Being scammed in India is something typical for all backpackers, and it won’t be any different to you.
This article will demonstrate what the most common scams in India you will face are and how you should avoid them.
- Top 20 Scams in India
- 1. False Government Tourist Office
- 2. The train as already passed or was canceled
- 3. Scammy train officials
- 4. Begging for milk or pen
- 5. Mumper robbers
- 6. Free tour guides from Student in exchange for books
- 7. Fake products
- 8. Paid blessing
- 9. The false momentary friends/helpers
- 10. Constant bargaining and “Dynamic” prices
- 11. Selling fake gemstones
- 12. Taxi driver doesn’t know the directions to your hotel/guesthouse it’s closed
- 13. Rickshaws or taxis without Meter or not working
- 14. Prepaid taxis at airports
- 15. Strange fee or being caught with a traffic error by a police officer
- 16. Taxi fare reduction for visiting shops where drivers get a cut
- 17. Wrong bill in Restaurants
- 18. Unofficial SIM card
- 19. False help to a lookalike tourist, or even a regular tourist
- 20. Buying weed Scam
Top 20 Scams in India
There are many levels of scams in India. The simplest ones happen all the time, mainly because you are a tourist. Most of the time it is related to the price of things and what you are buying.
It is normal to put a price 3 or 4 times more. You just have to negotiate, a lot. To trade well, you must be well-informed about what you are buying. This is the best way to avoid big scams.
But other scams can leave your pockets empty, so you should be well aware at all times.
Here is our list of the most common scams you will face and how to avoid them:
1. False Government Tourist Office
This happens mainly in Delhi, a city where many tourists arrive or depart to or from their countries, and it is considered perhaps one of the
Being a tourist in an unknown country can often involve asking for information, such as where you can buy train tickets.
It is precisely at this point that you will confront people giving you lots of wrong information, including saying that the government tourism office is located in Connaught Place.
When you get there, you’ll even see a sign saying Government Tourist Office at the entrance, but it’s false.
This does not mean that you can not buy tickets there, but they will always try to sell you a complete tour, with train tickets and hotels for your entire trip. It may seem comfortable, but it is not.
You must refuse everything. The train tickets can be real, although with an extra commission on top. Also, the hotels booked, even if they are perfect, most of the times its location is far away from the main areas of interest.
There are stories of tourists who bought this complete tour, sometimes spending significant sums like $1000 and at the end, realizing they had to stay away from everything, they ended up giving up these hotels and booking new ones.
Their trick is to sell everything since after you buy and travel, you hardly go back to the same place to confront them. And all this is entirely avoidable. You can buy train tickets online at 12Go Asia.
Or if you’re in Delhi, you can also go to the central tourist office located at New Delhi Railway Station (Paharganj, near exit gate No. 1).
2. The train as already passed or was canceled
This other scam in India occurs mainly in the stations while waiting for the train. As it is often difficult to understand what is written on the board, it is normal for some people to say that the train is no longer coming and that your only solution is to travel by car.
Their goal is to sell you a long distance drive to your destination.
You just have to ignore who, so helpfully, gives you this kind of information and confirm everything with the station’s official authorities. Or better yet, you can verify everything in APP Indian Train Status, available for Android and iPhone.
3. Scammy train officials
You should avoid all people who try to sell you train tickets in addition to the official store. This is a normal scam in India, very common in high times when many tourists appear in the train stations looking for last minute tickets.
Usually, they are fake tickets, in addition to charging you a much higher value. They will try to convince you that it’s more comfortable or almost impossible to get tickets at the station.
4. Begging for milk or pen
It is usual in tourist areas to see children asking for milk, pens or pencils. They are small and cheap things, but this is not by chance. You may easily think you’re helping them.
But not. It’s a small scam in India, where they will sell to the stores and make money from it. And often, they are working for someone, meaning that what they earn is not even for them.
You’ll even see children with a baby on their lap asking them to buy milk for the baby. With pity, it’s easy to accept it. But when you get to the supermarket, you will see that they will choose the most expensive milk they find. But once again, milk is not for the baby, but for selling. And, most likely, money is not for any of them.
5. Mumper robbers
Always be careful when entering streets full of beggars. It will be easy for them to create a confusing, cluttered environment, and without you noticing or feeling anything, they will empty your pockets or steal something you have less protected.
The best way to avoid this is to have your most valuable items well protected in zipped pockets.
