Sep 19 2011

Avoiding Bangkok scams

Published by at 3:48 pm under Health & safety


Bangkok scams are rampant. A while back we featured a story on scams throughout Thailand, but after living in The Big Mango I do think these city streets deserve some special attention. Now you might fancy yourself a savvy traveller but let me just say that these scammers are skilled. In fact, let’s start off with a story. A young lady, let’s just call her Melena, was with a pal exploring a particularly touristy area of the city. She was carrying a bag with the name and logo of the university she had attended. Suddenly an eloquent and well spoken Thai man came up to her. “Oh did you go to university there? So did my brother!” Conversation ensued, eloquent man had a tip for a great shop with specialty goods, he was going to just call his buddy over to point out the right direction. SCAM! A good scam, but a scam. Let’s break ‘em down.

The shopper’s helper

"My brother plucked these gems from the river by hand!"

We’ll use this title to refer to the above scam. There is a man. He has nice clothes. He dispenses advice like a fountain and knows an amazing shop you should go to — sometimes for gems, sometimes for clothing … always a scam. What happens if you take the nice well-dressed man’s advice? More often than not nothing terribly harmful. You will be taken to a gem shop that you don’t feel like going to and it will be annoying. Sometimes, however, you will be pressured into buying some of those bogus gems for quite a price, and that nice, well-dressed man will then get a kick-back. Moral is, be suspicious. If the kind stranger has shopping advice, tell him you already have plans.

Sorry we’re closed

Not a closed temple, just a well guarded one.

“Miss! The temple is closed! Buddhist holiday!” I’ll save you some time right now and tell you that the temple isn’t closed. In fact, the temple is rarely closed. Particularly when visiting sites like Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Arun and Wat Pho you will be met along the way by helpful-seeming men who tell you the temple is closed. The reasons will be something like: “they’re cleaning” or “it’s lunchtime.” These helpful men will then suggest another activity: probably visiting a gem shop. Of course there is always a minuscule chance that they’re telling the truth but I say just go check out the situation for yourself. Keep in mind that this tactic is used on other sites throughout the city, most notably Jim Thompson House.

The taxi or tuk tuk rouse

Don't let the happy cab colours fool you.

“10 baht, anywhere in the city!” Sound too good to be true? It is. Tuk tuk drivers offering this price and this service are 100% scamming you. You will not go anywhere in the city but a tailor or a gem shop. If that’s fine with you, then hop in! Just know that by doing so you are relinquishing control of your day. Taxis are usually a much safer bet, but if you tell the driver where you want to go and he comes back with a flat rate, get on out. Meter is the law and he knows it.

The heaviest hitter

The heaviest hitter in the Bangkok scam system is one that I still have a hard time accepting people fall for and is beginning to feel a bit like an urban legend. But just in case, here it is. A man asks you to go back to his home and play cards. Are you going to go? Did your mother ever tell you not to talk to strangers? Apparently some folks do go and once there they are thrust into a super high stakes poker game that involves their money being systematically stolen from them. In sum don’t go to a stranger’s house, particularly when the reason is poker.

Keep your wits about you and all will be fine! If not, then your Bangkok souvenir may be some shiny new faux gems.

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3 Responses to “Avoiding Bangkok scams” ...

  1. Lenaon 19 Sep 2011 at 4:44 pm

    So useful! I also ran into a girl at the post office near Saphan Kwai who had been scammed by a fancy jewelry place, I think through the shopper’s helper ruse you mentioned. She was there with the tourist police (in this case, not trying to arrest tourists but trying to help them) who was trying to help her get the fake jewelry she had already sent home to Holland back through the mail system so she could go back to the shop and try to get a refund. Not sure if (and kind of skeptical) she succeeded, but good to know there are people like the tourist police to help you out if you need them!

  2. jeffon 20 Sep 2011 at 12:13 am

    A taxi tried to scam me once, so I started writing down his registration number (usually 1-2 Thai characters and a 4-digit number posted many visible places in/on the taxi). He freaked out and gave me a free ride to where I was going.

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