The 5 Biggest Scams in Las Vegas

Posted on: February 19, 2024, 01:52h. 

Last updated on: February 20, 2024, 12:47h.

Las Vegas is a town built on deception — primarily that your odds of winning a jackpot are good. But some of its deception is less expected, and less acceptable. Here is the news department’s official list of the five biggest scams you’ll need to watch out for in Sin City…

1. Free Show Tickets

Avoid all tents or desks with signs promising free things that are supposed to cost $100. These are timeshare salespeople. Timeshares are vacation properties that spread ownership among multiple buyers who agree to use the property at different times.

An A.I. rendering of a carnival barker in front of a Las Vegas Strip timeshare tent (Image: ChatGPT)

Ignore our advice and you will find yourself sitting in a presentation room where experts in manipulation proceed to pressure you — for up to five hours if you refuse to cave — to close a deal that is 100% in their best financial interest and 0% in yours.

While timeshares seem like a good way to save money on frequent hotel stays, they’re almost universally considered poor investments because they can’t generate income, for instance via subletting, like real real estate can.

Also, because there are always so many more people looking to sell than buy them, timeshares are only worth a fraction of their initial investment on the resale market.

In addition, life happens, and unforeseen circumstances often prevent timeshare holders from using their timeshare on their agreed-upon weekend(s).

If you’re able to resist the pressure, you’ll get your free tickets. But very few timeshare marks are able to — though nearly all think they can.

2. Casino ATMS

An ATM machine at the Aria casino resort. (Image:

All ATMs located inside Las Vegas Strip casinos now charge $8-$11.99 per transaction for a “convenience fee.”

And that’s just how much you’ll get dinged from one side. You’re also likely to get charged again for the transaction for your bank — and you won’t know how much until the charge shows up on your account!

The vast majority of this fee is pocketed by the casino, which either rents the ATMs or owns them outright. And this consistent revenue stream is one of the reasons you won’t see familiar bank ATMs located inside casinos, like you do at Harry Reid International Airport.

The casino knows you’re not about to leave the building to mount a wild goose chase for an ATM operated by your bank — all to save less than $12.

Your wild goose chase will probably fail anyway. Though Bank of America used to operate three ATMs at T-Mobile Arena and one in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, its ATM locator indicates only one of its cash machines left on the Strip — on the fourth floor of M&Ms World.

Likewise, though Wells Fargo used to operate an ATM in the courtyard outside Harrah’s, its ATM locator shows no current Strip locations.

There are workarounds, but all involve some degree of hassle that also may not seem worth $12…

You can open and fund a sportsbook account and withdraw from that, usually for free. You can open an online account with a bank or credit union, such as Schwab Bank, that refunds all ATM fees. Or you can buy goods at retail stores with your debit card and request cash back on the transaction. (Ask first, though, to see if there’s a fee.)

Or you can simply remember to bring enough cash for the day, and then stop gambling when it’s gone.

3. Fake Weed Stores

Located across Las Vegas Boulevard from CityCenter, this is one of a handful of fake weed dispensaries dotting the Strip. Its Yelp score is an unsurprising 1 out of 5 stars, the lowest rating possible, averaged from 49 reviews. (Image: Google)

A half dozen stores on the Las Vegas Strip, and another half dozen on Fremont Street downtown, attempt to pass hemp off as cannabis.

Though cannabis and hemp are the same plant, cannabis contains more than than .03% THC, the compound that gets users high. Hemp doesn’t. Mostly, it contains the non-psychoactive compound CBD.

A loophole in the 2018 Nevada Farm Bill allows anyone to peddle hemp, anywhere they want, without the state’s Cannabis Compliance Board, or any other regulatory body, setting rules for its quality and safety.

Most customers patronize these fake dispensaries knowing only that weed is now legal in Las Vegas. They have no idea they’re being bamboozled.

Not only will this counterfeit cannabis not get you high, it could contain synthetic marijuana, pesticides, or other ingredients that can harm you, since these products aren’t laboratory-tested.

4. Free Handouts/Selfies

A.I. renders a musician chasing a tourist holding a CD down the Las Vegas Strip. (Image: ChatGPT)

Musicians busking on the Strip will often hand you a free CD that supposedly contains their music. Jewelry makers may also hand you a bracelet.

Are you a polite person who takes whatever someone hands you, to spare their feelings, while you scan up ahead for the nearest trash can?

You’ll need to curb that instinct on the Strip or prepare for a shakedown. These “vendors” will follow you, loudly demanding money for the item you “took” until you fork over whatever amount satisfies them.

Ditto the people in superhero and showgirl costumes offering to pose for selfies. They will demand an unreasonable tip, of up to $100, after the photo is taken.

Oh, and finally, there is no “official photographer” at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. Instead, hand your phone to the tourists waiting behind you in line, who won’t demand an exorbitant tip. (And yes, there will be a line.)

5. Gold & Silver Pawn Shop

At left, a previously cast “customer” approaches Rick Harrison on the Pawn Stars set with an item to sell. Note the fake front door on the left and the real one on the right. The fake one is opaque, instead of clear, so viewers can’t see that it doesn’t open out onto the street. (Images: Scott Roeben/Vital Vegas and Pinterest)

A bunch of guys famous for spotting counterfeit reproductions are the manufacturers of a colossal one themselves.

Up to 5,000 tourists a day have visited the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, downtown at 713 Las Vegas Blvd., since the History Channel’s Pawn Stars reality series began in 2009.

They’re not going there because it’s a really good pawn shop.

Many clutch family heirlooms and dreams of appearing on TV as a customer, or at least of catching a glimpse of stars Corey Harrison, Rick Harrison, or Austin Lee “Chumlee” Russell. (Richard “Old Man” Harrison died in 2018.)

But it never happens. And that’s because none of the show’s cast works at the pawn shop anymore. The show shoots on a secret set — a smaller replica of the store hidden inside a publicly inaccessible second floor of the same building. And all of the customers on the show are pre-selected, via auditions, and told by producers what to say.