Top 27 Scams in India to Avoid – Don’t Fall For These Tricks!

Top 27 Scams in India to Avoid – Don’t Fall For These Tricks!
Updated on

indian-man-pushing-a-cartAfter living in India for a while, it becomes apparent that scams are everywhere. Although, in my experience they are the most common in big cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai. Even from the moment you get out of the airport you may be hit with people trying to scam you as “the unsuspecting tourist”.

Below I list some of my experiences, top tips and the 27 most common things to look out for.

Also please note: I recently wrote an article explaining the 9 key reasons why you need to have travel insurance for India which you can read HERE.

Top 15 list of biggest tourist scams in India

1) Pretending to not know your hotel

hotel-annapurna-indiaDrivers will commonly pretend that they have never heard of your hotel even though it is one of the most famous hotels in your town! A helpful way to overcome this is to know where your hotel is in relation to the airport or train station etc. The reason they do this is because they would prefer to take you to another hotel where they get a commission for bringing them business. Another way to overcome this problem is to have your hotel pick you up. This is generally significantly more expensive but can be worth it to avoid the hassle.

2) Saying your hotel has moved or closed

A similar tactic is to say that your hotel has closed or moved and then take you to a slightly differently named hotel where they get a commission. Again, know the address of your hotel and have their phone number handy in case you need to have them explain directions to the driver.

3) If you’re lucky enough to encounter an elephant, expect scammers nearby

asher-fergusson-with-elephant-in-india I was stopped for lunch when this amazing Indian elephant (pictured) strolled by. I had never seen one this close so I naturally was drawn to it. When my friend took this photo of me the elephant owner came running, yelling and asking for 100 rupees. If you want to take photos it’s fine but expect someone will want a handsome tip. You’d be best to agree on the price before taking the photo. It shouldn’t be more than 10 or 20 rupees.

4) Fake train ticket or “information offices”

In both Delhi and Mumbai I have heard of or seen fake train ticket stations and tourist information offices. Both of them seem to be a front for the mafia! The way to know they’re fake is that everything looks dodgy, there are no computers (or not many), no proper desks and they tell you that all trains or hotels are fully booked out due to some event. This is why it’s important to have a phone and ideally one with Internet so you can easily cross reference their bull $@#!

5) Gifting you something then asking to be paid

scams-in-india-to-avoidA common place for this Indian scam is around the temples and holy rivers. For example a child or “holy man” will tie a string around your wrist or put a red dot (tilak) on your forehead and then ask for 50 rupees! If someone tries to gift you something be sure it is actually a gift and not a scam.

6) Asking for you to pay again at the hotel

If you stay at an “el cheapo” hotel, then upon leaving after you’ve already checked and paid for your stay, they may ask you to pay again!! To avoid this happening (especially with anything prepaid) keep your receipts to prove you’ve already paid.

7) Beggars may put their hands in your pockets

I guess this isn’t really a scam but it’s worth mentioning. I was crossing a busy street where there was median strip in the middle of the road. On this strip was literally a pack of beggars. I got to the middle but then couldn’t proceed due to traffic. All the beggars who were quite dazed and confused suddenly jumped to their feet and started grabbing at my bags of shopping and even putting their hands in my pockets. Luckily I had my [easyazon_link identifier=”B005IUBUKQ” locale=”US” tag=”1331-ipl-20″]passport pouch[/easyazon_link] under my shirt so there wasn’t anything for them in my pockets. I then ran to the bank where there was an armed guard to let me in but refused the beggars…

8) Children wanting pens and beggars wanting milk

indian-kids-wanting-pensAs a tourist you will be asked for money from beggars. I highly recommend that you completely avoid giving money to them (they have usually made it their “profession” and paying them keeps them in business). Maybe because of tourists not paying them, there is a tactic to ask you to buy them milk from the nearby shop to feed their baby. Similarly, kids may ask you to get them pens for school. In both cases they have an arrangement with shop to return the item for cash after you leave!

9) Young beggar girl with a baby

Another beggar tactic is to have a 12 year old girl carry a 6 month old baby while the 12 year old gestures for you to feed “her” baby. The truth of the matter is that it almost always isn’t her baby and the reason they do it is because they’ve learned that they make triple the money if a young girl carries a baby. Don’t fall for this ploy.

