“If You Get Scammed, It Serves You Right”

Much has been said and written about getting scammed in Thailand and the general consensus is that cheating folk outta money just ain’t right. Yet, however, there are also a damned lot of people out there who say “If you get scammed in Thailand, you deserve it, it’s your own fault for being so dumb”. Doesn’t this kind of mind-frame however, actually legitimize cheating people out of money? Like almost giving the cheats two thumbs up for their impressive swindling techniques.

Working on the Internet and spending a lot of my time reading and so writing about vacationing in Thailand, I can confess that there are millions of wanna-be travelers to Thailand out there who would fit the adjective ‘dumb’ very appropriately. In fact, anyone who claims that you gotta be special ‘dumb’ to get cheated in such a way as the infamous gem scam is quite obviously over-estimating the intelligence of others! It’s like the political situation in Thailand, living in Bangkok, we’ve hardly been affected, if at all, by demonstrations and previous bust-ups, but zillions of near-future travelers (booked their tickets already) are shaking at the knees in fright at the prospect of coming here – even though there are thousands of Internet forums and web-board threads out there with uncountable comments on them stating that the capital is pretty damned safe. Expats who think that scared tourists must be ‘dumb’, haven’t realized that they are talking about a great percentage of people.

The way some tourists are so gullible when they get to Thailand and get scammed also amazes me. Take a common scenario, Mr Bob from the UK is on his the way to the Grand Palace with his wife when he gets accosted by some dodgy looking Thai geezer dressed in jacket and tie who informs him that the place is shut. After a quick chat, the dodgy Thai bloke advises him that he knows of a gem store which knocks out bargain jewels. Cutting a long story short, Mr Bob buys a bunch of gems for as much or even more than they would cost back home. He thinks he has got a bargain!

Some people will cry “Oh my God! This Bob geezer is so unbelievably dumb he deserves what he got!” Or does he? Just cause someone is totally naïve to any scam, does that legitimize cheating people out of money? Sure, a lot of these scammers will legitimize their actions by saying “Never mind Farangs are rich”. And shiver-me-timbers, even myself and Richard have been criticized by some expats on the Internet for even complaining about double-pricing. According to their opinion, there is no problem with the two-tiered price system, as again foreigners generally have more cash than Thais. Let me ask, just cause someone is wealthy, does that legitimize scamming them?

The gullible above in the gem scam are often ridiculed for being so dumb, and so no pity is given. Yet, at the same time, many of the ridiculers have once been the victim of the most classic Thai scam of all, the great lady/bride one.

The scenario goes like this, George from Boston has just been divorced after 20 years of unhappy marriage and comes to Thailand to give it a shot at making a new life. His first destination is the beautiful sunny seashore resort of Pattaya. After a couple of nights out on the razz, he meets the girl of his dreams, the ravishing Miss Lek. This Miss Lek, he informs everyone, is not the same as any other girl working in a Pattaya bar. “Lek has just arrived in Pattaya, she’s a virgin, a good girl, she’s not after my money”. What George has yet to notice however, is that his future ex-wife has wringing stretch-marks and the word “John” tattooed across her bum. Poor-old George soon marries his delicious darling and immediately builds, for his mum-in-law, a super-dooper new house and 3 bravo buffaloes.

They live a nice existence until George, one day, on returning home early, unexpectedly finds Lek, on the floor naked, in a position similar to that of a dog having a piss, with her ‘brother’ riding her from behind in style. And it is this ‘brother’ whom George had initially met that glorious night in Pattaya when he first met his future ex-wife, the supposedly innocent virgin.

George goes on to lose every baht he invested in dad’s tractor, mum’s house, sister-in-law’s 50 cows, family’s 7 motorbikes and half a million in Lek’s bank account.

Many who know George scream “That’s disgusting! Poor George! What a shame! That girl was a scoundrel. How terrible that none of the family ever told George the truth of the brother = actual husband!”

So, if George was the victim of a scam, should he also be ridiculed at being amazingly dumb and so deserved to be cheated out of money? He too was wealthy, so for those that believe that it is all right to sneakily acquire plenty of cash out of farangs – George too ‘deserved it’. What difference is their really between Lek, her mum, her brother and the scamming gem artist in fine attire? Can anyone legitimize Lek’s action because she was poor and Bob was rich and dumb and so worthy of being scammed?
Who can not say that George wasn’t as dumb if not dumber that Bob?

I am sure that all of us have been cheated out of our well-earned cash sometime in our life for being ‘dumb’. Looking back to such an instance we think “How could I have been so stupid?” But it happened, and by jolly, who is gonna think that the person who cheated us did it legitimately?

As for the case of scams in Thailand in general, many critics laugh at the stupidity of the victims. Yet, most of the scams would fool most people such as the taxi one at the airport or the official looking one inside Hualumpong Train Station where guys in shirt and tie and pinned ID card inform you that the train you want is full “But never mind I know of a bus service”. Or how about the jet-ski one, where you rent a jet-ski and on giving it back you are told that some damage has been inflicted and so you will have to pay for repair which runs into thousands.

At the end of the day, there is no level at which one can claim that “This victim deserved it but this one didn’t” or in the case of legitimizing over-charging scams “This guy is wealthier than this guy so he should pay 80baht for his Phat Thai instead of the usual 40baht”.

Regardless of how ‘dumb’ an honest person is, it just ain’t right to say that he deserves to get cheated out of his money. And I use the word ‘honest’ as there are some foreigners who do get cheated due to their own illegitimate greediness or intention to scam others, as in the ‘help to cheat at cards scam’ or export gems at a profit illegally scam. Get scammed in those kinds of instances, then you ain’t getting any sympathy from us or anyone else – including www.bangkokscams.com

29 responses to ““If You Get Scammed, It Serves You Right”

  1. Thats hard. Poor George…

    I myself did never get scammed in Thailand, but I got scammed so bad in Vietnam!
    I think especially Bangkok is a mostly save place where travellers will not be scammed so easily if they are not so stupid.

    But still travellers have to know that this part of the world is poor and they have the duty to get informed themselves before they make “the big deal”.


  2. We should not blame the innocent ones. All thumbs down to the scammers, really! If there are no people like them, the world will be a better place. No need to fear somebody will cheat us or steal from us. We can even leave doors and cars unlocked. But alas, it is not so. We have to watch our backs all the time.

  3. Met some girl who got Gem scamed … and she was working for Sotheby’s … precious stone department …. yeah people are dumb

  4. Very good article Steve. You’re right, you can’t blame the dumb… or the scammed. I’ve been a ‘victim’ too, albeit a willing one sometimes even! It’s disgusting that Thailand doesn’t put a stop to the gem scams as they stop people from visiting what they really want to see when they take them from the grand palace. After the tourists find out they just spend 1000 pounds on junk – do you think they’re coming back? Not for any good reason… They might want some payback though.

    Anyway, great article. I sent you email – that one is good too!

  5. “A traveller without knowledge is like a bird without wings”
    Mushariff-Ud Din (1184-1291 CE)

    And consequently ready to be plucked!

    Many travellers to Thailand and elsewhere do no research on the country they are visiting-some I have met are genuinely surprised at the differences-one lamented that she thought Thailand would like be lot like Spain! (If so why not go to Spain?!!)

    Bottom line is: Be prepared by putting a bit of effort in on finding out both the good AND BAD about your destination. If you can’t be bothered to make the effort, then the fault is yours alone if anything happens.

  6. Ignorance is bliss. I and a friend had that whole “lucky buddha temple” and “gem shop” tour thing in my early years in Thailand. I thought we had a great day since the tuk tuk ride was free and I didn’t buy anything from the gem shop… though I did buy a bucket of toileteries for the monk for 700 baht… my friend bought a ring from the gem shop for around 15,000baht and he kinda love it…. I only know it is a scam until years later…. my friend hopefully still don’t know about it so at least he’ll still continue to love his ring. ha ha

    Its amazing how some foreigners claimed to have never met any dishonest taxi drivers/tuk tuk driver in Thailand and everyone he/she met was helpful and friendly. And when he/she heard about some foreigners whined about being conned, he/she laughed and point that “you silly fool deserved to be conned” finger. Ignorance is bliss…

  7. Interesting post Mr. Steve.

    My favorite part:

    “They live a nice existence until George, one day, on returning home early, unexpectedly finds Lek, on the floor naked, in a position similar to that of a dog having a piss, with her ‘brother’ riding her from behind in style.”

    You paint a fine picture.

  8. I and my friend waiting leisurely and lazily. A tuk tuk man approaches us, offers to take us round city for a specified duration for a specified fee. Much bargaining and finally agreed.
    On the way, he suggests a visit to jewellery shop. He says no need to bye just visit. He would get fuel coupons worth so much. Says, I’m so poor and look after whole family and other similar stuff. We agreed and did so. Examined all jewellary. Bought nothing.
    After the agreed duration, he dropped us at the agreed place after showing us all the agreed places thanking us profusely.


    Just use your commonsense as you do in your home country. YOU CAN NEVER BE SCAMMED!

    What does the Latin saying ‘caveat emptor’ mean?

  9. Yes Senaratne, your tuk-tuk driver will be thanking you profusely. For taking you into the jewellery shop he gets commission money. You fell for the lies about fuel coupons, no such a thing.

  10. I never understood that one. Why is the idea of the tuk-tuk driver receiving fuel vouchers more acceptable than if he were to just tell you he received a couple of hundred baht for every foreigner he brought to the place? Who cares?

    “Fuel coupons? Well, ok then, gas prices are real high, I’ll help you out, poor breadwinner of a destitute family and all.” OR: “You get filthy money in exchange for bringing me in? Unacceptable! What do I look like to you — some dumb farang?! Pull over!”

    Don’t get it. Please explain the psychology Mr. Steve.

