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I am a non-EU citizen and I understand that I could be stopped in Austria and asked for my passport (and visa). Moreover, as far as I know, there are police officers in Austria dressed in civilian clothing.

At the same time, searching the web suggests that there are also scammers who pretend to be these police officers in civilian clothing. However, shortly after inspecting your ID they end up "inspecting" your wallet.

So, my questions are: is there anything that allows me to insist on having my ID checked at a police station or at least by an officer in police uniform? Can I get arrested for declining to immediately provide my ID?

  • What about having your passport or ID card directly in your pocket? Why do you need to show/open/get out your wallet? – Relaxed Sep 14 '15 at 7:57
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    I like to add that in Austria you are not required to always carry your id with you - meaning if you forget the id in the hotel and the police stops you, this is not punishable. However, in such a case the police has the right to find out your identity, which probably is a lengthy procedure at the police station, which you would want to avoid. Conclusion: Don't panic if you forgot your id in the hotel, but bring your id with you to avoid any hassle. – TheEspinosa Sep 14 '15 at 8:24
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    @TheEspinosa: This is only true for Austrian, EU and Swiss citizens. All others must carry travel documents with them or be able to retrieve them within one hour (§32 Fremdenpolizeigesetz). – Heinzi Sep 14 '15 at 15:05
  • I would not worry about this too much. Unless you are driving and pulled over for a driving offence or suspected of commiting a crime, you are extremely unlikely to be checked. I have never been checked, certainly not by plain clothes police officers. I think they have other things to do than checking tourists. So, no worries. – Thomas Sep 15 '15 at 8:29
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    @Heinzi: Note that failing to keep the passport within 1 hour reach is an administrative offence, no crime, and is punishable with 50 to 250 Euro fine (§121 Fremdenpolizeigesetz). – TheEspinosa Sep 16 '15 at 12:57
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Yes, for every problem with the police, you can insist to do it at the station. (except some pretty much impossible situations where any delay brings harm to people etc., but at the same time checking your ID is more important than helping them ... this won't happen to you)

But I wouldn't choose this as first option automatically.
Normally trivial things like showing your ID might extend to several hours (with a bit of bad luck).
Getting a car to get you to the next station, waiting there if something is more important, doing the full course of bureaucracy, (maybe) getting an additional questioning and a call to your hotel etc.etc. (depending on the mood), paying a fee for the additional effort (it's not because they don't like this behaviour, they have to collect it for certain things), and being released in front of the station again instead where they met you first...
If you insist on the station, make sure they know that you have everything necessary but don't trust them, instead of being here illegally.

Easier would be to ask for their ID first. They are obliged (too) to show it on request, and to show it long enough that you can read it carefully. Scammers usually show you something not withstanding closer inspection, so they don't want you to look carefully, So even if you don't understand German, look at it. If looks like eg. a drivers license (which has the english words "drivers license" on it too), it's clearly wrong. ... I didn't find a good image of the real thing, this has to do. On the backside, there is more information like the name etc.
Additionally, if they are uniformed but without weapon clearly visible on the belt, it's a fake (happens often enough to mention it).

If they refuse to show their ID and/or to take you to a station (real refusing, not just a "is this really necessary" - thing first), call 133 and get some more authentic ones.
If they show some authentic looking ID but you still have major doubts for some reason, call too and tell them the number of the ID (together with location and what they're doing) to check it.

But, the most important thing: Don't worry.
It's not like there are thousands of such scammers waiting for clueless tourists. And real, non-uniformed policemen checking IDs is not as common as some media are telling.

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    Also one should not be afraid to ask some passerby for assistance in such a situation. Be honest upfront and tell that you are afraid of scammers and that everyone at home warned you about it. – PlasmaHH Sep 14 '15 at 8:53
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    I honestly doubt that a layman tourist in a foreign country is able to tell if a police id, even when allowed to thorougly study it, is fake or genuine. I am not even sure if I would be able to do so in my home country. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Sep 14 '15 at 10:09
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo That's why I wrote to look at it even if he doesn't understand German. I don't expect that any tourist can recognize a fake, but if he is denied a longer look, there's something wrong (especially with non-uniformed people claiming they are police officers) – deviantfan Sep 14 '15 at 10:12
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo - The point isn't to actually be able to spot a fake (although if you can, great) - it's that their reaction to the question is likely to be telling. A real officer shouldn't have any issue at all, a scammer probably will. – Jon Story Sep 14 '15 at 12:56
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    without weapon is apparently true in Autria, but be careful, as it is not a general rule for all countries. – njzk2 Sep 14 '15 at 19:08

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