10) Tampering with food or drink

indian-shop-ownerIt is really unfortunate but sometimes shop keepers with refill bottled water with tap water and then glue the lid back on! For this reason, it’s super important to always inspect bottled water before purchasing. Another common practice almost ubiquitous throughout india is cutting milk with tap water. I’ve also heard that water melons are sometimes injected with sugar water so that they are heavier and therefore more valuable. Lastly, there are stories of people putting drugs in food items and then offering it to tourists on a train for example and then stealing all your bags. The moral of the story with all these horrible scams is to be extra careful around eating and drinking and only go to trusted vendors or restaurants and never accept food from strangers.

11) Count your change – carefully

Always. No matter who you are dealing with. The train station, the travel agent, the veggie wala, the shoe shine boy, the bank… anyone can make a “mistake”. And when you show them that their calculations were off, you will be greeted with a look of astonishment and amazement. And suddenly they locate the missing bill – in their lap or on the floor! Use the calculator on your cell phone if you buy more than a few items. That alone will deter most miscalculations.

12) “Sunscreen” may not actually be sunscreen

In Kerala, I was on the beach when a local vendor offered me some “Banana Boat” sunscreen for 20 rupees. I didn’t have any with me so I thought, “better this than getting sun burnt…” The outcome? It was baby lotion!!! And I got terribly burned! Moral of the story, bring your own sunscreen that you can trust.

13) Any kind of performer will expect a tip

snake-charmer-in-indiaAt the Kumbh Mela in 2013 I saw so many amazing spectacles including this snake charmer (pictured). When I took this photo he wanted rupees. Beware of any performers like this as they will certainly demand money whether you liked their performance or not!

14) Broken meter in the taxi

Usually this happens in Mumbai, or occasionally other big cities where they are required to use meters. The driver will say something like, “meter is broken, sir”. Then you can say you’ll tell the police and most often the meter will magically work again. Also showing the driver a map on your phone or in hand will make them be more diligent and go the shortest route. Taking the longest route possible is another scam tactic in order to make a few extra rupees.

15) SIM cards for your phone might not work

It’s quite difficult to get a SIM card in India and typically involves a lot of paperwork and other hassles. If you don’t fill out that paperwork but someone sells you a SIM, there is a good chance it’s a used or defunct card that simply won’t work. You’re best to go to an official main office from one of the carriers and do all the arduous paperwork and get an official SIM card that will work until it’s been inactive for 3 months and then they’ll promptly cancel your service.

12 other tips to avoid being scammed in India

Below are more general tips for minimizing the chances of being ripped off or caught is some kind of elaborate tourist trap.

1) Watch out for the mafia

auto-rickshaw-indiaTwo of my friends got out of the train station in Delhi late at night. They flagged down a “normal” looking auto rickshaw and then headed to their hotel. First the driver “couldn’t find” their hotel and proceeded to take them to another “hotel” which was fully booked. My friends even spoke to the “hotel” who confirmed that it was completely booked out. They were then taken to the “tourist information office” which confirmed that all hotels in Delhi had no vacancy because of the “Kumbha Mela” which was happening in another state. My friends were like, “this doesn’t make any sense of course there are hotels that have vacancies!” The people at the “office” said, “no sir” and instead they recommended that they get in one of their “taxis” right now and do a tour of Rajasthan. My friends said, “no way, can we speak to your manager”. Then the head (drugged out) mafia guy came out and explained that this whole thing was a scam. He said, “since I like you, I will get you a hotel.”

Moral of the story, watch out for the mafia!! If something is fishy then it probably is a scam or trap. Do your research and have your wits about you especially around train stations and cheap hotels. Also having a cell phone (with working Internet) can be invaluable.

2) Have good travel insurance for India

These days I won’t do any international adventures without having good travel insurance. But I especially think it’s important for India travel because you need to “expect the unexpected” and have peace of mind that you’ll be taken care of no matter what happens. Read my full article about why you need travel insurance HERE.

3) Taxi and auto rickshaw drivers are notorious scammers

mafia-taxi-in-indiaAs you can see from above, the drivers are some of the biggest scammers in India and are often linked to other more elaborate scams, schemes and rip offs. A major way to avoid these scams is to agree on the destination and price before getting in to the vehicle. Don’t pay a cent until you have arrived at your destination. Often on a longer journey a driver will ask for money for gasoline which is okay to give as long as it is part of the agreed upon final price and you remember it at the end (they will hope you forget!). Another thing that makes it easier to communicate with drivers is to say you’re going to landmark such as a well known fancy hotel or tourist attraction. Then when you’re near you can either get out and walk or direct them a little further to your real destination. This helps avoid confusion, misunderstandings and the chances of being scammed or tricked by a sly driver.

