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Tourist Scams

Don't let your vacation be ruined by a scam


The city of Miami Beach is a fantastic tourist destination, with thousands of visitors coming to spend their hard earned money on a vacation they have been waiting for all year.  But with every big city comes dishonest people, looking to cheat you out of your money. Here are some of the things to look out for when you visit Miami to stop your trip being ruined by a scam.

Craigslist: Vacation and apartment rentals
Craigslist is a great resource for finding an apartment or a vacation rental but it has become an increasingly popular site for scammers. While there are many legitimate ads on the site, there are many fake ones. Know what to look out for. Check out the address on the Miami Dade property records to find out if you are dealing with the true landlord, and Google map the property to find its true location. Is the ad vague with not much information? Do the photos look like a real place? Ask to be emailed more photos, inquire about the entrance to the property, ask questions that will give you peace of mind that it is a true rental.

If they ask for a deposit upfront with no guarantee of where the money will be held, don’t hand over any money. Also, pay with a credit card, do not wire the money. Paying with a credit card gives you protection. In the event someone does steal your money as you can claim it back on insurance. Look out for bad grammar in the ad or a phone number that always goes to a voicemail. And remember, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Tricks that the restaurants use
Eating out in Miami is a fun social thing to do, and with so many wonderful cuisines to choose from you will probably be dining somewhere new every night. However, look out for these tricks that some of the restaurants use to add more money to your check.

Check your bill carefully to make sure it is correct and no extras have been added on. Some servers have been known to add an extra drink or appetizer in the hope no one will notice the mistake. And the biggest scam of all? Auto gratuity. Always check to see if service is included; most places in South Beach will automatically add the service to your check. They will not always tell you which leads many people to double tip. Also, check the places where service is not included. If you are with a party of 6 or more, they can add it to your check, again leading many to double tip.

Credit card fraud
Unfortunately, credit card fraud can happen to the unsuspecting tourists that visit here. It is customary in Miami to leave your card with the bartender if you open a bar tab. At the end of the evening after a few too many drinks, you may not remember the final total. Check your statements to make sure you have not been charged twice.

If you are visiting from Europe, do not be alarmed that Miami does not use the Chip and Pin system, and that servers in restaurants will whisk your card away to pay. This is generally standard practice and nothing to be worried about. However, if you can check your spending online, it helps to keep track of your money.

It is a good idea to let your credit card company know you will be traveling to Miami. Give them an idea what you will be spending each day so they can monitor your account and look for any unusual activity.

Fake “Tourist Information” booths
When it comes to taking a tour, be careful of the fake “Tourist Information” booths on the street advertising the best tours for the cheapest prices. Always check which tour operator they are selling tours for. These booths will schedule you on a tour with the company that gives them the biggest commission, not necessarily the best tour. To have the best experience, always double check the tour company’s reviews.

Nightlife scams
On the beach and along Washington Avenue, you will meet many club promoters handing out wristbands promising you free entry and drinks to the club they are affiliated with. These guys receive a small amount for bringing people inside the clubs, but they cannot guarantee you free entry. Once they get people to the door, the club will then charge an entry fee known as the cover charge. Most people do not argue as they want to go in. However if you were promised free entry, try and get them to honor it, but don’t be surprised if they won’t. And the guy handing out wristbands, he has disappeared at this point.

Also as mentioned above, check your bar tab at the end of the night when you are signing for your drinks. Many clubs will add auto gratuity to your check which can add up to quite a large amount. Remember that if you have been tipping in cash all night, you are entitled to remove it.

While you are enjoying all the glorious sunshine, palm trees and beach life, it is best to remember that Miami remains a big city. It is good to keep in mind that some people out there will look for ways to scam you. Incidents can happen to anyone, so keep the above information in mind and always ask questions if you are not comfortable with the situation.

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About the Author:

A SoBe resident for 5 years, Jess’s writing focuses on healthy living in South Beach with a dose of British humor and a cheerful outlook on life in Miami. She can be found moderating the forum Miami Beach 411.

See more articles by Jess.

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