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Costume Characters Are Scamming Tourists In Las Vegas And New York

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Las Vegas and New York are great winter holiday destinations in the United States! Visitors will find fascinating Christmas decorations, unique and incredible attractions, and many things to do. However, streets and popular places get very busy and travelers are getting scammed. 

According to a recent article shared by the New York Post, some street performers have been taking advantage of tourists. Many victims have reported that costumed characters have charged incredibly high fees for having their photos taken with them and threatening those who refuse to pay.

A street performer wearing Statue of Liberty costume in Times Square

These street performers have even taken visitors’ phones and refuse to give them back if they don’t pay high tips. A traveler said that her partner paid $5 for a picture with two Vegas Showgirls but the ladies requested $40. 

Related stories have been shared: “We had something similar happen while in NYC. Characters stopped us, took my husband’s phone from his hand, snapped a pic of my son with them, then refused to give his phone back until we paid them.”

People dressed as Mario, Elmo and Mickey Mouse

The U.S. is not among the top 5 countries where you’re most likely to get scammed, but these swindles are very common. Here’s what travelers should know about these travel scams:

About The Costumed Character Scam And How To Avoid It

This is not a new situation, it has been happening for years. In 2014, New York’s police issued a warning and encouraged tourists to call 911 if they felt worried. At the moment, tourists were pressured to give from $5 to $20 after taking the photo and were even physically attacked. The NYPD shared a campaign telling travelers to talk to an officer if they had any complaints.

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Joker character arrested by the police

While many travelers prefer to avoid this situation and just ignore the costumed characters in popular streets, other tourists do want a memory with their favorite superhero or an Elmo in Times Square. A new debate has arisen: What is an appropriate tip for a photo with a street performer at a popular destination? 

woman smiling next to Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas

In 2016 the New York City Council shared a few rules and required tourists to tip the characters if they requested street performers to pose for a picture. The price reference was $2 to $3 per character. A few travelers have also suggested from $1 to $5 for a posed photo in travel forums. Of course, travelers can be as generous as they want, but certainly not forced to pay $40 or $80, as other travelers have been recently charged.

Other Scams In Las Vegas And New York

Travelers should always stay alert in big cities. There are different types of travel scams across the U.S., from the popular fake vacation rentals in Florida to information stolen from a public free wifi

las vegas fireworks explode over a hotel

In Las Vegas, travelers must be extra careful with hidden hotel fees. These extra charges are disguised as “taxes and charges” or “resort fees” that can reach up to $80 per day and are not shown in the booking price, many travelers realize after being charged hundreds of dollars. 

In New York, tourists will probably encounter fake statue of liberty or Empire State tickets, offered by uniformed “agents” assuring travelers special access to attractions and charging exorbitant prices. 

The Statue Of Liberty Pictured Against The Backdrop Of The Manhattan Skyline In New York City, United States

In both cities —and in every big city— tourists must always be careful with: 

  • Pickpockets: especially in crowded places like Times Square, Las Vegas Strip, tourist attractions, and the subway. Travelers must keep their valuable items safe and always stay alert.
  • Unofficial cabs: at the airport or in crowded places, they take advantage of tourists to take long routes and charge more. Keep your phone charged and prefer transportation apps like Uber or Lyft in these cities, or go to an official taxi service. 
Uber driver and smiling passenger in the back
  • Fake tickets: There are highly convincing scammers selling tickets in the street. The best strategy to avoid falling for these is to plan ahead and buy tickets through official websites or at the actual venue. 
Young Couple Looking At Computer As They Book Flight Tickets

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