4) Almost all shops are going to rip you off

incessant-staring-in-indiaAs soon as the shop keeper sees that you’re a westerner they will get dollar signs in their eyes and jack up their prices. A simple way to avoid this is to only go to “fixed rate” shops. If this isn’t possible then you will need to bargain.

5) Learn to bargain like an Indian

I wrote this other article (worth checking out) called, “how to bargain like an Indian“. The key is to offer an absurdly low amount for an item so that the bargaining begins and then ever so slowly increase your offer until you agree with the shop keepers offer. Another tactic is to walk out of the shop saying “too expensive” or “too much” and often this will drop the price closer to your rate instantly. Lastly, you should try to know how much something is worth in India.

6) Get experience with true prices

local-indian-with-asherThis is easier said than done but after a few days or weeks in India you might start to figure it out. Basically you need to know what the locals would pay for the same item and then you’ll know how low the shop keeper, driver or hotel is willing to go.

7) Ask trustworthy looking locals

One way to help with quickly knowing the true price of things is to ask helpful locals who aren’t getting a commission from anyone. They will gladly tell you the true prices and may even help you bargain when the vendor is blatantly ripping you off.

8) Be careful when exchanging money

Obviously exchanging money can be a risky business that scammers like to be involved with. The airport exchange places are usually fine but they do rip you off. I personally like ATM’s the best because they are safest and have some of the best exchange rates. Learn more about it on my blog, “handling & exchanging money in India“.

9) Read our India Packing List

Knowing the right things pack for India can greatly minimize your chances of getting scammed. E.g having a working cell phone with data and access to Google Maps can ensure that your taxi driver doesn’t take you off course. We cover everything from what to wear, what not to bring, and other important India-specific FAQs.

10) If possible never pay upfront for a service in full

The balance of payment (and tip) should never be paid until you are satisfied with the service. Otherwise the driver or guide or whoever can walk away with your luggage or simply your money without delivering the service or goods they said they would.

11) Be super vigilant around large financial transactions

indian_rupees1Whenever you pay many thousands of rupees for a big expense be extra alert. I have been scammed a couple of times with a very common con. You count several thousand rupees in payment for a service. You recount it on the table in front of the seller. There is no question about the accuracy of the count. He then recounts it in front of you, and surprise! It is Rs500 short! You look at him incredulously. He looks at you incredulously. He hands you the cash, and you recount. It’s Rs500 short! He shrugs his shoulders. You are both astonished at the error, so you pull out another Rs500 note, and accept the miscount. What happened? The missing Rs500 note is in his lap. When he was counting the notes, you blinked. He slipped a Rs500 note out and into his lap. When he showed you that the cash was Rs500 short, he was telling the truth. But he wasn’t telling you that he had the Rs500 note in his lap.

12) Do your research before arriving

Last but not least, do your research. This means looking up the destination on the Internet, studying maps and getting advice from other travelers about that place you’re thinking of going. This will help you get any insider knowledge before you arrive making you more prepared to deal with the possible onslaught of scams that await you.

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  1. Hello Asher! Great article! I know it’s somewhat dated at this point but these scams are still at play. I noticed that one of the common scams you have listed relates to drivers (taxis/rickshaws). I started a business precisely to avoid having people get scammed like this and prevent great drivers from getting a bad rep because of the bad apples. Check out and let me know what you think! Thanks – Arjun (Founder)

  2. Hi guys,

    Another one. Taxis will take you shops that they will receive a commission. We even found better prices in 5 star hotels for the exact same items. Do not trust a driver that says, “I will take you shopping! Very very good prices!”. They will charge nothing for the drive because they are getting paid a lot in the backend.

    Especially in Agra near the Taj Mahal and in Delhi as well. Good travels and watch out for that scam.

    The Good Traveler

  3. it’s awesome that you are sharing the information about the scams. We were in India for first time this winter. Unfortunately, we didn’t know anything about scams before our trip and as you may guess. Sadly, we get scam. Please, help us share this playlist about scam in Delhi and their practices. (Because that’s exactly what happened to us).
    Sharing is helping!
    Thank You, Monika and Adam

    1. What kind of scams were to taken for. I’m looking to go there in a few months. I know nothing about this place.

  4. Asher Bhai,

    Your compilations get better and better. Essential information. Fun to see some of my advice made it into the final cut. I’ve got more tips for your money-saving flight page. Check your email.

