Common scam tricks to watch out for!

Since nothing much has happened here in Koh Samui in the past few days to warrant a blog update, I thought I’d describe some of the local scams that I’ve read and heard about.

I know every country has its own scam artists, and I’m not trying to put Thailand in a bad light or anything because personally I love the country Smile. In saying that thought, there are quite a few local scammers that are trying to rip westerners off which in turn leads tourists to return home with nothing but negative views on Thailand.
Thank god, we’ve not been scammed so far(well not to our knowledge anyways). Yeah we’ve paid a higher price for some items and that, but its not what I would called getting Scammed when compared to some of the stories below.

As I said, my aim is not to cause any negative feelings towards Thailand, only to make anyone who hasn’t been here before aware of a few potential pitfalls.
Most of these stories are available to read on the net and the stories all share a common theme – deceit.

Definition of a Scam:
1. A fraudulent business scheme
2.Deprive of by deceit.

The two price scam!

There are loads of different levels of scams here in Thailand. Some will trick you out of a few baht, while others will gently relieve you of thousands of baht. The amount of money doesn’t really matter, as its the fact that they are taking your money by deceitful means. In Thailand, a perfect example of this can be often seen when they write the real price with Thai numerals, and then another inflated price in Arabic numbers!

This was also the case when we were in Africa volunteering two years ago. The Mzungo(white man) price was always way different to the local price for more or less everything! Here in Thailand, the Farang(westerner) price is certainly not the same as it is for locals.
So obviously then the situations are the same, but there seems to be one thing that Thailand does, which is it tries to hide the deceit(by putting the thai and arabic prices). The feeling among the expats living over here is that they don’t mind the 100% increase in price for items, but that they should be clearly visible for all to see and make it their choice whether or not they want to buy it etc. Not having it cleverly disguised in the Thai language.

I heard of a national park here charging the locals 40 baht admission(1 euro),and foreigners including those living and working in Thailand 400 baht(10 euro). Again we saw this plenty of times while in Africa with the only difference being that in Africa they had the two price system on display for all to see and decide for themselves!

The Tuk-Tuk scam!

The tuk-tuk scam is one of the most common types of scam here. A tuk-tuk by the way is a form of transport, in the form of a small bus with the back able to accommodate anything from 6 to 6000 people!
For example, most tourists that want to go to see a museum or attraction are often told by the tuk tuk drivers that the museum or whatever attraction they want to visit is closed on that day! Instead the driver will ask you if you’d like him to bring to to see another nearby attraction for a “cheap-cheap price” Tuk-tuk actually means “cheap-cheap” as well Smile! For anybody that falls for this scam, they end up been brought to a tailor shop or gem shop where the driver will get a nice fat commission for getting you there. Its been known as well that the pressure the shop owners put on the tourists that get dropped off here to buy overinflated items can be borderline harassment. Also, if you don’t accept been driven to these shops before the driver brings you to the other attraction he promised you, then he has often just told the people to get out and they end up dropped on the side of the road, sometimes in not so friendly parts of where ever!

This funnily enough happened to us a few weeks ago while in Malaysia. We just got off a boat and had already rang the guest house we wanted to stay in that night. Thought when we got to the taxi stand, we were politely informed that that particular guest house was no longer in operation, and was closed for business!! And I was just after getting off the phone with the owner himself who said he had plenty of room for us!! All because the taxi man wanted to bring us somewhere else that would net him a few extra bob!!

The cigarette police scam!

This scam is prevalent in Bangkok. Basically there has been a bit of a crack down in Bangkok the past few years regarding littering on the streets, which is a good thing by all accounts. However, instead of targeting the locals for dumping rubbish on the street the local BMA officials who are known as the “thetsakij” are targeting a much softer, richer fruit, the foreign tourists!

What happens is typically three of these thetsakij police set up a table beside a popular tourist attraction. One of them sits at the table and the other two go and catch their victim who is in the form of a tourist throwing their cigarette butts on the ground. Why would they throw their butts on the ground, well first of all, there’s a sign saying “no smoking” at the area the police are catching them, and also there are zero bins to dump them in. So, when they unsuspecting tourists comes along the no smoking sign they quickly throw the cigarettes on the ground as there are no bins, and they then are quickly reprimanded by the waiting cigarette police!

The tourist is then taken to the table where the other “official” fines them a 2,000(50 euro) on the spot fine with no receipt!! If the tourist doesn’t cooperate they are threatened with been taken to an actual police station where they might have to pay more money! So you can see how profitable a scam like this can be for some of these artists.

Its also interesting to note that if a local Thai person is found dumping rubbish or littering then they are given a warning, or if they are teenage boys, they are made do on the spot push ups!

The Laundry Scam!

This scam isn’t that popular from what I’ve read and heard about. What happens is when you come back to collect your bundle of clothes at the laundry shop you are missing an item of clothing. The woman of the shop then informs you that she must have gotten them mixed up and gave it to another backpacker who’s now left the area. In turn she then suggests that she bring you to a “friend” who owns a clothes shop nearby by who coincidently will have a few similar items like the ones you lost. If you go there then you will be quoted the foreigner price for the item, but then the lady who lost your clothes will negotiate the Thai price with the owner so that you don’t get ripped off!! Very kind of her, considering she probably gave the owner your item of clothing and in return she gets the Thai price that you paid for the new item in the shop! Very clever scam as a lot of unsuspecting tourists could easily fall for that ploy!

