Tips to Stay Safe and Avoid Tourist Scams in New York City
New York is one of the largest, but still, safest metropolitan cities in the world. With an ever-growing population of more than 8 million people, the Big Apple manages to keep its crime rates low and streets safe.
However, there are always scammers who are trying to make some quick and easy money by targeting tourists. Visitors to NYC are not always familiar with how things are done in the city, especially if they are from other countries. They also don’t want to waste their time filing a complaint with the authorities and so, most visitors will just pay the scammers and move on with their trip.
Most Common Tourist Scams in NYC
People Posing as “Authorized Ticket Sellers”
Near most New York City tourist attractions, you will find people who wear vests that say that they are an “Authorized Ticket Seller”. Even though some of them are actually authorized to sell tickets, many of them aren’t.
These scammers try to sell you a ticket for double or triple its actual price and will tell you lies about what the tickets entail so that you will purchase the ticket from them. There have also been reports of scammers selling expired tickets which will be not be accepted by the attraction when you try to use it. Similar schemes have also been reported regarding Metro Cards (used to ride the NYC subway) sold by “Authorized Agents” near subway stations which turn out to be empty.
According to a report by the New York Post, police recently arrested a man for charging two tourists $200 per person each way for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, which is a FREE ferry that operates between Manhattan and Staten Island. Read more about the Staten Island Ferry.
There is no real way to know who is legit and who is a scam ticket seller, so we recommend buying your tickets directly at the box office or online.
If you look and act like a tourist, vendors and shopkeepers may try to overcharge you for anything from a hot dog to electronics or cellphones that you buy from them.
A hot dog vendor in Downtown Manhattan near Ground Zero was reportedly charging tourists up to $30 for a hot dog!! New York City is expensive, but not THAT expensive!
This kind of scamming usually happens when dealing with street vendors and small shops. So check if there are prices posted for products or services at a store before you buy. Avoid stores or vendors that do not have prices posted and always confirm prices before you hand over your credit card or cash. We have also heard of vendors charging more money, upto $500, than the agreed upon price oce they get your credit card. So cash might be the best option if it’s a small purchase.
Selling Counterfeit Brand Name Merchandise as Real
Whatever you want to buy – Designer handbags, sunglasses, Rolex watches – you can find them all in NYC – on the sidewalk!! There are areas in New York City like Chinatown and some electronics stores in Midtown and many others who claim to have Gucci bags or Apple products at deep discounts. Most of these merchandise are counterfeit and just junk that you will end up paying hundreds of dollars for.
Beware of these people! If something seems too good to be true, it most probably is!!
Go to a reputable store to buy any brand name merchandise.
Photos with Costumed Characters
Times Square is filled with people in all sorts of costumes from Elmo to Spiderman to Dora to Diaper Baby!! Which little kid wouldn’t want to take a picture with their favorite character? The newest addition to this slew of characters in Times Square and other tourist spots are ones that stand out due to the lack of a costume or any clothes for that matter – topless women wearing just bodypaint!
What these people are doing is completely legal, and they do not need to obtain any licenses or permits to do this job.
As tourists, you need to be aware that even though legally, it’s FREE to take photos with the characters and tipping them is only optional, the costumed characters expect a tip – at least $5 for each photograph you take with them.
Some of the characters will come upto you, act friendly and offer to pose for photos, and then will ask for money. There have been a few incidents where the visitors refused to pay and then had to deal with an altercation with the costumed character.
One of NewYork-Visit.com’s reporters was recently harassed by a topless model in Times Square who demanded money because our reporter looked at her breasts! Incredulous coming from someone standing in the middle of Times Square topless!
NewYork-Visit.com’s Tips to Avoid Tourist Scams in New York City
– Always buy your tickets from the box office directly or online
– DO NOT pay anyone on the street who tries to sell you Metrocards, tickets to attractions or Broadway shows.
– If you want genuine brand name merchandise, purchase at a reputable store and never from someone on the street
– Have a general idea of what things cost. Google can help. In Manhattan, a hot dog would cost around $3 to $6 depending on the location. The closer to a tourist attraction the vendor is, the higher he might charge.
– Be aware that even though taking photos with costumed characters in New York City is free, they expect a tip of at least $5 per photo.
– Watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas and keep your valuables close to you at all times.
– If you run into any problems, call the free New York City helpline at 311. A live operator will answer your call and point you in the right direction to solve whatever issue you might have.
– Be a smart, informed tourist and enjoy your trip to NYC!