Protecting Yourself from Scams

You can become the victim of a scam at home or abroad. There are many different types of scams, but they all share a common goal: taking your money. If someone is claiming to be your friend or relative in trouble overseas, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate may be able to help.

Before sending money, please review our tips.

Tips to Protect Yourself – and Your Money – from Scams:

  • Before traveling abroad, research your destination.
  • Generally, never send money to someone overseas if you have not met them in person – especially if you met online.
  • Do not disclose personal details over the phone or online – even in your social media.
  • Be aware that something that seems too good to be true usually is.
  • Tell the person claiming to be a U.S. citizen in distress overseas to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • If someone claims to be a U.S. citizen overseas and says the embassy won't help, call the Department of State’s Overseas Citizens Services at 888-407-4747. We can help you verify if the situation is real or a scam.
  • If you send money to a U.S. citizen in an emergency through the Department of State's "OCS Trust" program, the person will need to show a photo ID to get the cash. To learn more, contact the U.S. embassy or consulate where they are located.
  • If you have been the victim of a scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI at

Examples of Common Scams:

Romance Scam: 
A person you have not met in person quickly offers friendship, romance, and/or marriage.  They then claim to have problems overseas and ask for money. These scammers may say they need help paying hospital bills, visa fees, or legal expenses, among other examples.

Grandparent/Relative Scam:
A person contacts you by email or social media, pretending to be your grandchild, niece, nephew, or other family member. They claim to need money right away, and usually ask you to keep it a secret. If this happens to you, find another way to contact the family member directly and confirm the facts.

Drug Trafficking Scam:
These scams may begin as romantic relationships, or a scammer may contact you by phone or email to ask for help transporting something. They may offer a job abroad or the chance to do charity work. They may offer to pay for your travel or give you free luggage. They may also ask you to stop in another country to pick something up. They are very likely trying to get you to transport something illegal – like drugs – in the hope you will not be detected, or so that when you are, it will be you and not them who face arrest. If someone asks you to transport something to another country, or back to the United States, be careful. Report it to airline and border authorities before you travel.

Lottery Scam:
This scammer claims you have won a foreign lottery.  They promise you a lot of prize money, but tell you that you must first pay taxes and other processing fees.  If you did not purchase a lottery ticket in a foreign country, you probably did not win a prize.

Wallet/Money Drop Scam:
You see a wallet or cash on the ground. A scammer picks it up and shows you that is contains money. The scammer asks if the wallet belongs to you and tries to get you to touch it. Another scammer comes up and says the wallet is theirs. They accuse you of trying to steal it. The two scammers then threaten to call the police unless you pay them. In another version, the scammers ask to see your money to prove they did not steal it. When you take out your money, the scammers grab it and run away.

Teahouse/Restaurant/Bar Scam:
An attractive young "English student" offers to show you around town. Then, they invite you to share a meal. You may be taken to a dimly lit back room or given a menu with small print. Your drinks may be spiked with drugs to impair your vision and judgment. When the bill comes, your host leaves, and you are left with a very expensive bill. The restaurant may threaten assault if you do not pay.

Arthouse / Rug Sale Scam:
Someone claiming to be an art student will approach visitors at tourist sites. They will ask if you would like to see artwork created by local students and invite you to an art studio or gallery. They will share food and drink while introducing their art. Then, they will pressure you to buy artwork as compensation for their hospitality. Rug shops may use the same tactics.

Airport / “Bag Watching” Scam:
A stranger asks you to watch their bag or purse. They leave, and then return with someone posing as a police officer. The bag they left you with may contain drugs or other illegal items. The perpetrators then demand you give them money to avoid arrest.

Shell / Card Games:
Scammers set up a game in popular tourist spots. They use three shells (or cups) with a small ball under one. They move the shells and then ask the audience to bet on which one the ball is under. People in the audience working with the scammers guess correctly the first few times. Then they let tourists join in. The tourists are allowed to win and bet more and more money. But then the scammer secretly takes the ball and the tourists lose – sometimes hundreds of dollars.

Last Updated: February 12, 2024