  5. Asher bhai

    Thanks for the read. i was just bored and stumbled on it but still it is very true. Another scam that is done is to sell you an item like a small drink or snack food then have a nearby child begging for food or drink then resell the item when (if) you give it to the kid. And they often charge double value for the item in the first place.

  6. Great extensive coverage . It is helpful for Indian travellers also .Use thomas cook like renowned agents for tickets . Dont travel in lonely area ecpecially in night . And keep nearest Police station no handy .

    1. India’s A $hithole, And I Would Never Go There. I’ve Seen Enough Scammers In Mogadishu, Somalia.

  7. OMG I’ve read some Indonesian articles talking about the same topic. To my surprise you write the same experience as those writers had as being tourists in India. It’s very good information.

  8. There is a man in India offering loans to Americans. 919818287948. This man is a third and liar. If anyone knows who to contact in New Delhi,India please let me know an address. THIS MAN NEEDS TO BE STOPPEF

  9. hi i am hari i sell bitcoins at lowest price my watsap 917075521173 I will convert black money into white

  10. This is a pretty nice discovery and uncovering the most common Scams on Indian Road. Not only foreign tourist many time Indian tourist too fall into such traps. In one sentence my piece of advice is – India is a very peaceful country, no one will kill you or physically harm you even if you do not give these scammers anything. Once just have to learn to say NO and stick to the word NO. These scammers may give rude look, try to scare you but remember India is a peaceful country so you will not physically be harmed by these scammers.

    1. What About Verbal Assaults Against Me Or Specific Members Of My Family? Does Any Of That Happen?

  11. Being an Indian and reading this article really makes u feel bad about the state of things here in India…so much so that a guy probably from India is trying to scam others even in the comments!…my best advice would be to find a trustworthy and educated local especially in the cities…who is willing to guide you if in doubt….i am sure there will be many of that ilk too….it will be definitely sad if such kind of incidents sour your experience of this beautiful country because She does have a lot to offer!bon voyage!

  12. i’m going to india next month 18 Oct for 3rd time, now doing some research about india, i found this articles and most of it are new for me, like Fake Officer and information counter..this is really make india (Especially Delhi) a Professional Scammer State in the Wolrd ..
    but i like this way, bcoz India is really unique and mix with everthing. from Ancient building to small beggar baby kids…that great adventure i guess..but need to be careful and learn to become a pro..

    -Love India from Malaysia

  13. Amazon India’s ‘Customer Care Number’ is a fake. When you dial 1-800-419-7355 you get Freedom Pop or some porn line.

    If their Customer Care Number is fake they very much could be selling fake or bootlegged products.

    I tried to get my books pulled from that site and I never heard back from them. Why is India so big on scamming people?

  14. I already knows more about scammer in india. I think it’s very very horror and make the new traveller scared about it. If they be honest with All tourism I think tourism will be care and give they tip. Yeah it’s true for all people in India

