Pattaya Scams – How to avoid getting scammed in Pattaya (or anywhere else!)
While there are lots of stories of people getting scammed in Pattaya, the chances of getting ripped off are very small, if you use good judgement. Pattaya is a very safe town. If you are polite you do not need to worry about personal safety, and if you exercise caution in your financial dealings, you will avoid major scams.
Unfortunately, minor scams, involving a few dollars are inevitable when you travel. You can expect to be overcharged by taxi drivers in just about any major city in the world. If it happens to you, just smile and pay up. It’s not worth spoiling your holiday by spending time getting angry or frustrated over a few dollars, when you could be spending that time having fun.
I have listed the common minor scams and ways you can avoid them, as well as some of the major scams I have heard about. Generally, major scams involve hundreds or thousands of dollars, maybe more. If someone offers you a deal and it sounds too good to be true, ask for time to think about it, and get a second opinion, if necessary.
High Pressure Sales Tactics
In a tourist area you meet people every day, who will try to sell you something. If you walk along Beach Road during the day, the charming girls who work for the travel company “Just-go” will ask you “where are you from” and try to persuade you to attend a presentation on great travel deals. There are all kinds of incentives to get you to go. But you can just say thanks, but no thanks. (By the way, most of these girls are college graduates, they are smart and cute, and a great source of conversation, if you can steer them away from their sales pitch!).
You will occasionally be stopped by a guy who pulls up on a motorcycle and asks for your help. He is probably trying to sell a similar travel scheme. If I get stopped in this way, I say, “if you are selling something, I am not interested”. This works almost every time. The guy realises he is wasting his time and drives off.
Aside from getting over-charged by taxi drivers, bill padding is probably the most common scam that people run into. This is generally not a problem at the larger, more popular clubs and go-go bars. They realise the importance of good customer service. The way to avoid bill padding is to check your bill after every drink. If you don’t get the bill with your drink, ask for it and make sure, you check it after each drink. If the service girl declines to put your bill in a bin on your table, you might want to consider settling your bill and leaving, before any mysterious items get added to your bill. There are lots of great bars and clubs where you are not going to get scammed, so take your money to a friendlier bar.
Lady drink switch
This is a common trick at some bars. You offer to buy a lady drink, you are expecting one price, typically, Bt 120. Your girl may ask you if she can try a different drink, of course a higher priced drink. Usually she will say, she has never tried it, she would like to try it. This one’s difficult to resist, you want to seem like a generous guy. At least you have a choice.
Sometimes, your girl may choose a higher priced drink without asking you. If you notice this, you need to resolve it immediately. If you don’t, there’s a danger, you will be taken for a sucker. Just let her know, the price seems too high. If the charge gets sorted out with a smile, there’s no problem, stick around as long as you are having fun. If they don’t want to cooperate, it’s time to pay up and move on, because it is probably going to happen to you again.
Pickpockets on Baht Buses
You don’t get to see pickpockets on the baht buses very often, but it’s best to be aware of this little scam. It’s easy enough to spot, and take avoiding action, that is if you don’t get too distracted. There’s several variations on the scam. Two or more people get on the bus, one sits next to you, and the others create a diversion to distract you.
There are many variations on this scam using children or a woman with a large shopping bag, or maybe ladyboys. The thief attempts to steal your phone or your wallet, while you’re distracted. If someone bumps you or touches you, move away. Look at the person, let them know you are watching. This one is easy to avoid. If your wallet is in your pocket, put your hand over it. The thief is not going to try to steal your wallet if he realises you are aware of him. Their success comes from an element of surprise.
Flower Sellers and Child Pick Pockets
This scam has a women with dozens of red roses, who creates a distraction by thrusting the flowers into your chest and then attempts to steal your phone or your wallet.
Sometimes, she might have a small child to help out, maybe 7 or 8 years old. The child may grab your hand or your arm, to distract you. In some cases, the child offers you a packet of chewing gum at an inflated price, which she holds out with one hand, while she tries to pick your pocket with the other hand.
Beware of overly friendly Thais. It is very unusual for a Thai stranger to approach you and touch you. Be extra cautious if this happens to you.
Post Office Scam
If you are sending letters or packages overseas, and go the post office, make sure that the stamps you pay actually get put on your package. There are stories of letters never reaching their destination. Presumably the stamp money was pocketed, and the letters filed in the waste bin. To avoid this happening, you should request that the stamps are actually stuck on your package while you watch. Generally, the service is good at the main post office on Soi Post Office, near Beach Road. The problem seems to happen at the smaller post office locations, and at Bangkok airport.
Bar Girl Scams
The general rule is: don’t fall in love with a bar girl. Yes I know the girl you just met is very special, but you need to know more Thai culture before you commit to a relationship with a Thai girl.
The most common scam is the multiple overseas boyfriends scam: this is perpetrated by the bar girl, who maintains a string of overseas boyfriends. Each one of these unsuspecting guys send her money to support her while they are away. She relies on the fact that they probably won’t all visit her at once, but of course sometimes they do. If she seems to not have much time for you on this visit this may be why.
