Villa Market Scam Artist, 1:20 AM
Early this morning, I was doing my usual post-Soi Cowboy grocery shopping in the main Villa Market branch between Sukhumvit Sois 33 and 33/1 when a scam artist tried to strike. I'll re-create it as best I can.
I was back by the crackers, isolated, when this Middle East-looking guy and girl came sauntering along. She looked rather mousy, but he was wearing jewelry, expensive-looking clothes, fancy hairstyle. The guy pointed to a price tag that was hanging down from the shelf that said Bt59 and asked me: "Hey, how much is that in dollars?"
I said: "I guess just under a couple."
"Yeah? How much is $1? What's the rate for that? Where are you from?"
"I'm from the US."
"Yeah? That's great! I'm from Dubai."
Shakes my hand.
To the girl (who remains quiet and seems sheepish the whole time): "See? that's only $2 here. what did I tell you?"
Back to me: "So what's the exchange rate now for baht, in your money?"
"32 and 1/2 to the dollar right now."
"Yeah? Hey, where can I change money tonight? Is there someplace I can change right now?
"I don't know of any place."
"What, you live here and you don't know where to change money?"
"I know where to change money, but there isn't any place this time of the night that'll do it."
"Hey, do the take Malaysian dollars here?"
"No, they're not going to accept any Malaysian money in this place."
Then he pulls out his wallet and "casually" opens it. It's positively STUFFED with money, with US bills. Looks like a small phone book is crammed in there. A $100 bill is on top. I think I saw some other currencies in there too, but mostly it was a huge wad of American money with a $100 on top. I'm obviously supposed to see this. He whips out the $100 (there's another $100 on top after he removes the first one, but if I know how these things work, the rest are probably all singles, if not outright counterfeit), and says: "Hey, how does the size of Thai money compare with American money? Lemme see a bill."
"The size? What's it look like compared with this? I wanna see."
"Um, I'm going to go finish shopping now."
"Hey, what? What's the matter? I just wanna see. Hey!"
And I walked away.
I have no doubt it was going to end up that I changed money for him. Or maybe he was going to confuse me and pull some sort of quick sleight of hand where I couldn't be sure how much I got back. He was certainly slick enough for that. You had to hear him to understand truly just how smooth he was. The narrative above does not do him justice. While the girl hung back and even looked a bit embarrassed, he was Mr. Slick. Who knows how much money he thought I was carrying around with me that time of night, but I did have an ATM card, so no doubt that would have become involved at some point.
I did notice the guy earlier as I was wandering through the aisles. He and the girl were talking to a third person, another guy. I couldn't help but notice him, because he was so outgoing, speaking in loud, friendly terms, so I thought they must all be together. But I didn't really notice the other guy, because I wasn't paying that much attention, so I just assumed it was a Middle East friend; you couldn't help but notice the scammer, he was so outgoing. Now I think that was another potential victim he was hitting up. This was all back in the aisles, away from the prying eyes of staff, who are used to seeing all sorts of weirdness that time of the morning anyway.
I've heard about scammers hanging around Villa before but not operating at this time of the night. Usually it's Filipinos striking in the day time, the old "My cousin is going to college in your hometown, and you should meet her" scam after striking up a conversation.
Again, this guy was really slick but a bit TOO obvious, and when it became clear he wanted me to pull out my wallet, I was out of there. Now I wish I had simply told him I didn't have any cash and was going to use my credit card, then see what came next, but it's probably best not to string these people along.
There we are, readers, yet another scam to be aware of…although anyone falling for this would be rather foolish. Anyone waving money around like that is most likely up to no good.