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Pemex Scam: watch out!

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
5 posts
12 reviews
Pemex Scam: watch out!

currently in Tulum and just had this experience about 4 hours ago, ~8:30pm, June 22nd, 2017 at the Pemex on Highway 15 (Av. Coba), south of Highway 307 (Av. Tulum) heading toward the beach.

a few threads within the Tulum forum has mentioned this scam, among other scams, and within those threads MANY (too many) posts of people sharing the exact or similar experience (mostly in Tulum, at the same station or elsewhere in Mexico).

went to get gas at the Pemex station mentioned above after coming from the beach. we had half a tank and asked for a fill-up. two attendants tended to us, which was unusual from our experiences at Pemex's in Cancun and Merida where we spent most of our trip. i didnt watch the pump meter go down to 0.00 like i had done all previous times; and somehow our total ended up being ~$510 MXN. previously, when filling half a tank we usually pay roughly ~$300 pesos give or take, so this should have been another sign post that something was off.

my partner is in the driver's seat and im in the passenger seat. i pulled out a $500 MXN note, when one of the attendants started crouching down by our front left tire and asked if our car was a rental car. we said yes, and he proceeded to speak in Spanish, which neither of us were fluent in. he pretended to struggle asking if we needed air - as if he didnt know how to say the word 'air'. we declined. the second attendant was now by my window and i handed him $520 MXN. i looked away, and next thing i know he repeats the dollar amount and shows that i only handed him a $50 MXN note and a $20 MXN note. believing him, i began searching for the $500 MXN note in my wallet and car, but was incredibly distracted and stressed out by mosquitos which were eating myself and my partner alive.

we gave in, and asked if they would accept USD as we did not have enough pesos. ironically, the conversion and change they gave us was all correct and up to par. save for the fact that we had been duped and robbed of $500 pesos/$35 USD.

in the grand scheme of things it isnt much money, and at the same time it sure ruins our feelings of Tulum and the people living/working here. and to know it is happening to so many other visitors doesnt help the feeling. tourists can certainly be ignorant jerks and behave in rude, selfish ways towards locals. at the same time, not all tourists are wealthy and rich, and not all of them are jerks either. some of us have to save our earnings for these trips, and come here because its cheaper to visit than other parts of the world. having scams like this occur certainly doesnt encourage visitors to continue contributing to the local economy, and at the very least creates tensions that can lead to prejudice and discrimination.

certainly we do not look at all locals in this light, as this is our first experience with a scam in this regard, and understanding intersectionality when it comes to class and race can help put this experience into context. we need to own up on our responsibility with being diligent as travellers -

that scams are inevitable in a capitalist world (is Pemex not paying their employees enough or something??) at the same time, i wish locals participating in scams can understand the longer term, collective consequences for their short term, individual gains - and that there were meaningful ways to report these behaviours that can result in tangible changes (hey corporations, pay your employees a living wage so they dont participate in fraud, piss off tourists, and tarnish reputations of towns/cities and your own company!)

when we got back to our hotel, i couldnt get my mind off the fact that i swore i had been holding $500 MXN in my hand... so i took inventory of our cash and came to a conclusion that we had been scammed. sure enough when we looked it up there were people describing EXACTLY what we experienced at the exact same Pemex station, as well as other scams regarding credit cards. we also learned this occurs at the last Pemex gas station just before the Cancun airport and that this 500 vs. 50 switcheroo scam has been going on for at least 20 years. gas attendants are definitely learning from each other.

while this information is already out there, we wanted to highlight it again and bump this topic up as there havent been any recent threads on it from what we can see.

in short: avoid the Pemex station closest to the beach!! and in general: avoid paying for gas with large notes (stick to 50s and 100s), count it out loud in front of them, make sure the pump meter goes to 0.00 and watch them from start to finish. other folks have offered the advice of getting out of the car to watch, documenting with photos and video, dont use your credit card (they will charge it and say it was declined/that the machine is broken and so you have to pay in cash instead when you are actually now paying twice), as well as only filling up based on exact notes (i.e. filling up only $200 MXN at a time instead of filling up).

and sadly, tip gas attendants (~$10 - $20 MXN) that DONT rip you off lol....

20 replies to this topic
Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
3,620 posts
66 reviews
1. Re: Pemex Scam: watch out!

You give good advice at the end of your post, which has been repeated here many times. Sorry you didn't follow it before the fact.

-always exit the vehicle and observe the entire process. Mexicans do this too as most wouldn't trust the Pemex workers around a well dressed corpse. Rigged pumps,etc, are still too common. But only the most brazen scams are attempted on tourists.

-recording everything and paying with only 50s and 100s is a bit over the top. Perceived confidence goes much further.Hand notes over one by one and take half a second to look at the 500 pesos note before you hand it over. You can look at the watermark on the light to make sure it's real before you hand it over. If you do this, it's highly unlikely anything like this will be tried. If you are absolutely certain you gave 500 pesos,. Just say that's not going to work with me and be in your way.

