In a city that draws millions of visitors each year, you can guarantee there are tourist traps everywhere. But there are certain Las Vegas scams that might not be so obvious, even to seasoned travelers.
Before you even land at the airport or arrive on the I-15, it’s easy to get caught up in the lights and excitement and forget that there are people trying to take advantage of you.
As long as you know ahead of time, it should be easy to identify people trying to scam you.
Let’s take a closer look at the most common scams in Las Vegas so that you can avoid getting ripped off and enjoy your time in Sin City.
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Las Vegas Taxi Scams
Unfortunately, many Las Vegas tourists fall prey to the taxi scam. If you’re grabbing a cab from the airport, make sure your cab driver doesn’t take the tunnel route.
This takes the long way around to get to the Strip, and this ‘longhauling’ tactic is still used quite often.
If your driver asks, don’t say it’s your first time (even if it is).
And you can simply say you’d like them to take the fastest route (Swenson) or even easier, “Caesar’s Palace (or whichever hotel you’re staying at), no tunnel please.”
Better yet, take an Uber or Lyft so that you can see the route on your phone, and it’s usually cheaper.
There are now flat rates to the Strip based on zones.
However, we found that our taxi driver still tried to charge us $2 over the set price to the Flamingo.
I knew it was only supposed to be $27 when he tried to tell us it was $29.
When I told him it’s $27 he didn’t argue. So some of them sill still try to rip you off it you don’t question it.
Scams, Tourist Traps and Things to Avoid on the Strip
One of the biggest signs you’re being scammed (or about to be scammed) in Las Vegas is people approaching you with unsolicited offers or free things.
There are all kinds of people on the strip, in the walkways and pedestrian overpasses, and if anyone tries to offer something to you for free without you asking for it, it’s usually a scam.
Tourists often get caught up in the excitement, and when you’ve had a few beverages, your judgment isn’t as sharp as it usually is.
So here’s what to watch out for and avoid.
Taking Pictures with Characters on the Strip
Honestly, gawking at all the people dressed up is one of my favorite things about walking the Strip (and Fremont) in Vegas.
But if you take a photo with any of these folks, you will always have to pay them.
Most of these people won’t mention it beforehand but ask you for the money afterwards.
They are very careful with their words and always ask if you would like your picture taken with them.
Most tourists don’t even think about it and say “sure!”
If you don’t bring it up before the photo is taken, they play a very good game at guilting you into tipping them well.
The show girls and male models are usually the most expensive, about $40 each.
Always ask for the price first, you can negotiate or walk away if you’d like.
But it can be hard to walk away if you’re about to pose for a photo. Trust me, the photo below cost me $40!
Otherwise, $5 or $10 is usually sufficient, but chances are that no matter how much you give, they will try and get more out of you.
As long as you expect this and know when to walk away, you’ll be fine!
This can also happen at the Las Vegas Welcome Sign.
When you arrive, there’s usually someone there who will offer to take your photo of you and your group.
It depends on the person, but sometimes they will even tell you that they’re the ‘official photographer’ – this is a lie.
Again, if you’re willing to pay them to take your photo, that’s fine.
You just need to know you will be expected to tip them afterwards.
If you really want to make sure you get some epic pictures on your Vegas trip, check out this walking tour.
Your guide takes you to the best spots on the Strip that most people don’t know about (best balcony views, hidden bars and elaborate gardens).
>> Read Next: 38 Things to do in Vegas Besides Gamble
Avoid the 3 Card Monte Game
The three monte card game is one of the worst scams in Vegas, and I know people who have lost hundreds of dollars in a matter of seconds from it.
It’s the card game where you’re asked to keep your eye on one of 3 cards and guess where it lands when the dealer has shuffled the cards around face down.
These guys set up in the walkways along the strip, and there’s usually a lot of excitement and commotion to draw people in.
They have people who are betting and people who are spotters who are all in on it.
Once they draw you in, they make it look like it’s easy to win.
Sometimes they have someone who bets wrong, to make it look like you can beat them.
Then, as soon as you put your money down, they use their extremely fast sleight of hand skills to con you out of your money.
Sometimes they’ll even let you win your first bet or two to entice you into betting a lot more, and that’s when they get you.
There are variations of this to watch out for, like the shell game and the ball under the cup game. It all works the same way.
An easy way to make sure you’re not getting scammed on the strip is to remember that operating a gambling operation without a permit is illegal.
And these people in the walkways do not have permits!
>> You Might Like: The Top Things in Vegas not to Miss
People Handing you Free Gifts/Items
This should seem obvious, but it still happens to many unassuming tourists.
Don’t accept free gifts that people hand out to you.
Some musicians or rappers will offer you their CDs ‘for free,’ but as soon as you take it won’t leave you alone until you give them money.
Also, don’t buy anyone’s CD on the Strip, as they’re usually blank (I hope this one goes away soon, who uses CDs anymore?).
They’re very good at engaging you in conversation to the point where you feel good about supporting them, and then agree to buying their CD, which ends up being blank.
Occasionally, people dressed up as Monks will approach you and hand you good luck beads or bracelets.