Or use a bag with no pockets, opening and closing in a single location, not easy to open.
6. Free tour guides from Student in exchange for books
You’ve probably seen something like this in the movie “Who wants to be a Millionaire,” when a kid, without any knowledge, acts as a tour guide at the Taj Mahal.
The cases you will encounter are a bit different. Young people act as students and offer their services as a tour guide at no cost.
The only thing they ask is, in exchange, to offer them a book they need for school.
Seeming a genuinely acceptable situation, the false guide will take you to a bookstore and ask for a more expensive book there. Even if you do not accept and suggest another book, always try one that is as expensive as possible.
After being persuaded to buy, since they have provided you with a service as a guide after you leave, they will return the book, and in return, they will receive a small commission.
7. Fake products
It’s the most common scam in India that can happen when you buy any item without any knowledge of what you are buying.
If they are things like clothing, food or other cheap items, it will not be a big problem. Maybe you pay more than you should, but it all depends on your negotiating skills.
The problem is if you are buying more expensive things like silver, cashmere or pashmina. If you do not understand the subject, you are more likely to purchase other materials instead of what you want.
If the price is too good to be true, it will probably be fake. But sometimes sellers put counterfeit products at a more credible price.
So do not risk buying things you do not understand. Always do a proper search before purchasing anything.
8. Paid blessing
In many religious places such as Pushkar Lake, Haridwar, Varanasi or others, it is common to find “holy men”, also known as the Sadhus, performing rituals and offering their services, usually prayers.
In return, they will want a small amount. Negotiate well before you accept and pay what you agreed upon initially.
Sometimes you will find false Sadhus charging for prayers and also asking for small donations. In return, they will offer you a cloth bracelet, but it’s all a farce.
It does not mean that you refuse everything, because sometimes you will be so involved with the moment that you will want to participate. And of course, you will be deceived many times, for it is difficult to perceive the truth of the lie.
As long as values are always low, there will be no big problem.
9. The false momentary friends/helpers
It’s another common scam in India. Some people will come to you offering their help with a friendly attitude: “Hey, my friend, do you need any help?”
These scams start by trying to figure out where you’re going, your plans to then offer your help to find a better solution.
Their goal is to get you somewhere they’ll earn a commission.
To avoid these false friends, always look confident that you know exactly where you want to go, even if it is not true. Assume you know everything, and never share any information with them. They are not your friends.
10. Constant bargaining and “Dynamic” prices
Bargaining is a national pastime in India, and for tourists, is the main difference between having a cheap trip or an expensive one.
Most of the time, the price in the stores is not displayed anywhere, so when you ask “how much?”, The rate they give you is absurdly high.
Then you should trade well to get more reasonable value, and the best strategy is to start by suggesting ridiculously low cost and negotiate from there.
11. Selling fake gemstones
It’s a common scam in cities like Jaipur, Agra Goa, and Rishikesh.
You will have strangers coming to you to sell some precious stones at a much better price than in stores.
The coup is simple. The man will guarantee the excellent quality of the gems, saying that it is a supplier for all stores and that you can sell the same products at the same price they sell to stores.
Once again, it’s all false and, in the end, you’ll end up with stones of no value.
12. Taxi driver doesn’t know the directions to your hotel/guesthouse it’s closed
Another common scam perpetrated by rickshaw drivers when they pick you up at the airport or just outside a train station.
Many things can happen from there.
They may take you to the wrong place saying that it is your hotel when it is not. If it’s night, when they get there, they may even refuse to take you away, especially if there are no more rickshaws in the area.
They may also argue that the road is closed and it is impossible to get to your hotel. In practice, their goal is to take you where they have a commission.
It’s tough to escape these cases, especially if it’s a big city. But if you have internet, you can always see where the rickshaw is driving and confront it as soon as possible.
If you are in a city like Delhi, then it will be much more straightforward, since if you have internet, you can call an Uber and make sure they will not fool you.
Uber in India is present in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta.
13. Rickshaws or taxis without Meter or not working
When picking a rickshaw in India, especially in places like Delhi, you will continuously face all the broken counters, unlike cities like Mumbai.
In Mumbai, the accountants work all, and that is where you can see that the price is Rs. 20 per km. It’s a perfect reference for all the negotiating moments you’ll have in every city in India.
You have to know your destination and distance. From there you can trade based on these values. Of course, everything also depends on the law of supply and demand.