The Jet Ski Scam!

This scam is one of the BIG money makers here and its the one that should scream “scam alert” in my opinion. This scam is seemingly rampant in the Pattaya area and also very common in Patong beach, down in Phuket.

What happens is as follows:

Tourist can rent a jet ski for 1,500 baht(30 euro) for 20 minutes at many spots along the beach. Before you go out on the jet ski a rental agreement is produced for you to look over and sign. This agreement states in perfect English that you, the renter is responsible for any damages that occur to the jet ski.

After you sign the agreement you are taken to your jet ski and offered to take a good look at it before you take off. Here is where the scam starts!

Since the jet ski is moored in the water you can only visibly inspect the part of the jet ski that is above water! The jet ski operators already know this and they also have a nasty secret, in that the jet ski hull is already damaged, but you can’t see it!

So you sign some document to say that your happy and off you go. You have you 20 mins of fun with no accidents or anything out of the ordinary and then its time to head back to the beach. Where you leave the jet ski where you got it, one of the operators sits on it and drives it up onto the beach so that no water hides anything.


As soon as the underside is exposed one of the operators points at it and exclaims “what did you hit”? Of course you hit nothing, but since you couldn’t see the hull part of the ski before you left you are now left in a very precarious position.

The damage was always there and a lot of tourists have already paid for that same damage on the jet ski.The damage is usually slight hull damage that has the fiberglass chipped.

By now a few other operators are all around the jet ski and it seems that it will cost between 40,000 – 50,000 baht(about 1000 euros) to fix it.

You start to protest and probably refuse to pay up. This in turn angers the operators and some threaten you with violence. The only thing you can think of is to ring the police!!! Wrong!

Of course they will agree to the police been called and along comes another player in the scam – Mr.Policeman! It may make you feel better that the law is now involved but its nothing but false hope. They always side with the scammers as they also get a cut of the action!

The cop will lead you away from the action and inform you that you signed the agreement and that there no other action apart from you paying the fine. BUT, he will try and negotiate a reduced price you have to pay to the operators for the damage!

Before you know it you are been lead away by the policeman to the nearest conveniently located ATM machine to get your hard earned cash to hand over.
Interesting to know as well that the reduced price the cop “kindly” negotiated on your behalf is still going to cost the foreigner about 300 euro minimum if he’s lucky.

The Farang bait!

I came across this story a few days ago in a local paper called the Samui Gazette! It recounts the story of one westerner(farang) living in a small ex-pat community near the airport here in Samui, when a business meeting he was having with a Thai colleague in his house, was rudely shattered by a Thai woman, who rushed in a claimed that her van had been touched by his car, whilst driving out of the narrow road in front of their house!

She ranted and raved, and demanded that the meeting be stopped, and everyone look at her van. After recovering from their initial disbelief and astonishment, all three went out to look at the van. There was indeed some light scrape marks, high up on the front wing, probably at least a year or so old.

She claimed that there was a minute amount of coloured paint, which could only belong to the Farang’s car.
She demanded 3,000 baht(75 euro) on the spot. How it was asked, could she possibly know what the price would be, and in any case, no recent damage or contact had been made!
She then flew into a rage, real or contrived, and insisted that she would call the police, and the insurance company and crate real problems for the farang!

He said that he would deal with the matter a 5pm, when he would be returning from some urgent business meetings.
She refused to accept that, and claimed that the van had to go into the body shop that same day, in order to be repaired. She could not use the van, with those marks on it. The matter was closed and the meeting resumed.

Five minutes later, the same woman began banging on the door again. She demanded the 3,000 baht and would not let up until it was paid.
The Thai man went outside, and without consulting the farang, paid her the 3,000 baht, not admitting liability, but just to stop the confrontation, which he claimed was against his Buddhist principles!
The farang was disappointed and amazed, and felt obliged to pay his colleague back the 3,000 baht.

Imagine their total surprise, when 2 months later, they both say the van standing there, without a single attempt to repair anything at all!
Moreover, the garage found evidence that a minute amount of the metallic paint from the farang’s car, had been scraped off with a penknife, and had clearly been impressed into the earlier scratches on the van!

Despite demands for the return of the 3,000 baht the woman hides away and refused to discuss the matter or come to any agreement or compromise.

The moral of the story??

Beware! Do not allow any friend, however well intentioned to pay an unjustified claim on their behalf!
This scam, repeated many times over, could generate quite a small income!!
So you may be thinking that Thailand is full of scams and deceit but in fact its not. All I’m saying is there are a few pitfalls here that can suck the foreigner’s blood quicker that a vampire on crack!
We’ve had zero trouble here and found the locals to be nothing but genuinely nice people.

Its those few bad apples that give Thailand a slight stain but as long as you keep your wits about you, you’ve nothing to worry about Angry smile