NYC Scams 101: Don't Get Fooled by the CD Hustlers in Popular NYC Tourist Areas

Street CDs
Street CDs

The CD Hustler scam is less of a scam, and more of a tourist trap with aggressive sales tactics that is prevalent in areas all over New York City where wide-eyed tourists roam. The scammers will use tricky interactions to try and force you to buy their music. Here's how it works.

  1. A musician or rapper (scammer) will wait on the sidewalk for a victim to pass by.
  2. The scammer will hand you one of their CDs as if it were a free handout, and ask you a basic question like "Do you like chill beats?"
  3. The victim takes the CD and—because tourists are generally nicer and more trusting than grizzled New Yorkers—will engage in a conversation with the scammer. Usually this is led by the scammer as s/he tells the victim about their music.
  4. At some point int he conversation, the scammer will offer to sign the CD for the victim. Because they are a self-proclaimer up-and-coming artist, many victims think "why not?" and let them sign the CD. The scammer will always say something like "Keep it real Alex", and personalize it somehow.
  5. Eventually, the scammer will ask for some money for the CD, as they were careful earlier to never say it was free.
  6. The victim will sometimes voluntarily give money for the CD, making it less of a scam. However, if the victim refuses to give money, the scammer will say that they cannot possibly sell the CD to anybody else now that it is signed, and pressures hard to get you to give them money for the now "useless" CD.

Whether or not the music on the CD is actually the musician/scammer is hard to verify. Some people around the web have reported getting blank CDs, or a CD with only one track. It is irrelevant for the purposes of the scam what is actually on the CD, but it is important to recognize the aggressive tactics these scammers use to try and get you to buy one.

The way to prevent this scam is simple: Don't take any handouts somebody is pushing on the NYC streets.

Here is a YouTube video that somebody captured of a group of these musicians hustling some tourists in Times Square: