7 Travel Scams in Mexico: How to Avoid Con Artists

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel: The situation around the world is changing dramatically. Various governments have changed their travel warnings to restrict travel during this time. To understand how this may impact cover under your policy, please go to our FAQs and select your country of residence.

For the latest travel warnings and alerts around the world, read about lockdowns and border restrictions.

From fake taxis and souvenirs to timeshare scams and dodgy tour operators, these are the scams you should watch out for in Mexico.


A taxi on a street in Mexico Photo © GettyImages/ferrantraite

Fake taxis in Mexico

Avoid falling prey to a fake taxi cab (often driven by a local criminal who has borrowed or stolen a taxi), by only hiring an authorized taxi from an official rank (sitio) or calling for one from your accommodation or restaurant.
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, keep hold of their number so you can call them again and you can be sure you are getting someone reliable.

Fake souvenirs in Mexico

There are vendors in markets and shops all over Mexico who sell fake handicrafts, souvenirs and relics, particularly in 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 very low price is probably 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. Always buy from an established jewelry store, not the guy wandering up and down the beach.

Sometimes the items the beach vendors are selling are genuine but are priced with the "Westerner tax" as opposed to the local price, so if you want that colorful Mexican blanket, make sure you bargain! Negotiate respectfully; these people have a right to make a living.

Fake police

Fake officers have infiltrated local police branches, and will generally approach solo travelers. 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.

Airport 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 and you will inevitably be overcharged to taken to less than salubrious accommodation..

Fake ATMs

Travelers need to take care when withdrawing money from an ATM in Mexico. There are fake ATMs, often on the street, that are fitted with a skimming device to copy your bank details or one that will swallow your card completely. Only use ATMs inside banks or upmarket hotels.

Dodgy hire operators

This scam is common across the world and it also happens in Mexico. You're staying a couple of days in Cancun and decide to rent a jet ski for 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.

Before you 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 that 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 that 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.

Get a travel insurance quote for Mexico

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Related articles

Travel Insurance

Simple and flexible travel insurance

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Get a quote


  • 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.


  • Emmanuel S Vaughn said

    When a victim of timeshare fraud in Mexico, is there any place to report this in Mexico and the US to prevent it from happening to other innocent potential victims? Emmanuel Vaughn


Add a Comment