Readers' Submissions

Scambusters 101

  • Written by Alex
  • November 30th, 2009
  • 6 min read


I'm a 3-year resident Thailand and irregular reader of Stickman. Like your typical reader (I suppose) some of the submissions are a lot of fun to read, other submissions do little to grab my interest. I have an interest in encouraging other Stick readers to follow my example (below) and fess up to how they've been scammed in the Kingdom and perhaps other places as well. By and large I don't think that humans are good at learning from mistakes except their own. But if we can share our experiences, we can perhaps 'open the eyes' of other readers and make it more difficult for scammers to ply their trade. Although a given anecdote may not be tantalizingly well-written it may save our ass in the future.

I've been scammed (other than by women) a couple of times in Thailand. The first time occurred when I was returning from my first trip to Cambodia. I had taken the boat from Sihanoukville to Koh Kong and was walking across the border checkpoint. As I filled in my 2-part immigration card for Thailand, I was being watched by a very young boy, about 7 years of age. As I completed the card, he even verbally confirmed what I'd written, that I lived in Pattaya. I had no trouble with the immigration folks (and of course no smile either) and took a shuttle van to the Trat bus station. As far as I knew of the bus schedules, I'd be stuck for the night in Trat and would take a bus the next day to Pattaya. Having no interest in spending the night in Trat, imagine my delight when the shuttle van arrived at the Trat bus station and immediately a baht bus (song taew) pulled up next to our van and announced that he was going to Pattaya. The price was a bit high (2000 baht) but a reasonable price to sleep in my own bed that night. I accepted his offer and was the only passenger in his vehicle. We drove at high speed as the sun set and I relaxed in the back of the baht bus. About 20 minutes before arriving in Chanthaburi, he invited me to sit inside with him and I accepted his offer. A little while later he asked if I could help with gas money along the way and I asked him to stop at a K-Bank ATM machine. I withdrew 2000 baht from the ATM and handed him one of the 1000 baht notes. A few minutes later he handed me back a 100 baht note and I asked him what this was for. He replied that I'd only given him 100 baht and that he needed more for fuel. Not having eaten much all day and being very fatigued, I tried to assess this situation. I knew that I wasn't at my best in such conditions and wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Shortly thereafter he got on his mobile phone and chatted away for a few minutes and I couldn't understand what he said. When we pulled into the gas station, another baht bus was there to meet us and it was immediately apparent to me what a disadvantage I was at. I'd never been in Chanthaburi before, was travellling with one large, heavy pack and had two local men to deal with now, not just my driver. My driver informed me that this 2nd man would take me on to Pattaya. Alarm bells were ringing in my head and I knew my wisest course of action was to get away from both of these men quickly. So I grabbed my pack and walked off into the darkness. Eventually I found a motorbike taxi, headed for the bus station and was able to get a bus to Bangkok that night. I believe that the baht bus driver knew I was headed to Pattaya, tipped off by the young boy or perhaps by an immigration official. If it were the immigration official, they would have my passport number, visa number, etc. Any interaction with Thai police wasn't worth the 1000 baht that I'd been scammed out of even if I could have overpowered this guy on the highway and had it out with him. In retrospect I think that I did the smart thing by walking away from the situation. My amour propore was badly damaged, but I'd gotten off lightly.

The other scam was a bit more brazen and commonplace. Walking down 2nd Road in Pattaya on a quiet low-season night, I hit a darker stretch of sidewalk and saw a young women sitting on a motorbike. Shortly thereafter a ladyboy approaches me from out of the shadows and while suggestively touching my ass and crotch inquires if I'm interested in a short-time encounter. I laugh him/her off but less than 10 seconds later realize I'd better check the contents of my pockets. Sure enough my front right pocket is now empty. My adrenaline kicks in but it isn't sufficient to catch up to the ladyboy and her accomplice on the motorbike heading the wrong way on a one-way street. I would've have eagerly pushed over their motorbike had I been able to catch them and both of them were much smaller than me. As it was, I again got off fairly lightly. No keys or ATM cards or bankcards were lifted. About 2400 baht was gone and again my indignation was quite strong. But I'd no longer let strange people, be it men, women or ladyboys, touch me on the street.

I'd gotten a couple of reasonably inexpensive lessons of life on the streets of Thailand. Once at the immigration office in Bangkok, I got to listen to another foreign man explain that as his taxi pulled up to the Bangkok airport for his flight back home, and he got out to pay, the driver took off without payment. All of his luggage, including his passport, was in the trunk (boot) of the taxi. Lesson number one, keep your passport on your body at all times and lesson number two, keep bags with you at all times that you don't want to disappear. Drag it inside with you into the taxi. This guy missed his flight, lost all his luggage and had to go through the hassle of getting another passport, reporting his lost passport and spending a few more days in Thailand than he wanted or expected.

Although I don't know first hand (and don't want to know that way) I suspect that a gifted pickpocket could take things from me easily, perhaps even from inside the waistband of my pants. I've been scammed twice and want to stop future occurrences. Watch out and write in. . .

Stickman's thoughts:

These scams are all rather disappointing and what I find annoying is that they continue to occur, even though they are widely known by authorities and written about in guidebooks and online.