14. Prepaid taxis at airports
Technically, it’s not quite a scam. You have prepaid taxis at all airports in India, and it is a service created so that you do not have the everyday problems of negotiating potential frauds by the rickshaw drivers.
However, the price charged is higher than if you are facing rickshaw drivers. You’ll be safer.
15. Strange fee or being caught with a traffic error by a police officer
If in India if you rent a car or motorcycle in places like Goa, for example, you are very careful when driving.
You can have a police officer on any corner, careful to see if you’ve made a mistake. Or in some cases, they will send you to stop arguing that you made a mistake, even if it is not true.
To avoid the fine, it will suggest a lower price, which you will have to pay.
Then you do not have much choice, but try to negotiate as much as you can. If you are entirely sure you did nothing, you can, and you must fight the stupid fine. But in some cases, you won’t escape from paying something to the police.
16. Taxi fare reduction for visiting shops where drivers get a cut
It is a very simple coup and is always happening, especially in big cities like Delhi, more specifically in Connaught Place. The driver either offers you a discount or even the full trip and in return, you have to go with him to visit some shops.
In that case, if you do not want to, refuse this offer. But if you are on time, you can go with him, but always saying that there is no obligation to buy.
Usually, they will take you to more expensive stores, with a somewhat luxurious appearance. It’s up to you to buy or not. You already know that they (rickshaw drivers) will receive a commission.
17. Wrong bill in Restaurants
It is a very simple and common scam if you do not pay attention. How much to give the account, it can come with things you did not ask for.
You have to check everything out before you pay.
18. Unofficial SIM card
Buying a SIM card in India is not an easy task. It is very bureaucratic, requires photos, photocopy of the passport, filling in a large form and, in the end, you have to wait almost a full day for the card to become active.
So far, none of this is a scheme, just a bureaucratic process that you will have to go through.
But if you are buying the card in unofficial stores, you may run the risk of paying for defective or inactive SIM cards.
Many shops use this blow with the hope that you will be in another city the next day and with no possibility of returning.
Most of the scams involving buying a SIM Card in India are related to the following issues:
- After you purchase the cart, they never activate it. That is why you should stay in the same city ;
- They regularly “forget” to include the 2GB of Internet per day, as it says in the Airtel Web page;
- They charge a lot more money for the SIM Cart.
You can avoid this by buying a SIM card in a city where you will stay more than one day. So if it does not work, you can always go to the same store the next day and ask to return the money.
Or, if you buy the Airtel card, which has the best coverage in all of India, it requires the 2 GB of internet per day that you are entitled to. They will often give you much less than that.
19. False help to a lookalike tourist, or even a regular tourist
It is another type of scam that happens with some frequency in India. Perpetrated by some lookalike tourist asking for help.
It’s is a real story that happened at Mumbai airport.
After the turmoil in Mumbai in January 2018, before embarking for Kolkata, a man approached. He said he was robbed during the mutiny and left without anything, including a passport.
He said that he was from London, with an Indian mother, spoke very well English with an accent, saying that he was a retired lawyer living in Delhi.
He argued that the services in London were closed, and so he needed someone to receive an electronic transfer from his brother and give him the money.
Because of the impossibility of transferring money in such a short time, he borrowed, arguing that his brother would later transfer the money to him as soon as possible.
Of course, all this information is false, but all the arguments put forward are entirely valid and possible.
Even if you look like a tourist, or even one, you may be the victim of another blow. As much as it costs you to stop helping someone, you should not lend anything, since you are most likely never to receive.
20. Buying weed Scam
The purchase of marijuana in India is prohibited, and you can even have severe penalties for possession or merely be under the influence.
But many tourists do not mind taking such risks, but there, they will be more vulnerable to other threats: the schemes of selling fake marijuana.
These scams are quite common in cities like Delhi, Goa, Haridwar or Rishikesh.
They’ll try to sell you, ask for large amounts, and in the end, you’ll probably be buying tea. It will be the most expensive tea you have ever tasted.
With all these blows you’ll face on your next trip to India, do not think you’ll spend all your time running away from them. Or even believe that you will never be deceived.
By the number of times you will be tested, it’s common to end up being cheated. As long as if you don’t lose a lot of money.
You have to be more aware of scams involving higher amounts.
In most cases, having the internet helps immensely. But if you are deceived and perceive, do not overthink and move on.