Bill Trap Scam: Bars and Nightclubs

A man is resting his arm on a bar counter next to two cocktails.

This scam is typical, but not exclusive, of areas with a “night owls” kind of tourism. It mainly affects singles, couples or small groups of foreigners.

It is not just a tourist trap, falling for it may results in bills equal to hundreds or even thousands of dollars or euros.

It could also end much worse so better you read on, it’s important.

They often use a Friendly Face to lure inexperienced travellers and tourists with the promise of company and fun.

1) How it works

Much of how it stars depends on the bait and the victim.

Some bait will seek a friendly (check here for the Friendly Faces) approach, as a fellow tourist looking for company in a foreign land or as locals interested in new acquaintances.
Something like – “I just got off work in [nearby place]” – or – “I am from [country] and stay in [nearby hotel or hostel] during my visit”-.

Others, especially the hot baits, will be gallant and charming. They may even decide to pay you something to drink or eat and spend the day with you before asking you to follow them to the trap.

Arrived at the restaurant, bar, nightclub, stripclub, or tea-room you will start ordering drinks or food. Other people (always accomplices) may join you. You will have fun keep thinking that the bill will be divided among all the participants.

The problem is that all your new “friends” work for the club and you will have to pay by yourselves whatever bill is presented to you.

And you will pay. One way or another.

A simplified version of this scam hits the casual patrons of those places. Check the Extras to find out more.

2) What you risk

The bill will be absurdly high. They may even demand all the money you have or have access to.

Management might prevent you from leaving and seize either you or your documents until you pay.

Worst cases might involve thugs. Those gentlemen will threaten you and take you to the first available ATM to withdraw the due amount. In these scenarios, they can even drag you to some back room and beat you up. Or worse.

Aside from that, scam management may also drug your drinks or food to tame you and get you to do anything they want.

This has already happened in the past in more than one country, which is why you absolutely want to avoid most of the Bars’ and Nightclubs’ bill trap scams.

3) How to avoid it

Check the Friendly Faces (click here to read) and the hot baits articles for some clues on how to recognize them and deal with them. In general, don’t trust the Friendly Faces or you may end up straight into the monster’s lair.

If you think you’re dealing with a bait, excuse yourself and get away. Most of the time this will work.

Always check the prices (for both the products and the service) on the menu before ordering anything and don’t assume your new acquaintances will share the bill. Lastly, never leave your IDs or cards as a deposit, especially if someone you don’t know brought you there.

4) What to do if you get scammed

Depending on the country (see Extras and Thoughts below), you may want to involve the police. But remember that it’s your word against theirs. You could be charged for damages or other things to justify the bill.

Try to obtain a police report on the incident. This may help at least with insurances and credit card claims.

For further action, contact your country’s consulate, which may be able to help with the names of recommended attorneys.

5) Extras and Thoughts

Relations between this scams and law enforcement agencies vary greatly from country to country. There are three basic attitudes: non-tolerance, tolerance/connivance, or complicity.

This is to say that in some countries the police may be able to do very little about the incident. Beside reporting, very often your only shield against these scams is not to fall for it.


Sometimes the victim can accidentally end up in the club on his own. In this case the only difference is the absence of the luring bait, but the scam stays the same. Some new “friend” or “Hot Bait” will try to drink with you and make you order as much stuff as possible.

These places could be considered an extreme version of the classic tourist trap. Some bill trap can take place in tearooms even in broad daylight.

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