- it's most preferable to ask for xx liters, or at least a fixed amount in pesos. Half a tank in a compact car is more or less 25 liters and gas is running about 15 pesos per liter (I think) so figure around 375 pesos.

Steamboat Springs...
Level Contributor
3,213 posts
37 reviews
2. Re: Pemex Scam: watch out!

Yes... you got double duped. 500 peso switcheroo and not zeroing the pump. The gas station is not the place to be distracted. These things are often sprung on the unsuspecting. Knowing that these scams are often attempted gives you the advantage when it happens to you. Agreed... you give good advise in the end. Don't ever be intimidated by them if you know you gave them a certain note. I always use a 500 peso note and make sure they know it too. Always watch them zero out the pump and watch it thru completion. And never use a credit card!!! Oh well... tough lesson but.. next time you won't let any of these things happen.

Destination Expert
for Akumal, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Puerto Morelos
Level Contributor
46,710 posts
3. Re: Pemex Scam: watch out!

wow, you got taken in 3 scams in one fillup - sorry you experienced this but a great repeated warning for others

Here are some hints (often repeated)

Never ask for a fillup / specific amounts

Watch them pump / don't be distracted (warning sign if 2 of them help you )

Watch for the bill swap

Watch the pump as they can set it forward easily

Never use US$

Check out my driving tips (101) in the 1st top question)

Edited: 23 June 2017, 22:12
Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
5 posts
12 reviews
4. Re: Pemex Scam: watch out!


Read the replies just after brekkie.

Thought of changing the title to "triple scam"!


We are such gringos!

However, live and learn. Sharing it here with our life experience. Hope it helps.

Also posted through google-god. Google maps. Directly related to the location through google maps rating.

Thanks for your replies and hope it helps others. As we researched it helped us understand we were not out of our minds by seeing people went through almost exact same thing.

Baltimore, Maryland
Level Contributor
3,424 posts
8 reviews
5. Re: Pemex Scam: watch out!

You might want to read up on police stopping rental cars for supposed traffic infractions.

Winnipeg, Manitoba...
Level Contributor
518 posts
36 reviews
6. Re: Pemex Scam: watch out!

We got taken by the $500 magically changing into a $50 at the station just south of the Grand Bahia a couple of years ago. I now only pay for gas with $100 bills as there is no 10 peso bill to switch to, and I count the money in front of the gas jockey and have him agree on the amount I just counted before I hand it over to him. Maybe my memory is wrong, but I seem to remember seeing a sign somewhere at a station in English about reporting incidents of this ilk with a 1-800 number to call.

Edited: 24 June 2017, 02:43
Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
1,093 posts
25 reviews
7. Re: Pemex Scam: watch out!

That is the gas station we use every time. Never a problem. Hubby gets out of the car, tells him 500 pesos, watches while they fill up. Gives him exact cash, tip the window washer and away we go.

Detroit, Michigan
Level Contributor
1,450 posts
3 reviews
8. Re: Pemex Scam: watch out!

Good for you. They perceive your knowledge of scams. I was once flagged in by scantily-clad "cheerleaders".

The only place you can gas up happens to be Pemex. As an older single red-haired gringo the attraction didn't attract me.

Never had probs. as I've been many times to area, read up, my due diligence, and probably was more intimidating to the pumpers!

Texas Gulf Coast...
Level Contributor
8,553 posts
134 reviews
9. Re: Pemex Scam: watch out!

Cosmid Tami,

Welcome to TA and the Tulum forum. It is unfortunate that you had the experience you did with the Pemex gas station, but good on you that you (apparently) have not let it completely jaundice you towards future travel in Mexico.

Hopefully others will come to this (and other TA) forum and read about renting a car and the gas station scams BEFORE they rent a car in Mexico. VSD has a very good thread about what to expect while renting a car, which is referenced in this thread. Safe travels.


Destination Expert
for Akumal, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Puerto Morelos
Level Contributor
46,710 posts
10. Re: Pemex Scam: watch out!


Welcome fellow Vanc

And great attitude

I got scammed twice in one day last year (this year 3 times renting NADA)

Last year

1) By myself , zipped down to the Pemax south of Akumal to fill up before we left for the airport

- asked for 300 pesos (have 3x100 peso bills) NOT a fillup. The gas attendant reset to zero and started to fill. Then another attendant showed up and asked to check the tires. Spider senses ALERTED. I kept an eye on the pump while I told the extra attendant NADA. Suddenly, the pump stopped, then showed to 300 pesos

I yelled - asked for the Receipt (Recibo) - they gave me the extra missing gas

2) On our way back to the airport (returning car to America less that 1 km after the airport turnoff, I was stopped by the dreaded Motorcycle cop. Said I was speeding (radar) talked into his radio (fake?)

I said No - not speeding but please give me a ticket

He said airport - I said no - Playa Mujeres

Nada airport - please give me the ticket - will pay it tomorrow

He sighed - let me go

Edited: 24 June 2017, 10:35
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