Published on Wednesday, 05 October 2016 00:00
Written by Cheryl Teo Kai Lin
Bangkok is a great city to visit for its rich heritage, cheap shopping, and awesome sights and sounds. The Thai people are usually very humble, kind and down-to-Earth, but they are also very shy. If you are ever approached by an out-going and well-spoken Thai person, there is a very high chance that he/she is attempting to scam you.
White tourists are more susceptible to being scammed in Thailand as they really stand out from the crowd. But there have been plenty of Singaporeans who have fallen prey to these smooth-talking, persuasive and charismatic scammers too. To prevent yourself from falling victim to these elaborate scams, read on and delve into the world of the Thai con-artists.
1. The Grand Palace/This Place is Closed Scam
This scam is prevalent with popular tourist attractions, with the scammers' favorite location of operation being the Grand Palace. As you approach the Grand Palace (or whatever tourist attraction you are at), someone might come up to you and inform you that the Palace is closed, and he will offer to bring you around to other popular landmarks on a tuk-tuk for a very small fee. If you accept, you will find yourself in either a gem store or a tailor shop with pushy salesmen hawking their wares, only granting you your freedom after you buy some of their useless crap. Simply politely decline and proceed to find the entrance to the Grand Palace. Always plan your trip in advance and write down a list of the places you want to visit with its operating hours.
2. Taken: The Disappearing Act
This story will chill you to the bone, and you wouldn't even wish this upon your worst enemy. A friend told me that an aquaintance of hers went on a Bangkok shopping trip with his girlfriend three and a half years ago. His girlfriend had picked out an outfit from a shop in Platinum Mall and went to the dressing room to try it on while he waited just right outside the curtain. Thirty minutes passed and she still did not come out. He pulled open the curtain and to his shock, found that the dressing room was empty. She had simply vanished into thin air, but he noticed that the dressing room had a hole in the ceiling with a cover. He enquired everywhere and went to lodge a report at the local Police station, but it was like she disappeared off the face of the Earth. There was no trace of her. He is still searching for his missing girlfriend after all these years.
One can only imagine the horrible tragedy that has befallen her. She could have been abducted by a human trafficking syndicate that sells girls as sex slaves, or a crime syndicate that chops off the limbs of abducted tourists and forces them to beg on the streets, or worse, for a human farm where sadistic people fork over huge sums of cash in order to torture someone else to death.
We are not very certain about the authenticity of this story, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Too often we underestimate mankind's greed and forget that humans can resort to unspeakable evils for money. When you are shopping in Chatuchak Market, Platinum Mall and the other less prestigious shopping areas in Thailand, try to avoid dressing rooms, you can always try them on back in the hotel room.
3. Bar/Cafe/Sex Show Scam
Avoid any club/cafe/bar just as long as there are touts outside in the form of over-zealous men or young, pretty girls trying to lure you in. It started off with touts trying to entice curious tourists to watch free sex shows, they will tell you that all you have to do is pay a minimum cover charge of 100 baht for a drink, but at the end of the night you will be billed thousands of dollars. These clubs are owned by secret society members, and if you refuse to pay the exorbitant bill, you might just never get out of there alive. Since then, they have branched out into innoucous looking cafes and bars. The legitimate bars, cafes and clubs are ones that don't have swarms of touts trying to lure you in, and it is also a good rule of thumb to do a quick google search on the names of these establishments before you set foot inside.
4. Short-Changing Scam
Shockingly, this scam is carried out in 7-Elevens and Family Marts, convenience stores that we would easily trust because they have a reputable and familiar brand. Do some calculation before you head to the cashier with your items, and carefully count your change right infront of the cashier's face before moving off. The cashiers like to prey on tourists because they are unfamiliar with the currency. If you realize that you have been short-changed (this is not a mistake, it is done intentionally), just speak out about it and the cashier will quietly hand over the rest of the money.
5. The Tranny Thieves
These transvestites stand around posing as hookers, and usually approach men with thick gold chains and expensive-looking watches. They work as a group and will swarm you with sex propositions. One might distract you and put your hand on her breast while the other working swiftly will snatch your watch, wallet and chain from right under your nose without you even noticing. Word of advice to male travellers: avoid these ladyboys like the plague. Find another path if they are situated on the one you are walking on, because once they swarm you, there is no escape. You cannot aggressively push past them as their pimp would be keeping watch and you would land in hot soup for laying a finger on them.
6. The Gem Scam
You might find yourself wandering into a gem shop full of glittering jewels, and a well-mannered salesperson will approach you enthusiastically telling you that it is the last day they are having a special promotion on their jewelry at 30 percent off. He will try to persuade you to buy a whole bunch of them by saying that you will make a killing selling them off back in your home country. This is false. If that is the case, everyone would just be buying gems to resell them back home and getting filthy rich without having to work at all. The salesperson would even produce counterfeit certificates on the gems. If you buy them, you will find that it is basically worthless junk upon getting it appraised back home. Just avoid buying jewelry from Thailand.
7. Jet Ski Scam
To feel the ocean breeze whipping through your hair as you cruise through the waves on a jet ski is one of the most liberating activities to do in Pattaya and Phuket. However be wary of opportunistic jet-ski renters who will try to scam your pants off. After you come back from riding the waves, the scammers will point out all the scratches and dents on the jet-ski and demand that you pay large sums of money. Dozens of other tourists prior to you have already paid for those dents too. So if you rent a jet-ski or any other vehicle like a car or a motorcycle, or even a bicycle, make sure that you point out all the scratches and dents to the owner and make him record it down before taking it out for a spin. If he brushes you off and tells you not to worry about it, move on to another company.
8. Blackjack Scam
This usually starts when a friendly stranger strikes up a conversation with you and asks you where you are from. He will then say that he has a family member going to your home country to study soon, and will ask if you can go and meet her as she has some pressing questions. If you follow him back to his house, you will somehow end up playing blackjack. He will then ask you to help cheat someone out of their money, but in actual fact the group is already in cahoots with each other and you are the one who will be scammed. Just avoid going to anyone's house, getting scammed out of your money is probably the best thing that will happen if you find yourself in a stranger's house. Simply tell him that there is something called Google and his family member should use that for her questions to be answered, and move away from him.
9. Organ Harvesting
Practically the whole world is aware of the notorious kidney harvesting, but people fall prey to it time and time again. Pretty girls and handsome guys are hired to flirt with you in a bar/club and they will offer to go back to the hotel room with you where they will drug you and harvest your kidney. You can consider yourself lucky waking up in a bath tub of ice with an incision on your back from where one of your kidneys was harvested. Never accept any drink that anyone offers you, and don't get too inebriated while overseas. In some extreme cases, these organ “farmers” are known to steal the person's eyeballs.
Despite all these scams, Thailand is truly a great place to travel to. You just have to be street-savvy and cautious of strangers who approach you out of the blue.