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Posted by on Apr 3, 2012 | 15 comments

Getting Scammed in Playa del Carmen

This is a post I didn’t want to write.

I mean who wants to write about the bad (or shameful) aspects of travel.

Just when you think you are a travel pro, things like this happen.

I was scammed in Playa del Carmen.

Ok, it was hard to admit that.


If you visit the Riviera Maya’s biggest cities (Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum), you are going to notice a lot of guys trying to get you into “hotel tours”. In reality, you are getting into a timeshare/sales presentation.  You may think this is not a big deal but believe me, it is.

These people are experts in using deceptive techniques to get tourists to certain hotel facilities.  Even though they are not endangering or robbing you, they are still scamming you because they use fraud and lies to gain your confidence.  And this is not the worst part. The tense situation starts once you find yourself in a sales room.

My take on all this: Do not sign in for one of these tours or presentations. Never, never, never.  I am going to tell you why below.

How Everything Starts

How do you think these scammers get business?  They set up a tourist information or daily tours kiosk.  When they notice you are taking a look at the activities advertised, they come up to you, gather some information and start to deviate the conversation to the “hotel tour” topic.  They will offer you money, tickets and/or transportation for just “taking a tour of a property and recommending it to friends back home”.

In my case, I thought this was legitimate because:

  • I have been on property tours before. So, these do exist.
  • I directly asked the guy if this was a sales presentation and he said no.
  • The guy was really friendly.
  • He was going to send us to a hotel related to the Xcaret park.  I believed I was dealing with a reputable company.
  • The compensation package was good (or that is what I thought initially).

So, I signed up for the “tour” and ended up having one of the worst experiences of my life.

Mall in Cancun


The Hard Reality

Next day, we were taken to the tour meeting place.  Once I arrived, I knew I was lied to.  It was obvious that the place was a sales room.  I should have stopped everything at that moment (I was really mad).

A lady took us to the Xcaret Grand Oriental Hotel.  Once she showed us around, we went back to the initial area.  This is when everything started to get black.  We said we weren’t interested in buying at that time.  The lady got really aggressive and even insulted us.  She told us we were acting in a very offensive way.  I still don’t get what she meant.  She kept bringing people to try to convince us to sign a paper.  We stood up decided to leave but they were blocking us!!!!  At that point, I started to worry (I felt like crying). After more screaming and accusing us of liars, we managed to get to the front door. They gave us our compensation half an hour later.

Lesson Learned

I experienced a pretty sour moment but I learned my lesson.  I will never again sign up for this type of presentation.  It was not only the treatment but consider the following:

  • They get you to the presentation with lies.  Somebody who lies to you does not deserve your business.
  • They tell you it is a 90 minute tour.  Do you know how much time I wasted? Four hours.  We can add another hour because of the time it took to sign us up.  Do you really want to spend your precious travel time in this thrash?  I don’t think so.
  • The compensation offered is not fair if you consider the time and trouble you have to invest.
  • They use the information you provide them against you.
  • There is no law protecting you against harsh or high pressure sales tactics.  To them, everything is fair game.
  • Even if you are thinking about buying, what they offer is way overpriced (I know this by experience) and it is valid for a fixed amount of years.  You don’t really own it.
  • Do you really want to make business in a foreign country without consulting an attorney or accountant? In the spur of the moment, you can get in big trouble.
  • These people are totally unprofessional.  Why they have to scream and even push clients?

There is not even one good reason to sign for something like this.

I did a “Playa del Carmen scams” Google search and found out Trip Advisor contains tons of forums discussing similar issues.  So, this is a real problem.

Crafts for sale in Playa del Carmen


Be Vigilant

This is my story. It may not sound so harsh but believe me I felt very vulnerable at one point.  I don’t want this to happen to any of you.

Pay attention, these scammers can be found in the following areas:

  • Cancun’s malls
  • Playa del Carmes’s Quinta Avenida
  • Tulum’s main drag

Be aware of people speaking perfect English, offering free maps or asking you personal question (where are you staying, where do you live).

Be vigilant and don’t let these guys interfere with your travel plans.

Have you been in a similar situation before?  What are your recommendations?  Let me know in the comments section below.


It is always a good time to visit the Big Apple.  A short flight to New York City will give you the opportunity to visit great sights such as the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, Times Square and Broadway.  Join the fun!!


  1. They are really bad in the Puerto Vallarta airport as well. I had read about it and was really vigilant but when a guy outright lies to you and tells you he is from the hotel supposed to be picking you up, you let him carry your luggage! When I figured it out, I had to get my husband to be just as rude as I was – hard to do! – and just snatch our luggage and walk away, completely ignoring them. I think it can happen to anyone, even seasoned travelers!
    Jan Ross recently posted..The Junipine Resort in Sedona, ArizonaMy Profile

  2. It’s great that you tackled this issue. It’s by no means restricted to Mexico, not so long ago Spain was infamous for time share scams and super agressive sales tactics. The best advice really is: stay away from anyrhing which smells of sale.
    inka recently posted..In the spotlight: Timbuktu/MaliMy Profile

  3. Ruth, it’s awesome you shared this. We were approached by one of these types of things in Cozumel too. Luckily, we’d seen something like it in Daytona once upon a time and knew to run the other way as fast as we could. (No, we were nice about it, but we were adamant about not being suckered into anything.) It’s good you write about this aspect of travel too. It could help someone else!

