New York City gets over 60 million visitors per year. There are a whole lot of tourists in that number and unfortunately, they’re the people – the ones who don’t know any better – that shysters and con artists prey upon.
I grew up in New York and learned how to deal with these jerks from a very early age. For me, it’s easy – don’t give eye contact, don’t talk to them, and, if need be, let them know I’m a local and know better (OK, so I haven’t lived there in almost 20 years [OMG, has it really been that long?] – I still can act like a New Yorker like the best of them. In fact, it comes right back to me the second I step off the plane LOL). But if you’re a tourist in NYC, these are a few scams you should watch out for…
Buying tickets for the Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island Ferry runs between ferry terminals in Battery Park and Staten Island NY 24/7. It’s one of the best ways to see the Statue of Liberty and best of all, IT’S FREE! It’s been free since 1997 (and even before then, the highest it ever cost was 50 cents for a round trip fare). So if someone comes up to you in Battery Park and asks if you want to buy tickets for the Staten Island Ferry, don’t fall for it.
Getting your picture taken with a character
The people you see in Times Square who are dressed up in bad versions of Mickey Mouse, Spider Man and the Statue of Liberty (to say nothing of the Naked Cowboy) are there for you to take their picture with them and then give them some money (which, BTW, is not mandatory). Problem is if you don’t tip them, or don’t give them as much as they think you should give, they can become confrontational. The last thing you want is for a poor man’s Olaf or Elmo to take his head off and start yelling at you – so personally, I recommend just avoiding the photo ops. Or if you must get that shot of your daughter with Hello Kitty and the person in the costume starts yelling at you because you didn’t tip (or didn’t tip enough), find a police officer – they’re all over that area.
Restaurant rip offs
If you’re in the touristy sections of NYC, say, Times Square for one, you’ll be surrounded by places to eat and drink. At times, some restaurants have been known to put a mandatory tip on the bill – unless you’re a large party, that’s illegal (restaurants are allowed, by law, to add on an automatic 15% gratuity for parties of 8 or more, though). Before paying your bill, check it and make sure that the bill prices are all correct and only include what should be there. An auto tip is not one of them. If an auto tip is on the bill, tell the manager.
That being said, please make sure to tip your servers appropriately. This post is a good guide to determine how much to tip. Oh, and if you’d like to eat in places that are a little less touristy, check out these places.
Avoid being overcharged for rides
Pedicabs and horse drawn carriages in NYC must have their DCA (Department of Consumer Affairs) licenses showing, as well as a price list. If you don’t see a price list, you could be overcharged. The same goes for taxi drivers.
Pickpockets can be found in any big city and NYC is no exception. Check out this to learn about some schemes some pickpockets use.
A lot of pickpockets in NYC work in the subways, since they tend to be crowded. They’ll use the hustle and bustle to their advantage. They’ll also look for people who wind up falling asleep on the subway cars. These people may wake up with a cut open pocket and their valuables missing.
Protect your identity online
When you use your hotel’s WiFi (or any public WiFi – restaurant, coffee shop, airport, etc.), it’s generally unprotected access to the internet. It’s strongly suggested to use a VPN to protect hackers from getting your passwords and other important cyberinformation. Read this article for more information.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary