Handicapped beggars scam

The streets of Budapest are swarmed with beggars, asking passersby for some small change. Most of them are, or at least appear, heavily disabled. However, with the exception of a few unfortunate and pitiable cases, most of them are just plain scammers, trying to trick people into giving them money because of their assumed disability.

Budapest-scam-handicapped-beggarsThey are part of an organized crime syndicate, trying to fraud naïve tourists out of their money. Hungary has a relatively modern social and medical system, which would prevent its legal taxpayers from becoming this helpless. In fact, most of these panhandlers are not even local Hungarians, but are “imported” gypsies from other Eastern European countries where the governments have started to come down harder on street beggars. They are often elderly ladies pretending to have severe handicaps in order to get more pity from the people passing by on the streets. The local Hungarians have grown used to them and totally ignore these scammers, but hundreds of tourists still fall for the charade on a daily basis, giving some of their money to these beggars and keeping the system alive.

Beware that your donation is very likely to end up in the deep pockets of the local Mafia instead of helping a person in real need. Only if you see a Budapest local give some of their money to one of the beggars, you can be somewhat sure it’s not one of the swindlers, but possibly a person in genuine need of some support. If there’s something you want to do for the local homeless, ask anyone to tell you how to find one of the homeless shelters and donate either food or other goods they really need to this organization or ask for its bank account, so you can make an official donation through your bank.

Find experiences from real victims or post your own story in our Budapest and Hungary Tourist Scams Forum.



  1. May have boosted mafia income by a few $s today with coins to old ladies. First was very greatful but in hindsight had a rather nice takeaway lunch. Still, that may have been donated. The second, outside an ice cream shop, took the coins then made ‘feed me’ gestures and pointed towards the ATM. I offered her my icrcream which was clearly not acceptable. The tears were impressive. Both ladies had the same black&white shopping trolleys….company issue perhaps. A learning exercise.

Speak Your Mind