Scams in Mexico - How to Avoid Them

Like other destinations around the world, scams occur in Mexico too. Find out about what to look for to avoid being the next victim.

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Crowded metros and buses prove a perfect opportunity for a criminal to lift an unattended or unsecured bag from a visitor's arm, and other thieves will target individuals in airports and public transportation stations, especially in urban areas.

Fake Taxis in Mexico

There are fake taxi cabs with drivers that can take advantage of you (often local crims who have borrowed a taxi), so to avoid being taken for a ride, it's best to hire an authorized taxi from an official rank (sitio) or call for one.
These fake taxis can also be the starting point of Secuestro exprés (express kidnapping). If you are spending time in one place and find a good authorized taxi driver, grab their number; that way if you need to head out for the night or just get around, you can be sure you are getting someone reliable.

Fake Souvenirs

There are vendors in markets and shops all over Mexico who don't sell legitimate handicrafts, souvenirs and relics, particularly the holiday hotspots. This also includes the national drink, tequila.

When buying handicrafts, look for the artist's name. Anything that has been mass produced overseas and being flogged off at a "too good to be true" price is likely a fake. If you're buying a limestone carving, give it a gentle scratch in a not-so-obvious spot. Real limestone marks, fakes do not.

Silver jewelry should be stamped with the hallmark, 925 and always buy from an established jewelry store, not the guy wandering up and down the beach.

Sometimes the items the beach vendors are real but are priced with the "westerner tax" as opposed to local prices, so if you want that colorful Mexican blanket, make sure you bargain! But don't be a tight-ass, these people need to make a living.

Fake Police

Fake police do exist and they will generally approach solo travelers. Fake officers have even infiltrated local police branches. In 2018, Mexican authorities and soldiers raided a police station in Puebla and arrested 113 people who were posing as police officers. As a result, the state authorities have taken over policing in that city due to local government corruption.

If a police officer approaches you, asking for documents or to go with them to the station or elsewhere don’t; instead contact emergency services on 112.

Timeshare Scams

You've grabbed your bags and passed through customs only to be confronted with eager sales reps trying to put the hard sell on you for the best deals on accommodation, free transfers and other services. The best thing to do? Reply with a "no, gracias" and keep on moving. This scam is popular at Puerto Vallarta Airport.

Fake ATMs

Mexico is another destination which travelers need to take care in when withdrawing money from an ATM. These fake ATM's often are out on the street and fitted with a skimming device or one that will swallow your card. Only use ATM's inside banks.

Dodgy Operators

This scam is common across the world and it also happens in Mexico. You're staying a couple of days in Cancun and think "Maybe I'll hire a jet ski and take it for a spin" to fill in a few hours. So you pick a hire operator, pay your fee and away you go. However, upon returning the jet ski, the operator blames you for damaging it and threatens to call the police which can result in jail time if you don't cough up the money for damages.
If you plan to hire a jet ski, or any kind of equipment, always do your research and go with a reputable operator. Make sure you also inspect and photograph the jet ski/scooter/bike/equipment before taking off to document the existing damage.

Restaurant Scams

Where there are visitors, there are restaurant scams. Some of the popular ways restaurants and cafes will try and swindle unsuspecting diners for extra money include:

  • Adding on items which weren't asked for
  • Dodging the tip
  • Jacking up surcharges
  • Giving visitors a different menu with more expensive prices instead of the usual local menu
  • Two-for-one specials which really aren't that special (especially when you find out later after walking down the road past other eateries)
  • If there aren't locals in there, it's probably a place that targets visitors.

The best way to avoid getting ripped off while eating out is to eat at places which aren't chains or being promoted by touts; find the places the locals frequent. Double check that receipt when you ask for the bill for prices and items.

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1 Comment

  • Wild said

    THXS for that
    I'll add
    ALWAYS count your change.
    2 out of 5 vendors would give me the wrong change.
    One of them was ridiculous.
    I gave him 100 pesos for a 30 peso coconut (which I knew was more than locals price) and he gave me 50 pesos in change. They always play dumb when you bring it to their attention.

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