Jonah Engler on How to Avoid Tourist Scams

There are tourist scams that take place all over the world, ranging in their severity. The problem is that tourists appear like naive folk, and they are painted as targets by the scammers, who think that they do not know any better. This does not just happen in far flung corners of the world however, and here in New York we see our fair share of scams which are just waiting for the right tourist. The scams here may at times be more sophisticated, but the result is the same. We caught up with tourism guide Jonah Engler on the scams that you will find in NYC, and how to avoid them.

Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island ferry is an iconic piece of New York history and you can use it to get the famous New York harbor, and tick another borough of the list. The ferry ride itself is great, and the harbor makes for an interesting place to explore. The scam here is when street vendors charge tourists for their tickets, usually around $30 or in some cases far more. The scam? This is a free ferry and it has been since 1997, tourists pay because they think that they have to, and then release upon entry that they never needed to in the first place. Avoid the scam, by avoiding the scammers.


Many people love the idea of touring around parts of NYC on a pedicab, a small carriage towed by a bicycle. You must be very careful when doing this however, as the drivers are notorious for their complicated pricing systems and hiking up prices without you knowing it, when questioned they can become angry and violent, which forces most tourists to pay. The best way to avoid this is to make your journey and destination crystal clear, and agree a price beforehand. Once the price has been agreed, pay half upfront, and the rest at your destination.

Glasses Extortion

An old trick which is still in use is the broken glasses trick. The setup is that a middle aged man or woman will bump into your forcefully, perhaps on the subway or the street, and they will show you their broken glasses, telling you that you have done it, and that they were expensive. In truth the glasses are cheap and they were broken long before you got involved in the scheme. The glasses wearer will usually become aggressive in their demands for a payment, and tourists, not wishing to cause any trouble during their visit, will invariably hand over some cash. If at any time you feel threatened or that someone is being overly aggressive with you, try to catch the attention of a NYC cop or security guard. An alternative here, is to pretend that you do not speak english, and simply walk away looking confused.

Be careful out there, these are just some of the scams which you may see on the streets of NYC.