    FRAUD FRAUD FRAUD ⚠️⬇️Hello guys
    There is a fraud that is in trending on OLX.
    I am a Victim of this Fraud so I am writing this to aware you guys.
    If you have posted an add to sell your CAR on OLX, there is a chance that a fraud name “Vishal Pandey” aka ”Tarakeshwar Gorakhnath Pandey” might contact you, he might show interest to buy your car asap.
    He might say that he is manager in ICICI bank Nalasopara west branch.
    He might come to inspect your car and will finalize it in 10 mins without doing much bargain .
    He will say that he will pay you via Demand Draft. As he is working in bank they are allowed to pay via DD or Bankers Cheque. He will ask for your account details to prepare a DD / Bankers Cheque.
    If you have a loan on your car he will say he will visit the branch and pay off the loan and rest he will pay in the form of Demand Draft.
    If you do not have loan on your car he might pay you certain token amount Via NEFT and rest he will pay you via Demand Draft or Bankers Cheque.
    Later he will insist you to give an instant car delivery and ask you for Original Document along with Transfer form and Insurance Copy.
    If you agree with him that thinking you had given you a demand Draft (In my case I agreed)& Complete the Formalities . His associates will record the entire process of signing the transfer paper and handing over the car & Keep that as Evidence for future. They will take delivery, signing the Delivery note and would whats app you Addhar Card & Pan Card & take yours.
    Now when you visit your bank next day to Deposit DD, your bank might inform you that, this is not a DD instead it is a Normal Cheque of a Saving Account. When you call him and Enquire about the same he will say the cheque belong to his maternal uncle, and it will clear do not worry you can deposit the cheque. When you deposit the Cheque it will get returned stating Signature mismatch or Funds Insufficient.
    When you approach Tarakeshwar Pandey, He will give you another cheque which will get dishonored stating that’s Funds insufficient. & later he might give you few more cheques which will get dishonored in the same way. None of his cheque gets cleared. ( If you see his bank statement you will notice cheque in series are getting dishonored, there are no funds in his account still he is issuing cheques)
    He might also send you some Fake Screenshot of NEFT. These are Queued Transaction (Standing Instructions) which never get credited to your account.
    He might also share Screenshot of YES Bank to prove he has balance in Lacs . ( He would deposit cheque for eg: 500 000/- from his Federal Bank which might have balance of 100/- to his YES bank when the cheque comes for clearing at Yes bank it will display Ledger balance of 500000/- in his YES Bank account. He will take screenshot of it and will share that with every one stating he has balance in his account and will give fake promises.)
    All the cheques used for these transactions are from Federal bank Malad West & Thane Manpada Branch & Yes Bank.
    He will keep answering all your call and will make fake promises.
    He use all this tricks just to consume time, and meanwhile his associate car dealer would sell that car to any third party. (If your car gets transferred you cannot get your car back)
    And when you approach the legal system they might tell you this is 138 case of cheque bounce and you need to do it via civil court. When you approach Civil court you have to pay Case fees as well hire advocate and it generally takes around 3 – 6 years for the 138 case to get resolved.
    You might not be able to File an FIR or take any Legal Action. Hence you need to rely on fake promises.
    Till the time you rely on fake promises. Your car is sold to a third party usually outside states, so it’s very difficult to trace the car.
    He does not have a fix address where he can be traced.
    The modus operandi of this Crime is to give fake cheques and sell the car outside Maharashtra mainly in UP.

    If you have been victim of this type of fraud please contact local authority as soon as possible.
    This is a big racket and needs to be exposed.
    Many people from Vasai, Nalasopara, Mulund, Thane, Andheri are Victim of this fraud.

    I will soon share Contact & Gang members Details of this Fraud.

    Tarakeshwar Pandey #Tarakeshwar_Pandey #Tarakeshwar_Gorakhnath_Pandey #Tarakeshwar_Panday #Vishal_Pandey #OLX #OLX_FRAUD #MUMBAI_FRAUD

  16. Tuesday 11-8-2020 I was scammed of $1000.00 Australian Dollars by a person working for Telstra phone Company. The Scam: While trying to help me with inward / outward emails. He asked me to help in trapping scammers in India. Believing that as it was coming form a Telstra Technician everything was above reproach. When after paying the amount at a RIA Financial Services Australia Centre. The scammer who also asked to keep my mobile phone connected while the payment was being transmitted. When he asked if I had the receipt from that RIA Service and I replied yes. He just hung up. The Australian Police can do nothing. Nor can Telstra. I’ve complained many times to Telstra with no help of any kind. Advice: Never trust an Indian, living in India – Australia or anywhere in the world. Its in their culture to scam or more to the point STEAL. In my books their just a nation of WOGS. The dregs of Society.

  17. I’m hoping everything will open back up for me to attend the kumbh mela in allahabad…I’ve never been there…never really been anywhere and as much as I would love the option of company or with a group I do not…but I will be soul searching and truly believe there is some sort of calling for me there. I am SUPER grateful for your helpful tips as that was insight I absolutely knew nothing about…I know it will be hard to pass up or say no to any suffering or even just asking being especially on this trip. I pray for the whole world and for peace within your country. I am so thankful for all the knowledge your ancestors have passed on to the world. I am looking forward to going with my whole heart whether I’m a lonely traveling female or not…..this is what life is worth living for!… thanks for looking out

  18. Hi, I am indian and use to live in delhi. I know about temple & fake ticket scam. But I am not aware of others scam you have written above..

    I randomly find a video of youtube tourism scam in india and after that came here to read your post.

    Sorry for you bad experience in india but I also appreciate you have covered all the scam.

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