Lonely planet and several web sites warn about scams in Probolinggo bus terminal but it seems that the scammers have gotten much more arrogant than previously.
Me and my wife just barely avoided getting scammed today. We boarded a public bus from Probolinggo to Bondowoso on our way to Kawah Ijen. The scammers were "helping" us to find the right bus although they were giving us some contradictory information. Anyway, we finally concluded that the following bus to Bondowoso would leave 2 pm so we would have time to have lunch before that. Despite that, some of the scammers started waving at us in the middle of our luch (restaurant next to the buses) half past one. They said that the bus is leaving now and we should get on board. With our bags in the bus and us sitting inside, there were a couple of guys trying to collect the ticket fee from us. They said the price is 50,000 per person plus 10,000 per large bag. We had read that the price should be about 20,000 and knew never to pay the ticket before the bus has left the terminal so we of course did not pay but insisted that we pay when the bus is moving. I believe this far the scam was just the regular one.
When I asked of the locals in the bus, how much the price should be, the scammers vanished for a couple of minutes. I had also tried to ask a couple of other people around the bus who seemed to be working for the bus company about the price but they waved me to talk with the scammers. However, the scammers were very persistent. After a couple of minutes they returned and one of them was telling us that he is the diver of the bus. He was waving some keys in front of us pretending them to be the bus keys, and telling us to pay now. When we just sat and did not pay he started yelling at me "Mr. Get out of the bus". At this point I was not anymore sure if we were being scammed or what was happening so we decided not to pay and leave the bus.
At this point, the scam had obviously failed because we did not pay, so the scammers vanished again when we left the bus. When we were trying to get our bags from the bus, some friendly local guys told us to get back to the bus, told us the real price for the trip and the real departure time. I am writing this post in the bus, hopefully soon in Bondowoso.
Anyway, it seems that none of the locals, not even the bus staff, will help you at the bus station if it means ruining the scam. After a failure they are very helpful. I do not know if they get their share of the scam profits or if they are threatened. The scammers seem to also have gotten very very arrogant. If we would have known beforehand how difficult it is to get into a bus in Probolinggo, we would have taken a prearranged minivan tour to Bromo and Ijen.
As a side note, the minivan prices to Cemoro Lawang have doubled. We (7 people) had to pay 525,000 for the whole van to Cemoro Lawang from Probolinggo bus station at around 4 pm. We tried bargaining but they would not give any discount even when we told the driver that we would look for an other ride. We asked around the bus terminal for a rental van but everyone pointed us back to the cartel vans. They were very well trained.