Common Tourist Scams in America & How to Avoid Them
General Travel

Visit USA: Common Tourist Scams in America

Tourists Scams Travellers See in the USA

Hey there, fellow travellers! Today, we’re talking about travel scams you might run into when traveling in the United States.

Despite what the media might have you believe, traveling the United States is relatively safe.

However, there are a few things worth mentioning so you can be on the lookout to avoid them as you visit USA tourist attractions.

Be it the big-city glamour or the small-town charm, the United States is a vast nation worth exploring.

From mesmerizing landscapes all year round – with their innumerable parks, wildlife sanctuaries, coastal points and more; to soaking in peak Western culture, food and fashion – riding on the American dream is a checklist for many travellers.

With 22.1 million tourists travelling to America in 2022 alone, and an estimated 90 million visitors by 2027, it is best to be prepared for all kinds of situations when travelling to the US.

That said, let’s take a look at a list of scams that are common in America that travellers should avoid.

Tourists Phone Scams

If you already live in the USA, you already know all about these phone calls. Sometimes, they are just trying to sell you something.

But other phone scams can be a bit scarier. They might tell you that the FBI is looking for you, or that your insurance policy has lapsed.

They might say you have a package that needs to be delivered. Do not ever provide any information to someone that has called you out of the blue.

If you’re in doubt, hang up and call the provider number that you have on your credit card or in your records.

Tourists Hotel Scam

Tourists Scams Travellers See in the USA
Tourists Scams Travellers See in the USA

Another phone scam that happens in hotels is when your room phone rings and claims to be the front desk asking to confirm your credit card information.

For one thing, the hotel front desk will never ask for this information over the phone.

The easiest thing to do is to hang up and either call the front desk directly or go down to the front desk. When you find out it’s a scam, let them know it’s happening so they can be aware before transferring outside calls to guest rooms.

Tourists Credit Card Skimming

Skimming happens at an open credit card machine, such as those at a gas station or outdoor ATM.

A skimming device is added to the credit card machine and is used to steal your information when you swipe your card.

When you use the credit card machine, take a second look to see if it looks normal, or if it looks like it may have been tampered with.

Tourists Street Scams

If you visit a popular tourist area like New Orleans’ French Quarter or Memphis’ Beale Street, you will run into people trying to scam you on the street.

They might try to bet you that they can guess your name, or guess where you got your shoes. The same thing goes for the shell game, or card games.

If someone approaches you with something like this, or magic tricks, just keep walking. Don’t engage with them and they’ll move on to the next tourist.

Tourists Photography Scams

At a lot of popular tourist sites, you’ll run into the “professional photographer” scam. I have seen this most often in Vegas.

As you wait in line for your Instagram shot, someone will approach you and offer to take your picture for you in exchange for a fee.

Don’t do it; you can just as easily take your own photos with your camera or phone. Of course, this doesn’t apply to fellow tourists who are also there getting photos. Just the people who want money in exchange for taking your photo.

Pedi cab Scam

Tourists Scams Travellers See in the USA
Square Is Being Abused By New York Pedicabs Who Scam Tourists With $600 Rides

Pedi cabs are popping up all over these days. This isn’t an illegal scam, but these bicycle taxis aren’t regulated by the same means as taxis or rideshare programs, so they can charge you whatever they want. Make sure you negotiate your full fare upfront before you get in the Pedi cab.

Tourists WiFi Scams

If you are staying at a hotel and sign on to the WiFi, make sure you are signing on to the correct network.

Some scammers will set up a malicious network with a name very similar to the hotel name to try and trick hotel guests into signing into their network instead.

Once you’ve logged into this other network, they have access to all of your information.

Impersonator Scams

Any time you are in a major tourist area, you’re going to see celebrity impersonators on the streets.

It may be Elvis in Las Vegas or Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles. They are there to make money off of tourists by posing for photos with you and then expecting you to pay for that photo.

They can be especially assertive with kids so the kids will beg their parents to play along. If you take a photo and don’t pay them, they can get aggressive.

Tourists Taxi Scams

A lot of these taxi scams are found all over the world, not just in the United States.

