Over 40 million people visit Las Vegas annually with the intent of partying, seeing the sights, and amassing a small fortune at the tables. That volume of discretionary income flowing into the city is an invitation for hustlers to concoct ideas to part naive tourists from their money through scams, tourist traps, petty crime, and ripoffs.
Although the tone of this post is cautionary in nature, it’s important to note that Las Vegas is a safe destination and no more risky than other major tourist destinations. Security and police presence are abundant in major tourist areas like the Strip and Downtown, and it’s rare that people feel unsafe. With that being said, it’s good to go into a new city prepared for what could happen to aid in avoiding negative situations.
Below, we’ll cover some commonplace methods Vegas scam artists, criminals, and even legitimate businesses use to con you out of your time and money.
Las Vegas Scams To Avoid
Pickpockets: A destination filled with tourists carrying copious amounts of cash, the majority under the influence of alcohol is a haven for thieves. Utilize your hotel room safe to store excess cash you don’t need to carry on your person and if you must carry, employ a secure travel wallet.
CD Hawkers: Aspiring musicians often look to distribute their music (or blank CDs they say is their music) on the Strip, hoping to get discovered. They’ll hand you a CD, almost as if it’s a freebie. You grab it because you’re polite, next thing you know you’re being shaken down for cash in exchange for the trash CD you didn’t want in the first place. Don’t be afraid to hand it back, it’s not worth your money. Better yet, blow them off in the first place. This scam is not limited to CDs either – If anyone tries to hand you a polished stone, bracelet, or anything really – Just resist the urge to grab it and walk on.
3 Card Monty (or similar derivative): Hustlers will set up shop on pedestrian walkways offering tourists the opportunity to double their money if they are able to identify their chosen card after it is shuffled with 2 others or find a ball placed under 1 of 3 cups. Here’s the answer to the test – it’s a scam – they switch out your card or remove the ball. You can’t win. If others are winning, they are in on the scam. Do your gambling in a regulated establishment, not with Tom, Bill, and Chuck in a shady corner on the Strip.
Street Performer Photos: Buskers line the Las Vegas Strip and the Fremont Street Experience showcasing a talent or dressed as popular characters, showgirls, etc. Performers expect a tip for taking a picture with them, but they are unable to set a specific price. You tip what you want. Have a plan going into the engagement, generally, $5 for a picture is more than sufficient, and we recommend discussing compensation before you pose for a picture. Don’t be pressured into paying more than you are comfortable.
Photographers at the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign: If you aim to visit the iconic sign south of Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip, you may see photographers ready to snap tourist photos. Like street performers, they are not official employees, work for tips, and you are not obligated to employ their services. Just ask another visitor to snap a pic for you instead.
While there is commonly a line that forms for the non-official photographer, you can feel comfortable skipping it. Walk right up and take your own pictures.
Long Hauling: A commonly known Las Vegas scam at this point, some disingenuous cab drivers will take unknowing tourists on the longer “scenic route” to drive up the fare. Skip the stress and take an UBER or Lyft as fares are estimated before you even step into the car. Now, the fare you actually pay can change based on the route taken, traffic, etc., but a larger than expected fare is a strong hint to challenge the fare with the ride share platform.
Time Share Sales Pitches: Often the promise of discounted hotel rates, free shows, or tours is enough to persuade visitors to sit through a timeshare sales pitch. After all, how hard can it be to just say no and walk away with your freebie? This tourist trap, although not criminal in nature, will often keep you held hostage for longer than promised upfront and will feature a HARD sales pitch. When approached by a random stranger on the street, or even near your hotel elevators asking “How long are you in town for?” or “Are you two married” reply with “Were locals” and keep walking.
In case you find yourself considering a timeshare purchase – Just google reviews for the timeshare company in question. You’ll change your mind real quick. This ripoff is not worth your time.
CNF Fee: At this point, we’re all well aware of resort fees and the majority of us strongly disapprove of their use by resort operators. They are known and posted upfront on booking websites. While disappointing, it would be hard to characterize resort fees as a scam. A new, sneakier fee is creeping onto Las Vegas restaurant menus at an alarming rate, however. The CNF fee or “Concession and Franchise Fee” amounts to a 4.7% fee tacked onto your final bill… for nothing. Frustratingly, there is barely a mention of this fee as it typically gets buried in the fine print of a menu. Currently, the CNF can be found (and avoided) at Beer Park, Hexx, Cabo Wabo, and Rhumbar to name a few spots.
Additional Pandimic Fees: Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a troubling number of restaurants are tacking on an “optional” Covid-19 fee to the bill of unsuspecting customers. It pays to look your bill over thoroughly and dispute any charges with management.
Triple Zero Roulette / 6:5 Blackjack: Casinos, particularly in tourist centers have watered down odds on games to the point we would consider them to be a scam. If playing roulette, find a double zero wheel, or better yet seek out a single zero variant (which can be found at Plaza). Similarly, with blackjack find a table that pays a traditional 3:2. That could require playing higher stakes on the Strip or heading off the beaten path to find a game. If you are staying on the Strip, walk a few blocks behind Bally’s to Ellis Island where affordable 3:2 blackjack can be found.
TITO Theifs: Playing slots? Keep possessions like slot Ticket in, Ticket out (TITO) vouchers, wallets, cell phones, etc secured at all times. Criminals are known to snap items of value up unnoticed as they walk by. Oftentimes these criminals will distract you while an accomplice scoops up the item of their desire. If it’s worth something, put it in your pocket.
Phone Thefts: More and more slot machines within Las Vegas casinos offer wireless charging capabilities. While super convenient for guests that are low on battery, a phone in the open is a dream for scammers. Like with TITO slips mentioned previously, watch out for distractions as thieves use them to their advantage. If a stranger approaches you, the likelihood is high that his or her partner is creeping up from the other direction to snatch your charging, unguarded phone.
Trick Rolling: You’re enjoying a late-night cocktail and are propositioned by someone you assume to be a sex worker. You happen to be a willing buyer and invite her up to your room. She tells you to hop in the shower to freshen up before the action starts, however, when you come out she’s gone, along with anything of value in your room. Other variations of this crime include luring the John to a hotel room where they are assaulted/drugged and robbed of their cash.
Prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas – Catch a ride out to where it is legal and regulated if you are looking to pay for companionship.
Hopefully, our rundown of scams, tricks, cons, and ripoffs to avoid in Vegas can help you steer clear of situations, or at least give you the tools to respond confidently and appropriately. Scammers are smart, they look for and go after folks they think will be easy targets such as obvious tourists, people under the influence of alcohol, and those who simply don’t look confident enough to put up resistance.
If you stumbled across this article on Las Vegas Scams, you likely have some concerns about your safety or being ripped off. Let us assure you that the Strip and Fremont Street are incredibly safe, however, like any tourist destination, it’s good to travel prepared for what could happen in a worst-case scenario. Don’t allow yourself to leave Vegas with a bitter taste in your mouth because you were made a victim.