Tourist Mafia And Widespread Scams Aimed At First Time Tourists Visiting Thailand: Lies, Fraud And Deception
Tourists arriving at Bangkok's Airport are being defrauded moments after clearing Customs. Uniformed scammers are working in the secure area. AOT LIMO representatives (in uniform) have been misleading arrivals for years & years. They have misleading signs posted at the baggage carousel.
The uniformed AOT representatives will tell you the regular taxis are unauthorized, are dishonest, dangerous and attempt to sell you a ride into Bangkok for 900 baht. The fact is, the taxies at the airport are authorized and should cost under 300 baht.
(I even had AOT Officials show me a catalogue of prostitutes and try to sell me a girl for the week!)
If you manage to get past these scammers you will be hounded by a hoard of touts when you leave the secure area. Many of these touts work for the AOT Limo service. They will lie and claim the regular taxies are dangerous, illegal etc.
Thing is about touts at the new airport, most unsuspecting tourists wouldn't even think they were touts as they operate in such a position that they seem official – right outside arrivals. They have confusing ID tags!
If you manage to get past this gauntlet of tourist scammers you still have to be wary about getting a fair price from the authorized taxies. The Official taxi desk is also defrauding arrivals, charging 450 baht. The real price is under 300 baht. Don't be surprised if the taxi driver has a breakdown and asks you to get out and help push-start the car. Say "bye-bye" to your luggage.
Uniformed officials in the secure area will attempt to tell you your hotel is full, in a bad area, burned down, anything to get you to change reservations. They will happily arrange a new hotel. One that overcharges and give the AOT Officials a kickback. At this hotel you will be labeled a sucker and many other clever frauds will be attempted.
The BANGKOK POST recently reported on a crackdown on Airport Mafia. 900 scammers were arrested, fined 1,000 baht and are now apparently back at 'work'. Another BANGKOK POST article stated the Airport turf is divided among 3 Mafia groups.
DUTY FREE SHOPS & ROGUE CUSTOM OFFICIALS colluding to defraud arrivals.
Clever employees at the Duty Free are colluding with rogue Custom Officers. The sales clerks will sell you items that are over the duty-free limited amount. They will attempt to keep the sales receipt and notify Custom officials in the arrivals hall. These Custom officials will target you and inspect your goods. The cash fines are outrageous. These uniformed scammers are intimidating. Beware.
Bogus Customs officials are working in view of security and management suggests that the crooks are probably immune from enforcement action. Given what we know about Thailand it comes as no surprise and we must assume the gangs have paid their dues to "those with influence" and are entitled to extort according to the remit.
NEVER use a credit card at Bangkok's duty free shop. Numerous reports of credit card fraud have been reported on Thai travel forums.
Airports of Thailand Plc acting president Kulya Pakakrong conceded that AoT's performance had been inefficient, and that corruption is still rampant in the organisation.
HOTELS & TAXIS
Outside your hotel are usually a half dozen or more metered taxis. They speak English. NEVER USE THEM. They are professional scammers posing as taxi drivers. These taxi drivers are working for the Tourist Mafia. They do not accept regular fares. They are looking to scam first time tourists. Their goal is to mislead you and deliver you to the next scammers posted at various rip off tourist sites.
One driver told me recently he is learning English…so he can "lie to the Farang". Always flag down a moving taxi. Never ever use a taxi driver that approaches you. The taxi services in the resorts are all mafia controlled. They have no competition, will not use meters and usually charge 10X the going rate .
My suggestion is to not go to these resorts until proper ground transport is in place.
The Tourist Mafia uses tuktuks to bring their mark to scammers. EVERY tuktuk in the tourist zone is a scammer.
They are professional criminals looking to defraud every passenger. NEVER use a tuktuk. NEVER.
Full time tourist scammers have been deployed all over town. In front of all tourist attractions, shopping centers, BTS/MRT stations, busy intersections. Many work in plain view of Police Boxes, Security Guards and TOURIST AUTHORITY information booths!
DRUGGING TOURISTS IN THE ENTERTAINMENT ZONES
There have been occasional reports of scopolamine drugging perpetrated by prostitutes or unscrupulous bar workers for the purpose of robbery.* (Scopolamine is a powerful sedative.)* Tourists have also been victimized by drugged food and drink, usually offered by a friendly stranger, sometimes posing as fellow traveler on an overnight bus or train.* In addition, casual acquaintances met in a bar or on the street may pose a threat.* Travelers are advised to avoid leaving drinks or food unattended, and should avoid going alone to unfamiliar venues.
PATPONG NIGHTLIFE AREA
Tourist Mafia control the nightlife / tourist areas such as Patpong. At times try to charge exorbitant amounts for drinks or unadvertised cover charges, and threaten violence if the charges are not paid. (6,000 baht for a few drinks)
Beware of going into the pubs/bars in this area. They have Police protection.
KEYLOGGERS at Internet shops
Beware of using internet services in Thailand. Keylogger programs record every keystroke. They will have your passwords and vital information. Best to avoid using the internet in Thailand. <A RIDICULOUS comment. This is easily by passed by using your own laptop – Stick>
Many tourist venues employ double pricing. Siam Ocean World is a good example as are many restaurants and tourist sites. Some restaurants have a special menu for travelers. They cleverly hide the Thai price in Thai script and put the rip off prices in the English language.
Avoid place like the Thai boxing stadiums, national parks, museums, Safari World etc. Even public toilets may have a special sign / price for visitors.
One of the most profitable scams in Thailand is the Thai Gem Scam.
Gem scams usually follow a predictable pattern. Someone will approach a tourist outside of a well-known tourist attraction such as the Grand Palace or the Jim Thompson House and will say that the attraction is closed. The friendly stranger will quickly gain the tourist’s confidence, and will suggest a visit to a temple that is supposedly open only one day per year; the stranger will then mention in passing that a special once-a-year government-sponsored gem sale is going on, and will direct the tourist to a waiting tuktuk.* At the temple, another stranger – sometimes a foreigner – will engage the tourist in conversation and will, by seeming coincidence, also mention the “special” gem sale.
The tourist agrees to go look at the gem shop, and is soon convinced to buy thousands of dollars worth of jewels that can supposedly be sold in the U.S. for a 100% profit.* When the tourist actually has the goods appraised, they turn out to be of minimal value, and the shop’s money-back guarantee is not honored.* No matter what a tout may say, no jewelry stores are owned, operated, or sponsored by the Thai Government or by the Thai royal family.
Also in 2002, police were reluctantly transporting cheated tourists back to the store and one of the policemen (not realizing one of the tourists spoke Thai) called ahead to warn the shop owner. When they arrived, a gang of thugs surrounded the tourists
and threatened them as the police stood by and did nothing." "This is a shop renowned for openly beating up foreigners who complain against it. From a Nation article: Some shops have remained open
despite pending legal cases. Thaevej Gems, for example, continues to do business even though a dozen fraud and physical-assault charges have been filed against it."
TEMPLE CLOSED SCAM
If you visit the Grand Palace, it is very likely, that near the entrance you will be approached by someone wearing a uniform and looking very official who will tell you that the palace is closed for a couple of hours except to local people. He will then offer to arrange a tuktuk to take you to some other places of interest in the area, whilst you wait for the palace to re-open. Here are photos of the Tourist Mafia that work the area around the Erawan shrine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
Thai Police are notoriously corrupt. Random searches / urine tests. Thai police occasionally raid discos, bars, or nightclubs looking for underage patrons and drug users.* During the raids, they typically check the IDs of all customers in the establishment, and then make each person provide a urine sample to be checked for narcotics.* Foreigners are not excused from these checks. Many foreigners have been reporting spot checks and fines. They stop pedestrians or pull them from taxies, search pockets. Here are photos of Tourist Mafia working in view of the police boxes and TAT information booths! http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2775978801/ <Random drugs tests might be a pain, but the effort to crack down on the drug trade is surely a good thing – Stick>
Dozens of Police are staked out along the avenues where tourists can be found. They see a cigarette smoker and stalk them like prey. They will radio ahead to fellow police officers and you will be fines 2000 baht for throwing a butt on the filthy sidewalks. The trash receptacle's have been removed. I abhor littering but for them to target tourists only is deplorable. Locals are immune from these fines. Only tourists are targeted, apprehended & intimidated.
