The summer tourism boom brings the city’s grifters out of the woodwork. This year several scams have been spotted, some old, some new, but all of them need your attention. You should definitely pass these on to friends and family members who are visiting from out-of-town as tourists are often the marks for these cons. That doesn’t mean you aren’t vulnerable to these tricks, so, be safe out the secretNYers!
Empire State Building scam
(a similar scam has been noted for visits to the Statue of Liberty and the Staten Island Ferry)
This one has gained traction on Yelp recently and is something your tourist friends and family should know before visiting the Empire State Building.As you walk up to the building you’ll be approached by someone wearing an “Authorized Ticket Agent” vest/badge and they’ll ask if you’re “going up?” These supposedly “authorized” agents will then charge you upwards of $80 for a $34 ticket to travel to the top of the building, usually touting their ticket as “VIP” or “Express.”Knowledge is power when it comes to avoiding this scam. Now you’re sensitive to the fact it might happen you’ll be cautious to someone approaching you. Advise your out of town guests to buy tickets for the attraction online, or to seek out the official queue.
Here is a post by a Reddit user, hamsterd4m, who was actually duped by this con
I fell for a tourist scam today at the Empire State Building: when arriving outside the building a guy approached us showing us a badge and saying “he works for the building” and giving an “official” impression. He told us he was selling us the fastest tickets and said it would cost $54. Looking at the receipts a few hours later it turns out he charged us $69, and the tickets he sold were not “Express” tickets. Instead we paid all those extra dollars for the “Skyride”, some kind of simulator that we were not interested in and didn’t go on (and judging from the google maps ratings it is a very underwhelming experience).
Broken bottle/glasses scam
The con man will bump into you and drop what he/she is holding, like a bottle, a pair of glasses or phone, then revealing the item to be broken. Then the person will begin yelling accusations or appealing to the crowd of people forming around you, and the kicker, demanding (often intimidating) compensation for your clumsiness.
This scam works because you want to avoid a scene, the scammers yelling attracts a lot of attention. This is used a lot on tourists who are all too ready to give up a bit of cast so as not to get into trouble. It’s a tricky one to deal with, because you may not be immediately aware that it’s a con.
I kept saying it wasn’t my fault. Pretty intimidating guy, but finally he gave up. May be because it was a really crowded street. (At this point I didn’t know it was a scam, and felt bad about the whole thing). And today, I hear a shouting on the corner and see the same guy barking up another victim. I watched in silence as the poor guy handed him money. Came home googled it, and yes there it is. What would you do in this kind of situation?
As a New Yorker, be careful if you walk away, be sure you are not being followed. This simple scam can turn into a robbery in a second.
Fake taxi scam
This scam is prevalent at the airport but could happen anywhere in a city with so many tourists. We’ve heard of people at Laguardia Airport being hit with this “fake taxi” scam. It’s easy, and again, tourists are the main target. The scammer will approach you and ask if you’re looking for a taxi. Then they will lead you to their car, pretending it’s a taxi (some even have a meter inside) then overcharge you once you get to the destination. In this day and age, the easiest way to avoid this is Uber or Lyft… and of course our terminally ill public transport, but that’s another story. If a taxi is your only option NEVER accept if you are approached, only get in a cab that you sought out. At Laguardia, for example, there is an area for licensed taxis and drivers are not allowed to solicit fares.This Imgur post show’s some useful things to be on the look out for to spot a fake taxi:
So, you’re minding your own business and someone walks up to you and hands you a CD, instinctively you take it. From there on in a few things might happen. Often they will quickly sign the CD for you, then demand you buy it because they can’t now sell a signed CD. Sometimes they will skip this step and move on directly to intimidation, they often have backup around them to help part you from your hard earned cash.One Reddit user lays out the script for this common con:
“hey man what’s up where you from? Oh yea cool man what’s your name? oh john? Cool john, hey this is my CD i made, i’ll sign it for you man, here “to john thanks man” here man, cool, $10. What?? Comeon mannnnn, I just signed it, i can’t sell it to anybody else now. nah man fuck that that’s bullshit you owe me $10 man”
I’ve watched it go down a few times, and that quickly. I’ve never been approached, they typically approach tourists near times square, but just in the 30 seconds as you are walking by they will walk with you and the whole thing goes down. The second you say your name, or anything other than “no thanks” they got you. And as soon as you say “what? $10?? i didn’t want to buy it” they get aggressive and basically try to scare you/threaten you into it
To avoid this scam is deceptively easy, avoid people holding CDs, ignore them, nobody needs that kind of drama.
The restaurant tip on tip scam
ALWAYS check your bill. 4 years ago nydailynews covered the story of Manhattan restaurants factoring in tips on the bill and adding another line for an extra gratuity.
The scam led to a lawsuit against several restaurants in Times Square.
Summer in the city and the relentless march of tourists sees this scam popping up in smaller restaurants and bars in NYC. Remember, always read the bill.