Scams, they happen every minute all around the world. We all find it crazy when people fall for credit card scams over the internet when the latest Nigerian Prince is in utter need of a deposit before he sends you millions of dollars.
While travelling there are all sorts of scams you need to be aware of. Me? There are four times I’ve been scammed for sure,
possibly probably other times too. These four are the obvious ones that while weren’t donations to a Nigerian Boss have stuck in the back of my mind.
Scammed in China
I had 24 hours in Shanghai and planned to wander around checking out the cities sites with a Canadian mate I’d met at the airport. Can’t be hard, we’d drink some tea, scavenge for food and see some crazy stuff.
We eventually reach The Bund, a tourist haven. We were getting the usual photos when a couple of Chinese kids (well late teens) asked us to take a photo of them.
No worries, we did that and then got chatting. As you do.
They grew up together and were catching up after a few years having not seen each other. We talked away for 5 minutes or so before they had to head to a Chinese Tea Festival nearby.
As they went to leave they asked if we wanted to join. Um yea, obviously!
I was a budding tea connoisseur in the making having discovered tea the previous year (don’t judge).
We follow along, chatting away like new friends do and 15 minutes later we arrive at the festival location. The building looked shabby from the outside, but when we walked in their was all the traditional music, colours and staff dressed up in authentic tea costume like you have pictured in your mind right now.
The only problem? We were the only ones there. I should have realised straight away this wasn’t a traditional Chinese Tea Festival.
Anyway we went ahead and ordered some tea because everyone wants the traditional cultural experiences right.
They were expensive options, roughly $10/choice. I figured it wouldn’t be too bad, at least it’s a bucket list item ticked off. An hour or so later and we had a bunch of different teas after choosing one pot of tea each and learnt some random stuff about tea that I can’t remember.
The hosts spoke all in the local language, luckily our new friends were super good at translating…
Time to pay the bill. Suddenly we were paying $50/person even currency exchanges of old aren’t that bad. Apparently the price on the menu was for each cup of tea. Each tea we ordered was a pot, enough for four cups. I started to argue but then my new friend from the airport said it was the price you pay for an authentic experience. While I disagreed I eventually coughed up the Yuan.
They even had the cheek to walk us to the ferry terminal and pay the 50 cents for each of us to catch the ferry. They soon disappeared, no doubt to head back to the tea house to collect their share of the earnings.
Everything else I spent in Shanghai that day amounted to a handful of dollars. The worst part? I had even read about people getting scammed in China through this exact method before arriving in Shanghai.
Scammed in Thailand (Near Cambodian Border)
The main border between Thailand & Cambodia, known as Poipet doesn’t have a great reputation, it’s full of scam artists.
I didn’t realise this the first time so when we were in the minivan from Bangkok it seemed somewhat abnormal but not really that weird to suddenly require a visa from some makeshift building before going to immigration.
There was only two of us farangs (slang for white foreigner) in the mini van and we relented from their demands initially as we were 90% sure we could get a visa on arrival.
Eventually I gave in and paid way too much money for my visa. While there was no harm done, my fellow farang stood staunch and they eventually took us to immigration where he paid the proper amount for his Visa on Arrival and I then had to put up with him giving me shit for giving in for the next couple days.
Scammed in Thailand (again)
Yeap, same same but different to the last story.
The main purpose of my second trip to Cambodia was to get a Russian visa in Phnom Penh. I could have gotten the visa in Bangkok but apparently it isn’t easy and by going to Cambodia I could spend time in my one of my favourite cities, Battambang.
The only barrier to make the process a smooth application was I had to have a valid Cambodian visa for 90 days. The usual visa on arrival in Cambodia is valid for 30 days.
Recalling the previous border experience I remember you could essentially get any visa you wanted thanks to the scammers. I planned to ask the scammers for a 90 day visa.
You can get a 90 day visa the official way, but time and money were two things I couldn’t waste with the flight to China not too far away.
I arrive at the border after the intensely long and slow train journey from Bangkok and quickly found the signs listing all the visa types you could get. It didn’t take long before I was handing over some cash with my passport which would come back with a 90 day visa.
They went off and did their thing and before long I had a visa in my passport. It was a visa for 30 days.
The guy who oversaw my visa was nice and while I tried to say we agreed on this and that for a 90 day visa he insisted it wasn’t possible. He wouldn’t give in.
They said I would be able to get the extension for free once I am in Siem Reap. I didn’t buy that explanation.
They (the scammers) had my money by now of course. And we were now in no mans land, I was stamped out of Thailand but not stamped into Cambodia yet. These no man lands aren’t the nicest places to be hanging out. In this nomans land there are lots of casinos and apparently lots of Thai lads come here and blow all of their money.
There was no way I was going to get the money back so off I went to Battambang to hang out in the epic Here Be Dragons Hostel.
In the end, it was still cheaper than what I planned the orderal to be. The Russian Consulate in Phnom Penh granted me a Russian visa despite having just the 30 day Cambodian visa. CONFUSING MUCH?!
In the end though, the lesson is, don’t try to out-scam scammers. They’ll out-scam your scam.
Scammed in Germany
The last incident I haven’t spoken of too much about to others. It was pretty embarrassing.
When I first arrived at the East Wall Gallery there wasn’t a whole lot of people. Except for around this picture below of course.
I was making the obligatory walk along the East Berlin Wall enjoying the street art when I came across 7 – 10 people crowded a guy and three matchboxes.
I was nosey and watched for a few minutes. 50€ notes were going back and forth in a frenzy. The cup mover collecting 50€ when people guessed the wrong matchbox. The goal was to choose which matchbox had the ball under it. You’ve seen similar games no doubt.
Pick the box with the ball under it and you collect 50€, easy.
I watched the game played 7 times and got them all right. My poker instincts kicked in and this seemed like an insanely profitable game. And an extra 50€ would save me a trip to the ATM the next day.
You didn’t have to let the guy know you wanted to play before he moved the boxes so I pounced, slamming my foot down on a matchbox when I was 100% certain it was the box closest to me. Held out my 50€ ready to collect his 50€.
Next second, I was 50€ poorer.
It was crazy. I’m like 98% sure I was on the right box. The others around me said I should try again and were really insistent. Luckily I had no more cash on me otherwise who knows what might have happened.
I firgured it was just me choking under pressure but after thinking about it more, it was a scam. This popped up pretty suddenly as the game wasn’t running when I had walked past 10 minutes earlier and when I was leaving the game started to break up a couple minutes later.
Were they all in on it together and I was the victim this time around?
I couldn’t find anything written about this gypsy scam in Berlin, but the game looked pretty much like it did in this video.
I’ve come to the conclusion it was a scam.
As annoying as scams are, the above four aren’t the end of the world. They were all short terms gigs, and no real damage was done (maybe 150$ or so total). Sure, I was filthy at the time but I’ve gotten better at letting things go pretty quickly.
While scammers aren’t being nice people, you have to admire their hustle.