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A Helpful Guide to the NYC Streets

Is New York City safe to visit? Absolutely. But like most places around the world, it’s not perfect. We have compiled a helpful list of scams in New York so you can be aware of them while you thoroughly enjoy your time in the Big Apple!

“CD Guys”

Taking a CD from a stranger should top your list of ‘things not to do in NYC.’

When strolling through the city, you may encounter a group of people handing out free CDs. The pitch from these “CD guys” is that they are up-and-coming musicians trying to get discovered. But when you begin walking away with these promotional gifts, they normally ask for money. Some claim these people can ask for as much as $50! Others report hearing the CD guys calling the cops on unsuspecting tourists, threatening action if they don’t pay.

Guests who end up paying for the CDs have been very disappointed. In most cases, the CDs were blank. In one case, the CD contained a virus!
Our advice: Politely refuse their offerings or completely steer clear from the “CD Guys”.


While seeking financial donations may be practiced in Buddhism, aggressive panhandling for money in the NYC streets is not. NYC has a number of “fake monks” who aggressively panhandle. These fake monks will cover crowded areas, handing out bracelets and medallions. Take one and the fake monk will insist on a donation. If the amount given is unsatisfactory, the monk will snatch the token back and publicly yell. (Not very monk-like behavior.)

A few savvy tourists have reported asking these monks about which temple they belong to and offered to send the contributions directly to the temple. The most informative response they were able to glean was the word “peace.”
Our advice: Politely refuse their handouts and move on with your day.


If you want to see the Statue of Liberty for free, you’ll want to take the Staten Island Ferry. This is a FREE ferry that runs between Manhattan and Staten Island. On the way, it will take you close to the Statue of Liberty.

At the entrance to the Staten Island Ferry, there are often ticket sellers. Some try to sell a ticket to the Staten Island Ferry for as much as $150! The Staten Island Ferry does NOT have a ticket system and is always free. These fake Staten Island Ferry tickets are one of the biggest scams in New York City.
Our advice: Ignore those ticket sellers and head to the ferry. If in doubt, ask an official ferry worker for directions.


You may run into groups of people dressed as characters from your favorite movies and television shows. The more popular characters are geared towards young children, such as Cookie Monster and Elmo.

Many are tempted to take a photo with these characters. But please be aware that they will expect a significant tip. It is never required to tip characters in Times Square, but these people in the costumes have been known to get aggressive if not paid for their “work.” One tourist reported that a character wanted as much as $50 for a photo! Newspaper articles have also reported confrontations that arose from a character feeling a tip was too small.
Our advice: If you don’t plan on pulling out large amounts of cash to tip these people, it is best to avoid them.


Comedy shows are awesome, and NYC has some of the best comedy shows in the world. (Check out Comedy Cellar(opens in a new tab), Gotham(opens in a new tab), and New York Comedy Club(opens in a new tab) for a good laugh.)

However, it is common to encounter people selling tickets to lesser-known comedy shows. They will often begin their encounter with a phrase such as “do you like to laugh?’ followed by promises of the show’s incredible line-up, featuring famous headliners. Those who buy a ticket often discover that the famous headliner is nowhere to be seen.

While it’s possible to see some really great up-and-coming performers, the headliner that was promised to you in the street probably won’t be there. On top of that, these shows often have a drink minimum. You might be required to spend over $25 on over-priced beers. This can lead to a very expensive evening in a seedy club, watching up-and-coming performers learning the ropes instead of the promised headline acts. Perhaps not the worst of the scams in New York, but this could definitely be a bummer on your evening if you have your heart set on an SNL star or Jerry Seinfeld.
Our advice: Purchase your tickets from the comedy club’s official website or buy through an official event vendor.

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