Unfortunately in most poor countries there are an abundance of people milling around ready and willing to relieve travelers of their money. These smooth talking, overly friendly touts can be hard to avoid but they are relatively harmless and only looking to make a quick commission. To avoid succumbing to one of their scams, stick to your instincts – if a situation appears sketchy just walk away.
Top Scams in Asia
Scams in Asia No. 1 – The Gem Exporter
This scheme has been conning tourists for many years all over Asia. These con artists are excellent charmers, seducing tourists with visits to their home and insisting on paying for meals. After they earn the tourist’s trust, the unsuspecting traveler is asked by the friendly local to help them avoid duty import fees by carrying gems back to their home country where a company representative will reimburse them for their costs plus profit. The shop owner asks for a ‘minimal’ credit card payment as a sign of good faith. Nine times out of ten the gems are worthless, the representative doesn’t exist and the traveler is left with hundreds if not thousands of dollars in visa bills to account for. (India, Nepal and Thailand)
Scams in Asia No. 2 - Taxi Wallah
Unfortunately Delhi is inhabited with many skilled con artists. One scheme often played on tourists comes in the form of a taxi wallah. Upon arriving at the international airport, touts will insist that you need to confirm your hotel booking before arriving. They insist that you go with them to an office where you can phone your hotel (unbeknown to you the other person on the other line is in cahoots with the driver) and informs you that you don’t actually have a booking. The taxi driver will then take you to a hotel of his choice where he gets a big fat commission and you get an overpriced room. Another scam involves a taxi driver who pretends he is lost, stopping at a travel agency for directions. The travel agent who is also in cahoots with the driver pretends to call your hotel informing you that your room has been double booked. Your kind driver helps you find a new hotel where both he and the agent share the commission. Another outlandish scheme involves a taxi driver who insists that there are riots in Delhi, advising you to find a hotel in a “safer” area where he makes commission off your room. (India)
Scams in Asia No. 3 - Slight Change of the Hand Money-changer
These money-changers were probably Houdini in a past life as they can change $100 into $10 with the slight of a hand. Whenever you receive your money from a money-changer double-check it in front of them. Some money-changers after they have exchanged your money will suddenly tell you that they made a mistake and insist that they recount it, don’t let him because that’s the last you will see of your money and the money-changer as he pedals down the street with all your cash. (Indonesia, Philippines, China)
Scams in Asia No. 4 - The Free Tour Guide
In touristy areas, such as the Bund in Shanghai or the Forbidden City in Beijing guides will approach tourists pretending to offer free tour services. They may take you to a few spots, but it’s all in the name of learning your personality in order to extract money from you– if you are a seemingly sympathetic person they may say they need money for a sick family member or that they can no longer pay their tuition and need money to continue on with their studies. Alternatively, if you seem like a drinker they may take you to a bar where the owner is in cahoots with the scammer and when you leave the bar you have miraculously run up a bar bill that is hundreds or even thousands of dollars. (China)
Scams in Asia No. 5 - The Art Student
These friendly, English speaking art students will politely ask you whether you would like to see their artwork. They will then lead you to a shop selling all types of art, including their art at inflated prices. Most of this art is available in every art shop and almost certainly not a personal creation of the art student. You have no obligations once you are there and can kindly excuse yourself. (China, Indonesia)
Scams in Asia No.6 - The Milk Beggar
You may be approached by children or even adults begging for milk to feed their families. If you agree to help them out they will take you to a designated store where the storekeeper is in cahoots with the beggar selling you milk at an inflated price. Once you leave, the beggar returns the milk and shares the profits with the shopkeeper. (Cambodia, Nepal, India)
Scams in Asia No. 7 - The “Its Closed”
Almost any super touristy area in Asia has its share of con artists. The story goes like this: an English speaking, overly friendly, seemingly official looking individual loitering in front of the gates to a main tourist attraction informs you that the attraction you wish to visit is closed but they can arrange a tour for you elsewhere. This will either lead to an overpriced tour or to a commission shop. (Especially prevalent at Wat Po and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand)
Scams in Asia No. 8 - The Friendly Guy Who Wants to Practice His English
One common tactic throughout China is where an ostensibly friendly individual asks if he can practice his English on you then invites you for tea, orders a ton of food and suddenly insists he is out of money leaving you to front the bill.
Scams in Asia No. 9 - The Familiar Face
If you are a solo traveler or a new arrival, beware of people who claim to recognize you. These con artists will invite travelers to their homes where the traveler is subsequently drugged and robbed. (Philippines)
Scams in Asia No. 10 - The Tea Ceremony
An attractive female approaches a tourist in a tourist- friendly area, innocently inviting them to a tea ceremony. While the tea ceremony itself it legit – the scam comes when its time to pay the bill and it runs upwards of hundreds maybe even thousands of dollars. Most tea ceremonies in China are free, with the hopes that you will purchase some tea products once you are done, so don’t be bullied into paying for something you should be getting for free.
There are tons of other scams in Asia, as a smart traveller, just follow your instincts – if something doesn’t feel right just walk away.