    In Istanbul we got suckered into a carpet sales pitch. This guys started leading us around on the street. We fell for it. Next thing you know we’re on our way to his carpet store. It was uncomfortable because we had no intention of buying anything, but boy did they work us hard!!!!
    Courtney Mroch recently posted..Haunts Jaunts ABCs of TravelMy Profile

  4. Wow, that’s pretty rough! Glad I didn’t experience that when in Playa del Carmen or Cancun, but considering the constant voices to come in shops or look at this, or buy that, I’m not surprised. I hate walking around with headphones plugged in as you lose part of the experience of a place, but I made an exception there. It was the only way I could enjoy the beauty of the place. I’m a guy and I would have either been near tears, too, or with steam billowing over my head, the only two options! Yikes!

    Good for you warning others!
    Mark E Tisdale recently posted..Taste of Paris – New Prints OfferedMy Profile

  5. I saw them when I was there and also in Cancun. Just like the ones in Vegas, I ignored them. I don’t want to waste any of my travel time looking at timeshares.
    The Travel Fool recently posted..Photo of The WeekMy Profile

  6. Theyre in the Cancun airport too. Anyone who offers you assistance after you leave the secure area is likely a timeshare rep. Even the guys who look official (white dress shirt, black pants) or pretend theyre baggage porters. I put my head down and move fast – ignoring them or giving them a Mexican “no” – a gracias combined with the hand motion – if they attempt to touch me or my bag.
    Eva recently posted..NYC’s New Amsterdam Market Season Opens; Jim Lahey DemosMy Profile

  7. So sorry to hear this but glad you named names here. It`s shameful they use these techniques,

  8. They do that all over Mexico. The good thing is that you didn’t sign the paper. My recommendation to you: DO NOT GO TO A TS PRESENTATION! i mean, does the free breakfast really worth it?? this is the experience of a canadian family in Puerto Vallarta during a timeshare presentation.

    stories like yours happen everyday in Mexico, It’s a shame that this guys damage the reputation of such a beautiful country

  9. ok so if you are on a vacation and want to actually make some money and pay for the trip, this is not a bad way to do it. My husband and I frequently come to Playa and set up one for 8am and anothe for 3pm. The first one is easy to get out of, cause they want to get another victim. You get a great and huge buffet breakfast. You time the 90 minutes when they greet you and ask few questions. Then when they start their scare tactics, just say I cannot see myself traveling this way. The 3pm is another huge buffet with the same thing again. What people don,t realize is that you can bargain for what you want. Ask for money ($150-200 right now) per presentation. At the end of the day (4pm) you have $300 in your pocket and are full from eating. We get with the same person and have them set us up. We have done this in many countries. Our trips are always free and we still have all evening to do touristy things like walk the streets, shop, etc. You are only a victim if they let yuo be one.

  10. Thanks for sharing your story, I became unfortunately a victim of a Royal Elite timeshare scam, so if you ever stay there, avoid the timeshare representatives. They lie to you and then take you money and won’t give you a refund when you find out that they don’t honor their contract. They get you drunk and promise you things but when you get home and find out that you can’t get the discounts that they promised you and gave you a signed contract stating they won’t give you a refund. They have the scam down perfectly with a 5 day clause to cancel. They don’t give you your ID number until after the 5 day grace period so you have no way of finding out the discounts don’t exsist. We spent $5,000 and aren’t getting what was promised. Don’t even go to the presentation as you will get sucked in the way we did. I’ve been stressed out for weeks since we returned and it isn’t worth it. It was a beautiful resort to stay at but don’t join the membership if you expect to get any of the discounts they promise. We have yet to find out if there is anything else we were promised and won’t get but I’m sure there will be more. Be aware!

  11. Timeshare industry is known for being very susceptible to scams; however, timeshare properties are still a successful business for most resorts. In these times of rough economy, it is important to take care of our money, and timeshares are not in the way to achieve the financial security that we are all looking for.

  12. Thousands of International travelers, particularly from the US and Canada, have fallen victims of timeshare fraud while vacationing. Resort developers hire skilled salesmen to represent their timeshares as many different attractive packages, such as financial investments, deeded properties, or vacation clubs, just to increase their sales.

  13. Thousands of International travelers, particularly from the US and Canada, have fallen victims of timeshare fraud while vacationing. Resort developers hire skilled salesmen to represent their timeshares as many different attractive packages, such as financial investments, deeded properties, or vacation clubs, just to increase their sales.

  14. You are a victim of timeshare scam in Mexico if you were told these statements at a sales presentation:

    “…our timeshare is a good financial investment.”
    “…you can rent yourtimeshare weeks and make a profit.”
    “…you can sell yourtimeshare anytime and make a profit.”
    “…XYC company will buy your old timeshare for a considerable amount of money.”
    “…our timeshare offers you exceptional benefits and discounts for airfare, car rental, cruises, hotels or tours.”
    “…our timeshare offers tax advantages.”
    “…our timeshare is a deeded or like a deeded property (perpetuity).”
    “…please, sign this waiver rescinding your right to cancel your timeshare within the 5 day recsission period as we are activating your timeshare today.”

  15. We had a guy named Cesar offering to pay us $400 American if we went to a presentation at a hotel . Thing is he put on the form no gift saying we will get $600 if we collect from him at not the hotel.We gave him a $50 deposit and attended the presentation .. The 90 min tour endeavour turned out to be 3 hours at vida with salesmen all over us . We finally got out and contacted Cesar for our$600 and he stated that there was a issue and he could not pay us or return our deposit. He works at the booth next to McDonald’s on 5 the street in playa del Carmen.

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