The littering Police are earning aprox. 6,000 baht / hour, each. The funny thing is the Police smoke and flick then their butts onto the street.
I estimate the lower Sukhumvit Littering Police are taking in 1 million THB a day from visitors to the Land of Smiles.
Bangkok's infamous Somboon Seafood actually place a warning on their webpage that "there have been groups of people who have used names similar to Somboon Seafood as a scam to confuse and mislead both Thai and foreign customers into eating at their restaurants". Sadly, I only learnt about this upon my return to Singapore and naively trusted my taxi driver to bring me to the correct place. He brought us to Somboondee Seafood, which was located in a very off-city location, and told us that this was one of the branches of Somboon Seafood. He explained that he brought us here because the one in the city is always very crowded. We ended up ordering Pad Thai, curry crab and a vegetable dish that landed us a bill of over 2,300 baht for just 2 person! Alas, it was definitely not a lucky day for me as I ran into another scam after leaving the restaurant, this time involving a local policeman.
Diverting donations to the poor. The beggars you see are working for a street gang, diverting donation for the poor into the pockets of street mafia. They have turned a stroll down the pathways into a museum of horrors. Get there at 6:30 AM and see the guys with a big gold chains distributing the Cambodian begging team all over town. They control the sidewalks. The number of beggars has risen exponentially over the last year. They crowd around the skytrain exits and around the pedestrian bridges over the road. They are not just regular beggars, but most of them feature gross physical deformations, due to leprosy, road accidents or congenital malformations, fire. It really is a museum of horrors. I've never seen people with this many stomach turning injuries / deformities in my entire life but have to step over dozens of them on my walks thru Bangkok.
Quite a few of them have open wounds. It may be heartless to say, but most likely some of them reopen them before going to work, to evoke compassion and pity from the many tourists who crowd the street. It is also not uncommon to find beggars simply lying
on the pavement (usually with gross limb deformations) while pedestrians have to navigate around them. Even in poorly lit areas this can happen, and the chances of stepping on them, are quite
real, and possibly is what is hoped for. On one of the pedestrian bridges a young woman has taken the habit of positioning her about 6 months old child in the middle of the walkway, also probably
hoping for an 'accident' which would create a situation where she could ask for compensation from a guilty feeling tourist who just stepped on the child. Yes, I know I am overly cynical
about all this.
FAKE ‘STUDENT’ Survey
Teams of fake “students” are bothering tourists with a “fake tourist survey”.
These groups mislead / lie to tourists and scam them. They even get away with telling people they work for TAT and even wear the "AMAZING THAILAND" Tourist Authority Thailand shirts. Never talk with "students" taking a "survey".
The vast majority of students carrying out surveys and asking questions to tourists are bona fide students and helping them will mean a great deal to them – Stick>
One of the most deplorable scams aimed at tourists are the fake monks. They walk around tourist areas soliciting donations. How can Thai people tolerate this?
TRAIN / BUS STATIONS
Hualumpong is Bangkok's main rail terminal and if you're going to take a train somewhere it's here you need to buy your ticket. So what happens is you arrive at the depot, looking like a tourist. You spot the ticket windows and start walking in that direction when you are intercepted by a pleasant individual possibly displaying what is a bogus ID card saying they are with the TAT. They'll ask you where you are going, inform you that the route is sold out but what good luck for you they have a TAT travel agency across the street that can take care of you. So you head across the street, see the TAT license and assume you've been told the truth – that this is a TAT travel agency. But what you don't know is that TAT doesn't operate any travel agencies.
One agency even said “Lonely Planet” as if the famous publisher approved of them.
