Unfortunately, scams targeting tourists are commonplace in Thailand. Many visitors to Thailand have become victims of scam tactics and some have lost considerable amounts of money. Some common scams are listed below and there is also a local website dedicated to exposing tourists scams in Thailand which has more information www.bangkokscams.com.(external link)
New themes and variations for conducting scams are constantly appearing. Visitors should be alert to being targeted by even the most friendly of people, be they locals or foreign nationals. Victims of any scam should report the incident to the Thai Tourist Police. Observe the adage: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
As well as scams, tourists may be targets for drink "spiking" using knockout or "date rape" drugs like Scopolamine, Rohypnol or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and should be vigilant to this.
Use caution when purchasing gems as "bargains" are not always what they appear and gem “experts" many be part of the ploy. Tuk tuk drivers receive a commission for taking you to a factory or shop - it is not because they want to do you a favour. There is a gang of well-dressed people known to be working this scam in the vicinity of the Erawan temple and on the skytrain walkway above it in Chit Lom. They appear to just be passers-by but they are not, they will strike up conversation and recommend you visit a gem factory for special discounts. They can be very persuasive but do not get into any tuk-tuks they may flag down for you.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) website has some simple but practical advice on purchasing gems and jewellery: www.tat.or.th.(external link)
Card scams can involve being befriended by a local and asked to join in a friendly game of cards. Once you have won a few times, the stakes increase and your winning streak disappears. These scams can have serious consequences – local gangs have been known to force victims into withdrawing large sums of money from ATM machines (or risk fingers being cut off) in order to pay these card game debts. There are many sad stories told about why you should join in a game of cards, such as to help the family earn enough money to pay for a hospital bill or medical operation. Avoid getting involved. Gambling is illegal in Thailand.
Time-Share and Holiday Club rackets
At prime tourist holiday locations such as Phuket and Koh Samui, a number of property Time-Share and Holiday Club rackets are being run. In a typical sting, visitors are approached on the street and asked to complete a tourist questionnaire or survey, later they are contacted and told they have won a lucky draw for participating in the survey and they need to come and collect their prize. Upon arriving they are subjected to heavy pressure and intimidation to purchase or make an initial deposit of a few thousand dollars on a time-share property, holiday club or are required to attend seminars on the benefits of such time-share and club arrangements. Many people pay in order just to get away.
Other common scams are:
- Advance Tourist Visa scam
- Airport Taxi scam : Official looking touts will pretend that they are metered taxis and will tell you it is 500-1000 baht to go into town. The meter taxi outside is less than half this amount. Ignore anyone who asks if you want a taxi. The real taxi drivers are waiting outside by their cars.
- Boat/JetSki Insurance scam : If you rent anything, be it motorcycle, car or jet ski, make sure all scratches and dents are documented or else you could be blamed and liable for the (highly inflated) damage claim.
- The Grand Palace (or other tourist spot) is Closed scam : As you approach the Grand Palace, someone will tell you that it area is closed for some reason, but they are happy to take you to another location - usually a gem store or a tailor shop.
- Thai Gem scam : You should not take the word of other people on how much money you can make if you sell these gems on return to your home country. If you don't know about gems be very cautious what you buy.
- Wrong Change scam : A common scam in convenience stores - you hand over a 1,000 baht note to pay for a purchase but only receive change as if you had handed over 500 baht.
- Patpong Sex Show scam : Don't believe the touts outside who say free sex shows and drinks for only 100 baht each. You will end up paying a bill in the thousands. Stay clear if you are alone as they can turn violent if you refuse to pay.
- Hualamphong Scam : Outside the train station you will meet official looking people who will say they will help you book the seats. They take you to their nearby travel agent and pretend to ring the train booking office. They then say the train is full and your only way to travel is on one of their buses.