It is not unusual to see a bar girl jump off a customers lap when her cell phone rings and run out of the bar to find a quiet place to talk to one of her long distance boy friends. She wants to make him believe that she no longer works in a bar, thanks to his support. It’s a common reaction for a farang to convince his bar girl to give up working in the bar. He is jealous, but for her it is a way of life. If you want to take a bar girl out of the bar, you have to find her another interest or occupation, or she will drift back to her old friends and old way of life.
The underage bar girl scam involves a young girl, too young to be legal, with a fake ID working with an older relative. You may meet her at a bar or a dance club or on the street. Once she’s in your room, the relative appears with a policeman to inform you that you have slept with an underage girl. At this point it’s pay up or jail time.
Credit Card Fraud
There are warnings that credit card fraud is quite common in Thailand. It’s a good idea to be extra cautious if you plan use your credit card to pay for an item. Make sure your card never leaves your sight so that the card is not used again without your knowledge.
Bangkok Airport Zig Zag Scam
The zig zag scam is a confidence trick where travellers are falsely accused of shoplifting at Bangkok airport, and then held by police or airport security staff until they pay a substantial fine for the alleged theft. There are several reported cases of this happening at Bangkok airport.
The scam occurs at the duty free stores at Suvarnabhumi airport, where there is no clear separation between adjacent stores. A tourist picks up an item at one store and continues shopping at another store, without realising they have crossed the invisible line between stores. Predatory security people then descend and charge the tourist with theft.
The BBC have reported that security staff at Suvarnabhumi Airport have participated in a series of these scams, extorting thousands of dollars from tourists, as they are leaving Thailand. BBC Report: Tourists warned of Thailand airport scam
This scam involves being charged for damage to a motorcycle that had already occurred before you rented it. The owner threatens to destroy your passport or call the police if you don’t pay some outrageous amount. You can avoid this by inspecting the motorcycling before you take it away and photographing the damage. Make sure you point this out to the owner, and ask him to sign a document acknowledging the damage.
If you are planning to rent a motorcycle, try to rent one from a reputable dealer. There are some hotels in Pattaya that have motor cycles for rent. Get yourself a lock for the front brake. Check the agreement before you sign it. Make sure you get insurance and are not liable for the loss if it’s stolen.
There are also stories of motorcycles parked outside the hotel, disappearing overnight, apparently reclaimed by the owner. Obviously, you have to give the address of the hotel where you are staying, so this scam is difficult to avoid. Another reason to find a reputable dealer.
Jet Ski Rental
The jet-ski scam is one of the major tourist complaints. The renter is accused of damaging the jet-ski, although the damage had already occurred. There are even accusations that the local police were accomplices in the scam.
The problem has got so bad that some resorts that have banned jet-ski rentals. While jet skis can be rented in Phuket, they are banned in the neighboring tourist provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi. The problem does not seem to have reached serious proportions in Pattaya. Again use due diligence. Just as with the motorcycle rental, inspect the jet ski before you take it out, and point out any damage to the owner.
Thai Gem Scam
One of the most pervasive scams in Thailand is the Thai gem scam. Typically, a tourist meets a friendly Thai at a tourist attraction who eventually offers to take them to a “government” gem stone shop where the tourist is told about how they can sell Thai “blue sapphires” or other gems back home and make a 100% profit. The prices are inflated, of course, and the tourist ends up with a pocket full of overpriced gems. Like Thais themselves, the scam is low-key and those involved are friendly rather than pushy. Remember that it is very unusual for Thais to walk up to strangers and strike up a friendly conversation. Thais are typically more reserved. If you are approached at a tourist attraction by a friendly Thai who just walks up and starts speaking to you, watch out! Don’t let your vacation be spoiled by the temptation of easy money.
Keyboard Loggers at Internet Cafes
Many of the computers in internet cafes are loaded with keystroke loggers, that allow the installer to log your account information and passwords. It’s an easy matter then to access your on-line accounts with this information – your email account, and maybe, your bank account!
Use your own laptop, or mobile phone to connect to the internet at hotels or internet cafes. As an extra precaution, the safest way is to use your own laptop to connect to the internet directly, using an RJ45 cable to connect to the internet connection in your hotel room, or internet cafe.
Internet access at most cafes is cheap at around 10 baht an hour. If you are using a public PC, setup a free gmail or hotmail email account that contains no personal information, to use while you are traveling.
Remember, you are most vulnerable when you have been drinking. Alcohol makes the world seem a brighter, happier place, and makes everyone seem like your friend. This is the time when most people get scammed. If you plan to drink a lot, make sure you go directly home or to your hotel room and sleep it off. If you wander the streets, especially late at night, and are clearly in state of intoxication, you will probably attract every con artist within a five mile radius, to make you an offer you will find irresistible. Watch out for those times when you are vulnerable.