The southern route (Surat Thani / Pha-Ngan / Samui)
A big "VIP" bus is parked at the end of Khao San Road for all of you to board. You arrive ten hours later to be transferred to the ferry to the island.. Upon arrival you are pushed off the bus for transport to the ferry, rush! rush!, rush! Before you can even get oriented and wipe the sleep from your eyes, the bus is gone and you're left standing with your bags – which might feel a little bit lighter now. Wait, didn't I have a camera in there? Where's my iPod? Where's my money belt? While you were sleeping, you were robbed.
The incidents of theft on this route are legendary. They happen every week and regular readers or travel discussion forums such as the Lonely Planet Thorn tree read reports of theft on this route with alarming regularity. Usually it's a matter of
someone rifling through the bags stowed in the luggage hold, though there have been cases where sleeping passengers were relieved of their valuables as well.
The Siem Reap, Cambodia-bound tourist bus, AKA the "Scam Bus": Cheap and, well, maybe not so cheap. Prices at the moment start at around 300 baht for a ticket to Siem Reap, Cambodia, home to Angkor Wat and a few hundred other old temples. This seems like a cheap option for a lot of tourists but for many this 300 baht ends up as only a fraction of what you ultimately pay and the service, in respect to time and treatment (you are definitely not seen as human, but as a stupid piece of cargo to be ripped off as much as possible), is absolutely horrid. There are several ways this ticket is subsidized: First, you will be massively overcharged for your visa, with overcharges ranging anywhere from 200 to 600 baht ($5-$15). Second, kickbacks from the several restaurants you'll stop at along the way. Third, upon entering Cambodia you will be pressured into changing money, significant amounts of it, and at ridiculous rates. And fourth, you will be sold to a Siem Reap guesthouse for $7, and that's their money, not yours. To facilitate getting you into the guesthouse, what is normally an eight to ten-hour journey and easily completed by mid-afternoon, will be dragged out to fourteen to eighteen hours, resulting in arrival times on average of 10 pm to 2 am. Now imagine arriving at 2 in the morning? How likely are you to move to another guesthouse at this hour? And you can probably forget about that nice shining bus they showed you in the picture, for the Cambodia leg of the trip you'll be lucky if it's even a bus, let alone one with working A/C.
BOAT AND MARINE SAFETY
Boat safety has become an increasing concern in Thailand. Ferries and speedboats used to transport tourists and local nationals to and from the many islands off the Thai mainland are often overcrowded and carry insufficient safety equipment. Ferries seem to be sinking on an all too regular basis. <This, I have to agree, is a massive problem – Stick>
Do those in charge of marine safety take payments so operators can overload the vessels?
The "magnetometer heist" takes place at airport security check-ins, again perpetrated by a gang. Just before stepping through the magnetometer after placing your belongings on the belt, a con artist alerts you to a ticket envelope on the floor. You pick it up, but by the time you discover it's not yours and finally step through the magnetometer, your stuff is gone. The security cameras have been positioned to have gaps, so the thefts are not recorded.
Pilfered baggage. Organized gangs are employed in the Airport baggage handling area. They pilfer the luggage of departing passengers. The Bangkok Post reports the gangs have been arrested but today, continue to operate .
IS THAILAND SAFE?
Crime is under reported.
Thailand has been protecting its tourism reputation by underreporting crime.
Over the years I have come to believe that there is no real rule of law here. No protection other than money and connections. No one goes to the police or courts for help or justice, if they do then they are sadly disappointed. As foreigners, we have
even less protection than the Thais who enjoy slightly less than no protection.
Thousands of victims of the Thai Tourist Mafia are fighting back and some are starting to create websites to help protect future visitors to Thailand (and Thailand's Tourism Industry)
Here are some of these websites:
SILOM RD TOURIST MAFIA
Tourist mafia works next to Thai Police Box!
ERAWAN SHRINE TOURIST MAFIA:
SINGAPOREANS AGAINST THE THAI GEM SCAM:
GEM SCAM GROUP:
INTO ASIA :
BANGKOK SCAMS COM:
There are a zillion scams in operation on tourists in Thailand and it really irks me that the cops know about most scams – many of which have been going for DECADES – yet do little or nothing about it.