New York City is not only a magnet for people with a knack for success and penchant for audacious dreams, but also attracts tens of millions of tourists each year. For hundreds of years, entrepreneurs, capitalists and tourists have all played a part in making it arguably the most important city in the world.
Yet, the money-making reputation of NYC is simultaneously its greatest strength and its worst weakness. The Big Apple has no shortage of con artists who will zero in on visitors with shady, but seemingly irresistible offers.
Some tourists opt for hop on hop off bus tour specials as a way of keeping a safe distance between them and potential scammers. Whereas that is prudent, knowing the most common scams can go a long way in making sure you don’t lose your cash and possessions to persons with ill intent. The following are five of the most notorious scams in New York.
Tickets for the Staten Island Ferry
One of the best ways to see New York’s harbor and strike another borough off your bucket list is to board the Staten Island ferry. An iconic feature of daily New York life for years, many lifelong relationships have been established aboard the ferry. Sadly, there’s an elaborate and persistent scam operation that seeks to take advantage of tourists’ eagerness to ride the ferry.
Staten Island ferry has been free since 1997, but the majority of first-time visitors will not know that. Expect to meet street hawkers keen on selling you ferry tickets. They’ll claim that they had bought the tickets, but for some reason, no longer need to board. They’ll purport to sell you the tickets at an attractive discount. Do not pay any attention to them else you’ll end up with a worthless piece of paper.
‘Buy my Music’
This scam started elsewhere, but is now a source of anguish in many parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. A ‘musician’ donning headphones approaches and persuades you to listen to his music. Since you want to be polite, you give in to his request. Shortly thereafter, the ‘musician’ will shove a CD in your hand and pressure you to buy it.
If you insists on not buying, the musician’s demeanor will quickly change and in certain cases, he’ll summon his colleagues to demand that you buy the CD. The end result is you walking away with a music CD you didn’t want and parting with your hard-earned cash in the process. Worse still, the CD might not have any music on it.
Costume Characters in Time Square
Costume characters are at Times Square for much of the day. They range from superheroes and cartoon characters to body-painted denudes. Costume characters can add to the fun of a New York visit and they’ll often ask tourists to pose for photos with them. They expect a tip afterwards, which is only fair.
The scam here is that some costume characters get loud and confrontational if they are dissatisfied with the tip. They know first-time visitors will cough up more cash just to avoid the embarrassment. Always remember that you are under no obligation to tip more unless you had agreed on the value of the tip beforehand.
Of course, not all costume characters are obnoxious extortionists. However, as a tourist, you do not know which ones are honest, so it’s best to stay away.
Whereas anyone riding the subway must always be on the lookout for pickpockets, this is especially important for visitors. Your dressing and disposition can give you away as a tourist and this will make you a prime target for thieves. It’s hard enough keeping an eye on subway pickpockets when you are sober. It’s much worse when you are inebriated.
If you are tipsy, not only will you be vulnerable to conventional pickpockets, but you’ll also be in the crosshairs of ‘lush workers’. Lush workers target sleepy or intoxicated passengers and use a razor blade to cut open pockets and bags. Avoid carrying valuables or significant amounts of cash when using the subway to minimize your losses just in case you fall victim.
Central Park Pedicabs
You’ve probably already seen New York pedicabs online or on television before you arrive. It’s a pretty enticing proposition to sit in a rear cab as a friendly driver pedals around Midtown Manhattan or Central Park explaining the different landmarks in the process. In theory, it’s an awesome way to soak in the sights and sounds of the city.
Unfortunately, this is a ride that can deplete your finances far faster than you had anticipated. It all comes down to the duration of the trip, unclear rates and the presence of extra fees. Pedicabs make exorbitant profits off of tourists.
The city has created certain rules to put a stop to this. This includes the requirement to have a clear sign on the pedicab showing the per minute charge (that’s right, per minute!). The pedicabs move very slowly, so your bill can accumulate rapidly. Stay away from pedicabs, but if you must use them, make sure it is licensed and the pricing is clearly indicated.
New York is not much different from many large cities around the world. Criminals and scam artists will always look for an opportunity to make a quick buck off an unsuspecting tourist. Those visitors who do not take necessary precautions may end up leaving the city without their money and/or personal items. Knowing the most common tricks scammers use will help make your NYC vacation one whose memories you’ll treasure for years to come.
This is a sponsored guest post. The views and ideals expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Mommy Ramblings.