6 Study Abroad Scams To Watch Out For

Your suitcase is packed, your camera is charged, and your passport is ready to be stamped. You’ve fantasized about this day since your college career began, and now you’re finally ready to study abroad in the country of your dreams. But whether you’re admiring the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy or perusing the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, you need to be on the lookout for study abroad scams. Study abroad scams can take a wide variety of forms. From getting mixed up in the wrong travel or hotel accommodations to getting duped by con artists on the streets, studying abroad in a foreign country leaves a lot of room for misfortune. Here are five things to look out for while exploring overseas so that you can get the most out of studying abroad without getting gypped.


Pickpocketing is common in big cities, so you need to keep an eye out for your belongings. Although Lauren Searles, a senior at Syracuse University who studied abroad in Madrid, wore a cross-body purse to protect her belongings while riding a downtown bus abroad, that wasn’t enough to inhibit the townies’ sticky fingers. “Taking a nap on the bus probably wasn’t the smartest idea, but when I woke up, someone had taken my credit card, license, student ID, and money out of my wallet that was next to me,” she says. You don’t have to be asleep to fall victim to this scam, however. Lauren remembers one of her peers having her iPad stolen out of her purse when it was on a chair next to her at a restaurant. Another one of Lauren’s friends felt a guy's entire arm buried in her purse while riding the metro in the middle of the day.

Nate Nault, the creator and editor of The Study Abroad Blog, a website that provides advice to study abroad students, has studied abroad twice and recommends clipping or attaching your belongings to yourself while traveling abroad. You can do this with a cell phone holster or a money belt such as this one, or by using your inside coat pockets.

“[Pickpockets] will be around regardless of what part of the world you're in,” Nault says. “Make sure you take anything that was in your back pockets and put it in your front pockets. If you're in a crowded area, keeping your hands in your pockets or on top of them is a good way to prevent people from reaching in them without you knowing.”

Programs that don’t give you what you paid for

When Syracuse University junior Olivia Farnham booked a two-week trip to Paris through a travel company her sophomore year of high school, she was beyond excited. She dreamed of seeing the Arc de Triomphe and admiring artwork in the Louvre. It turned out, however, that her fantasies would remain just that. “I was definitely ripped off,” Olivia says. “I never got to see the Eiffel Tower up close like our travel guide had originally said, and we didn’t even stay inside the city of Paris itself, we stayed in an insanely gross hotel outside of the city. The trip was definitely falsely advertised.” The company didn’t fulfill their promises, but they still charged her the advertised price.

To avoid a trip that breaks both your bank and your spirits, Nault suggests a few things to look out for that may signify an illegitimate program. “A poor online presence, lack of information or assistance on the website, no reputation among the study abroad community, poor reviews from previous students—these all point to a program that is unprofessional, or worse, may just be a scam to get your money,” Nault says.