Again, as soon as you accept the gift they will repeatedly ask you for a donation, and whatever you give is usually not enough.
Sometimes you’ll be approached by ‘spiritual ladies’ who are trying to pull the same scam.
They come across as very kind, and sweet and just want to offer their blessings to you with their necklaces, bracelets and charms, but will be pushing for donations.
Don’t accept lotion, face or skin cream samples.
If you accept, the sales people won’t leave you alone and will coax you into their shop to demonstrate the magical cream on half of your face and then try to get you to buy the product.
It runs for hundreds of dollars.
Many people fall for it because it does make your skin feel great, but that’s because they’ve massaged you a little bit and the sales pitch makes you fall for it.
They will also aggressively ask you to pay or buy their items.
This usually happens in front of the Miracle Mile shops.
While you’re on the Strip or Fremont Street, it’s generally a good idea to always keep your wallet or purse safe and secured.
Pickpockets are still out there, especially in the sketchier areas, which is the northern end of the strip.
I recommend using a secure travel wallet and be aware of your surroundings when you’re in a busy area with lots of commotion to potentially distract you.
Read Next: the 10 Most Overrated Things in Las Vegas – do you agree?
VIP Club Promoters
First, never pay a promoter anything.
Promoters are usually paid by the clubs based on how many people they bring in, so there’s never a reason why you should ever pay a promoter.
Even promoters offering you free VIP access, free limo rides to clubs.
There are never costs associated with these things, and if you really want them, you can usually get hookups through the concierge at your hotel.
In almost every casino that you spend time in, you might be approached by “timeshare people.”
You’ll know them when they approach you in a very friendly manner and usually ask something like “how long are you in town for?” or “are you guys married? On your honeymoon?”
They will promise you free show tickets, dinner vouchers or all kinds of other free items.
This will be in exchange for just watching a “short presentation.”
In reality, you will be sucked into a minimum of spending 4 hours with them.
Now, some people are OK with this in exchange for the free goodies, but you have to remember that it’s not just 4 hours of your time.
You need to be confident enough to walk away and not buy anything.
These are highly trained influential sales people who make it very hard for you to say no and walk away.
>> Related Reading: Vegas on a Budget – Where to Eat, Stay, Play & Spend Less
Casino Scams and Rip-offs
The casinos in Las Vegas aren’t necessarily a scam, but the old saying is true: the house always wins.
So you should never expect to win big.
The slot machines offer the worst odds, but they’re still fun to play.
And as far as table games go, don’t ever play Blackjack that pays 6:5. This gives the house (the dealer) a bigger advantage than it already has.
Instead, look for 3:2 Blackjack tables.
We found $5 blackjack tables that pay 3:2 at Ellis Island Hotel and Casino.
If you’re interested in what it’s like, watch my full video tour on YouTube!
Are you a beginner gambler or unsure how to play table games?
Tip – you can book a gaming lesson with a former dealer, who will teach you how to play table games along with some insider tips.
Overpriced Things to Avoid in Las Vegas
Hotel Shops and Convenience Stores
If you can avoid it, do not buy bottled water, beer, souvenirs, candy or anything from the shops located inside the hotels and casinos.
Not only are they extremely overpriced and expensive, most of them do not display price tags on their merchandise.
Instead, buy from standalone convenience stores, shops and pharmacies on the strip.
Read more about saving money on drinks in Vegas and what free drinks you can order while gambling.
Las Vegas hotel resort fees aren’t technically a scam, but they are something you need to be aware of, especially if it’s your first time in Vegas.
You don’t want this to be a surprise upon check-out.
Unfortunately, these are just the reality of staying in Las Vegas and the hotels claim the resort fee covers hotel amenities such as WiFi, parking, and gym and pool access.
But it’s just a tactic to make it look like you’re getting a deal on your hotel room – when you’re really just paying full price once the resort fee is factored in.
P.S. >> Don’t want to pay resort fees in Vegas?
On the Strip, stay at the Casino Royale (right across from the Mirage)
On Fremont Street, stay at the Four Queens Hotel and Casino.
Extra fees on Restaurant Bills
As many restaurants struggled in 2020, a new trend is adding an extra tax to your food bill to help recover costs. This is usually something called a Concession and Franchise fee (CNF).
Check the fine print of your bill before you pay, and always ask your server or the manager about extra fees and taxes that you’re suspicious of.
While it’s not necessarily a scam, it’s good to be aware of extra fees that many places are trying to implement and get away with.
Final Tips on Avoiding Scams in Las Vegas
It can be hard to avoid these people because you might think you’re being rude.
But the best way to avoid being scammed in Vegas is to simply not engage with anyone trying to get your attention and keep walking.
If you prefer, you can also just smile and say ‘no, thank you’ and keep walking.
Unfortunately, as soon as you engage with any of these hustlers or timeshare people, they are very good at keeping you in a conversation that you can’t leave.
Read more Las Vegas Posts:
- Planet Hollywood vs Flamingo: How to Decide Between the Two Best Mid-Range Hotels on the Las Vegas Strip
Don’t forget to save a pin to your Pinterest travel board so you don’t forget about these!