Top Los Angeles Travel Scams Exposed and How to Avoid Them

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Los Angeles is a great city to visit. From the alleys to the valleys, tourists can take in the sights and sounds of Hollywood while eating terrific food, shopping in the many shopping districts and taking in some top-notch entertainment.

But just like any major city, Los Angeles is full of people who are looking to make some quick money. These people often prey on tourists figuring they will be naïve enough to fall for their scams. But tourists that know what to look out for will be able to protect themselves from these shysters while they are on vacation.

If you are planning to travel to Los Angeles any time soon, here are some scams you will want to look out for. 

Fake AirBnB Sites

Los Angeles scams can start before you even get on an airplane. 

Many travelers visit sites like AirBnB and VRBO to find inexpensive alternatives to hotels. When clicking through these sites they may come across links that take them to sites that look like AirBnB. The site will have properties listed that may seem affordable and they will tell users that they are available for the requested dates.

They will then prompt users to wire them money to reserve those dates.

However, when all is said and done, they will find that this was all a scam to take their money and that those properties don’t even exist. To prevent this from happening, do not reserve properties that require you to wire money.

Note: Similar scams occur when you are using Craigslist so use caution when shopping for lodging on that platform as well.

Tour Guide Scams

Tourists should be especially on guard for scammers when walking the main stretch of Hollywood Blvd. In the hustle and bustle, tourist are often approached by numerous people trying to sell them tickets for a tour of Hollywood. These are typically open-air bus tours that take them to homes of the rich and famous and through studio lots.

However, once they try to pay for the ticket, the cashier will add fees and surcharges and, if tourists ask for a refund, the request is likely to be denied. What’s more, the tours often run behind schedule and are disappointing over all. 

If you are visiting Los Angeles and you are set on doing a guided tour, it’s wise to do some research in advance to make sure you are buying tickets from a reputable company. Also, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Hollywood Blvd. Characters Scam

On this same stretch of Hollywood Blvd. you will see a lot of people dressed up as characters from movies and TV shows. These people will approach you and ask you if you’d like to take a picture with them. While a picture might seem like a fun souvenir, you should be prepared to pay.

Even though these characters may not mention it in advance, they expect to be tipped. If you don’t cough up the money, they can get very aggressive.

The best advice is to decline any photo opps unless you are prepared to cough up a few bucks. 

CD’s That Are Not Legit

While walking this same stretch, you will probably come across a lot of wanna-be musicians who are trying to sell you their CD’s. Some of these artists are legitimately trying to promote their music but others are scammers that are trying to sell you inferior products that sound terrible when you take a listen. 

In other instances, these artists will give you their CD for free, but then they will insist on autographing it for money. If you refuse their autograph, they can get pretty aggressive. 

Supporting the arts is a worthy cause, but if anyone tries to sell you a CD, keep walking. 

Amusement Park Scams

The Los Angeles area is full of amusement parks. Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Universal Studios and Magic Mountain are just a few within driving range. 

When searching for tickets online, you may find someone selling theirs very cheaply. They may claim that they are unable to use the tickets or they may say they are selling extra days on a multi-pass discount. 

Once the transaction is agreed upon, the seller will request payment in the form of cash or a money order. They may meet up with you to get you the tickets or they may be mailed. 

But when you try to use the tickets, you will find out they are completely useless. And with prepaid cell phones and emails being so easy to attain, there will be little you can do to trace the seller down. 

To avoid falling for this scam, buy your tickets from reputable sellers only and if the price seems unbelievably low, run the other way. 

The Talent Hunt Scam

Los Angeles is a hub for the entertainment industry. It is for this reason that many people flock to the city hoping to be discovered.

Scammers will play on Hollywood hopeful’s vulnerability pretending to be talent scouts. They will invite you to a casting call, but once you arrive, you will find out you have to pay a fee for the company’s service. 

Legitimate Hollywood casting agents will never charge you an upfront fee. If they ask you to pay them, it’s likely you will never hear from them again. 

The Chinese Blessing Scam

The Chinese blessing scam is one that happens in Chinatown and other cultural communities in Los Angeles. The elderly are often targeted. 

The scam can take place in one of two ways.

In the first version, a scammer will tell you to place an item in a bag they provide. They will claim that once the item is placed in the bag, it will be blessed. Presumably, this will be an item of some value. 

Somewhere along the line, the bags will be switched and you will receive a bag with a less valuable item. You will be told not to open the bag for a week or the spell will be broken. 

When you finally open the bag, you will learn your valuable goods have been stolen. 

In the second version of the scam, the scammer will try to sell you an item claiming it is a blessed historic relic. The reality is, the item is only a cheap souvenir that you have overpaid for.

Final Thoughts 

Los Angeles, is a heck of a city but the many scammers that take advantages of tourists can give it a bad rap. Now that you know what to look out for, you can take measures to keep yourself protected. Here’s hoping you have the best trip possible.

Here are some sources I used for researching these scams:

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