Tourists Scams Travellers See in the USA
taxi scams are found all over the world

The most common taxi scam is for the driver to take the long way to your destination. This is super common in Las Vegas.

Before you get a taxi, have an idea of how long the drive is and the proper route to take. In cities like Chicago and New York, if they don’t think you are a tourist, they might even ask you which route you want them to take.

Other drivers will zero out the meter right as they stop, and they will tell you a higher price. Keep an eye on the meter while you’re driving to avoid this.

Another taxi scam is to “forget” one of your bags in the trunk. This can happen if you have a lot of people and a lot of baggage.

Make sure you are there when they are loading or unloading your bags, and make sure you verify that the trunk is empty before they pull away.

Street Beggars

This is something you see in bigger cities, but it’s becoming more common in smaller and mid-size cities, too. People on the street will ask you for money.

If you say no, they may harass you a bit until you give in. Or, if you give them a dollar, they may try to get you to give them more money.

Tourists Scams Travellers See in the USA
Street Beggars

You can’t win, so the best thing you can do is to keep walking and don’t engage with them.

Some of these beggars will have some really good sob stories, too. Anyone can say they are a veteran or homeless, but whatever the story, it will likely tug at your heartstrings a bit.

Until you see ten more similar stories and you’ll start to get hardened to the sob stories. It’s up to you what you decide to do, but we usually offer to buy them food or a ticket, rather than directly giving anyone cash.

Transportation Scams

This happens a lot in train and bus stations. Someone will ask you for money to buy a train ticket. They will say they are stranded and just need to get home. They will say they just need a few more dollars to get the ticket they need. If you really fall for the story and want to help, offer to go to the ticket window with them and purchase the ticket. You will probably see this on road trips, too. Someone at a rest stop might say they ran out of gas and need money to fill up their tank.

Fake Parking Attendant

This is another scam you might see in larger cities. Yes, there are many places where you have to pay to park, especially in urban areas or at large events.

But then you’ll have a random person offer to “watch” your car in exchange for a few bucks. The problem is, they might key your car or damage it if you don’t pay them for this security “service.”

Rental Car Scams

If you rent a car in the USA, make sure you do a full inspection with the rental agent prior to driving out of the lot.

Mark anything you see so that you aren’t charged for it when you return the car. You can also take photos or a video of the car to show the condition you received it in.

This typically doesn’t come up with the major car rental agencies like Enterprise, Alamo, Hertz, etc.

However, if you rent from a no-name car rental, be sure you are very thorough about inspecting for damages.

Tips to Deal with Scams in America

Tips to Deal with Scams in America
Tips to Deal with Scams in America

There’s no saying when or where you might get caught up in a scam. So, some tips to keep in mind to avoid being scammed in America are:

  • A lot of scams happen in crowded places like pickpocketing. So, you should always be careful with your belongings.
  • Never share any sensitive data over the phone. No official agency will ask for such information so in case you receive a call that seems suspicious, you can cut the call and check for legitimacy/verify the caller. Or if the scammer mentions that they are part of the hotel staff, directly approach the front desk or management to verify.
  • When on the streets of big cities, always be careful who you interact with. If you are stopped and asked for money, you can simply refuse, politely say no and walk away.
  • In taxis or Pedi cabs, always agree on a price before beginning your journey. It is best to familiarise yourself with the route you must travel. Luggage scams are common in America, so don’t forget to tag and count your bags when you complete your trip.
  • Most importantly, having a good Travel Insurance plan can protect your trip. International Travel Insurance to USA not only comes with medical benefits, but also loss of passports, baggage delays, stolen wallets, financial emergency cash, and a lot more! You can read about the different coverage’s in Travel Insurance here.

Emergency Resources for Travel Scams in America

If you face any difficulty when in the US, you can call the emergency contact: 911.

Other important phone numbers are:

  • Emergency (Police/Fire/Ambulance): 911
  • Local phone directory assistance: 411
  • Traffic/Construction on Highways: 511
  • You can also reach out to the Indian Embassy in America.


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