5 top Mexico scams and how to avoid them

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Mexico is one of the most visited countries in the world with over 11 million tourists every year. The major reasons to visit Mexico are delicious food, culture, and tropical getaways, the last thing a tourist wants to experience is one of Mexico scams. Many people wrongly think Mexico is an extremely dangerous country and visiting it would endanger their very existence. This is absurd, don’t let sensationalist news private you from enjoying one of the culturally richest countries in the world. To ease your nerves here is a list of the most common Mexico scams so you don´t let your guard off on your next trip.

Fake taxi 

Photo by Daniel Silva
Photo by Daniel Silva

Taxis are a big issue, mainly in Mexico City. Regulation of this transport is very poor; therefore, there are many fake taxis and they won´t think it twice before scamming you. In extreme cases, it is even possible to be kidnapped or assaulted. Taking a cab can be challenging; if a taxi driver detects you are a tourist it´s very probable he will take you for a tour around the city to charge a very high fare. Taxi drivers should always have a fare meter “taximetro” and an official license stuck in their window. The difficulty to find an honest taxi driver makes this one of the top Mexico scams.

How to prevent it: Mobile platforms such as Uber have been a great success in Mexico as the drivers in the app are registered and the trip is tracked, using this platform will definitely save you from getting ripped-off by a taxi.

In case you are unable to take an Uber try taking a “sitio” taxi, or “radiotaxi” these taxis are a bit more expensive but they are licensed, operate on call and give a great service. In the ultimate case you need to flag a taxi on the street make sure it is licensed and its plates are not covered. If the taxi driver doesn’t look trustworthy don´t board it. Always make sure the taxi is using a fare meter or agree on the price in advance. If you are extremely paranoid you can always text a friend the plates of your taxi.

Timeshare scams

Mexican Timeshare scams are a very common thing in tropical destinations such as Cancun or Baja. As soon as you arrive at the airport you will be assaulted by loads of people offering you tourist information. Once they catch your attention and after some small talk, they will start pitching the hotel they represent and offer you a 45-minute talk in which you will learn how much you could be saving in your holidays. Some of the things the agents will offer you  to go to the timeshare talks are:

  • Taxi transit refund
  • Free buffet breakfast
  • Free boat rides
  • Discounted entries to parks/tour attractions

In some occasions, they will be bold enough to ask for a money deposit so they assure you will go to the talk. Claiming the money is refundable. Below is an example of this:Timeshare talk voucher

Avoid this talks at all cost. You will end up losing an entire vacation day fending off an aggressive negotiator that will try to push a pricey timeshare. You will be captive trying to get your money deposit back.

How to prevent it: Fend off extremely helpful strangers. Timeshare agents are almost everywhere in the major tourist destinations, they are generally disguised as tourist information agents and under no circumstances pay deposits to strangers. In case you do want to buy a timeshare check browse for hotels online and contact the hotel directly.

Bonus: If you are thinking of going to a Time Share to get a free tour check GetYourGuide site first, they have great activities at great prices. And best of all you don´t need to sacrifice a day of you holidays in a Mexican scam timeshare talk (just a couple of dls)

Water down /spiked alcohol

Photo by Clifton Johnston
Photo by Clifton Johnston

Have you ever felt like your resistance to alcohol improves when you are on holidays? It’s possible instead of you becoming stronger the alcohol is getting weaker. Watered down cocktails are very common in major tourist destinations. You can see the bartender serving drinks from a bottle but this bottle can contain watered down alcohol “adulterado”  or something completely different.

How to prevent it: 

  • When ordering for a drink specify the brand you want, don’t ask for a rum and coke, ask for a “Rum brand X +  Coke” this makes it harder for them to serve you Rum from a shady bottle labeled “Rum”.
  • If you don’t trust the place ask for a beer or a bottle of liquor, make sure they are opened in front of you. Don’t accept it if it’s already open.

BONUS: All inclusive hotels tend to give bad quality alcohol in their cocktails by default, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have good quality spirits available, always check what is available in the bar and name the spirit brand you want in your drink, otherwise you will get the cheap stuff 😉

Virtual kidnap (secuestro express)

Photo by Timothy Neesam
Photo by Timothy Neesam

This disturbing Mexico scam has become very popular in Mexico in recent years. On this scam, you receive a call from an unknown number and you will be told your family member ´X´ has been kidnapped and you need to pay them a ransom so they release him. The captors will put your kidnapped “family member” in the phone for you to hear them crying and begging for help. They will ask you to deposit a large amount of money in a bank account immediately if you want them to free your relative. The kidnapping is fake but the call can be so distressful and on many occasions, the criminals have private information of the victim. Many persons accept doing the payment right away.

How to prevent it: If you receive one of this phone calls make contact with your relative as soon as possible before doing any payment to make sure that he is safe and the kidnapping is fake. The criminal will try to keep you on the line or threaten to harm them if you try to contact them. Try to use a different phone or seek for assistance to contact them. HAng immediately once you have verified your relatives are fine. Write down the number from where you received the call and report it.

Rigged ATM

megawatts86When extracting money from ATMs you need to be very careful. Some ATM are rigged and they will swallow your card/ copy it or keep your money. The device necessary to clone a credit card is very small and therefore it’s easy to fit it in ATMs. The only thing necessary to steal the card details is sliding it, so don’t ever leave your card out of sight, especially at gas stations where gas operators tend to take the credit card to a secluded place to make the payment.

How to prevent it: Before using an ATM take a close look at the card reader and money dispenser, if you spot any alteration or the ATM seems not to be working properly avoid it.  You can find information on how to detect a rigged ATM here.

Be careful when extracting money from ATMs in Mexico, try to get it from the ATM in your hotel or in Shopping Malls. Avoid extracting large sums of money at once.

I hope that these pieces of advice help you stay safe during your next trip to Mexico.  Mexico is a very beautiful country famous for its food, culture, tequila, beaches, and history. As any other major destination, there will be people waiting to take advantage of naive tourists. Be cautious and bring back home memories of beautiful moments and not of Mexico scams.


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Mexico scams - 5 common tourist scams in Mexico and how to avoid them. Cancun. Mexico City

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