poster to inspect the accommodation or having a friend in the area inspect it will usually be met with a "no" if the ad is indeed a fake. The good thing with scams on the more popular listing sites is that savvy community members will often start forum threads saying which ads are scams or are suspected of being scams.

(Some cheese, because it's The Netherlands.)

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