  11. Yes, I too once fell for the very same story. The Grand Palace was closed..blah blah blah. Ended up going to the Lucky Buddha aka Wat Saket and a few other places for only 20 baht. We had the compulsory stop at a gem store but didn’t buy aything as we weren’t into gemstones or jewellery. So yeah, thankfully we didn’t fall for the gem scam but as I understand scams in Thailand can take the form in other thigs as well, for example at the old Don Muang Airport, we were once approached by the fellow who claimed he was from Singapore and how he’s lost his passport and wallet etc. I told him to go to the Singapore Embassy and get consular help or go to the Tourist Police but he gave a long elaborate story that he needed money to bribe the embassy or something like that. Now being Singaporean myself, it is highly unlikely the Singaporean consular staff would want a bribe being goody two shoed Singaporeans, so I just walked away. I later found out that this particular guy makes a living scamming people departing from the Airport.
    So yes, scams don’t just involve gemstones, tuktuks and taxis. These conmen are basically confidence tricksters and even the most vigilant might just fall for a tale that overrides common sense. If Nigerian scams are elaborate, Thai scams are an art form.

  12. Stephen Cleary

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Going on from what Senaratne wrote and his bit about POOR. A tuk-tuk driver gets 200baht for everyone who goes into a jewelry store and has a good look around. One pair of tourists = 400. If one of them actually buys, then he’ll get an added bonus. Sometimes, he may have to give the tuk-tuk tout some commission. Geez… that means these guys can make more than a thousand baht a day. That is not what i call POOR! I call the folk working 12 hour shifts in a sub-urban factory for 200baht a day poor, or the Isarn farmers raking in 100 day poor. They may be poor but at least they are honest.

    If you wanna see how ‘poor’ these tuk-tuk drivers are, hang around the Golden Mount area (near the canal pier) in the evenings and you’ll see them sat around drinking imported bottles of hooch.

  13. I lived in a village for sometime , learnt to be alot like them regards cattle and crop care.

    I agree westerners who seek to gain often incur some bad karma for the typical naive greed that fuels their decesion making .

  14. I cannot imagine how on earth should an act of dishonesty be blamed on the victim or how could someone be thankful and happy for taking part in its successful completion. Am I too naive? Am I missing something? :)

  15. It is totally unfair to blame the scammed and praise the scammers for outwitting. Not everyone knows everything. This is a good article. Like a Thai old saying “never step over a person who falls down”.

  16. Like a Thai old saying “never step over a person who falls down”.

    And the more modern addition to that “pick his wallet, then walk around him.”

  17. Nice article Steve!

    In Old Patong, the scammers early on were few, later as Patong became a major tourist destination, there were many of all types of scams.

    Our old pal Waree, the beach bum hammock seller had it down to a fine art.

    He start off the unsuspecting tourist with offers of cheap prices hammocks or tee shirts and take it from there.

    His coup de gras was when he’d slightly pull out a small metal throat lozenge box, carely turning his eyes and face slowly left and right to make sure the “client” understood that something special was about to happen.

    Waree would them carefully pull out several silk covered “gems” which he would hold up to the light, even let the “client” hold them!

    Once the greedy client had their fingers on these “thumb nail size gems”, they are usually goners!

    Waree then would bring out a small, 1″ x3″ thin piece of glass and scratch/cut it with the “gem”, if that wasn’t sufficient to make a sale, he’d then pull out a can of cigarette lighter fluid and dose the “gem” with it and sit it on FIRE! This almost always “proved” not only was it not plastic, but certainly a real thumb nail sized “gem”!

    We’d sit the shade of Thai Garden Restaurant and make bets on how long it’d take Waree to make a sale. Usually it didn’t take long.

    I sadly remember a young stewardess buying a $500 US “gem” and later having the gall to contact the embassy in Bangkok and complain she was cheated…

    You can’t cheat an honest man!

  18. I wonder how long this line of story will get rehashed, nobody deserves to get conned just as nobody deserves to live in poverty!

    I seriously doubt the phrase “a fool and his money are soon parted” was penned about Thailand, nor is Thailand anywhere near as bad as many of the so called “First World” countries.

    Stop for one moment and take a look at whats happening in the global financial markets at the moment, a Worldwide financial crisis directly effecting millions of families brought about by profiteering on a scale nobody could ever have imagined. Now how to you gem scammers look now!

  19. Being scammed is in direct proportion to your greed! Count on it, every time you’re greed exceeds your “common sense”, you lose!

  20. How about when I went to a ‘Beer Bar’ in Soi 6, Pattaya? I paid in advance for the pleasure of the ladies ‘company’. She quickly disappeared, so I returned to the bar immediately to get my money (2,000) back. Management refused to pay any money and threatened me with the police, who never arrived. Instead the got a few guys in motorbike taxi helmets to beat and kick the shit out of me. I went to the hospital and the police, but yet no justice. Welcome to Thailand! The bar was Betty Boop, but now many other bars are becoming clip-joints too.

  21. Cleary

    Why are you removing comments that don’t agree with your strange view of things?

    Do you post up all the positive comments yourself?

    Can you please declare your business interests in Thailand?

  22. Jingjing Saduay

    How not to get scammed in Patpong:
    Never go in any bar that is upstairs.
    They are rip-off joints.
    There is one exception: the upstairs
    massage place on Patpong 1. Can’t
    remember the name, but service is good.

  23. Not all are stupid

    Stupid is a 50 year or even older falang believing a 30 year younger Thai lady loves him and gets ripped off.

    Stupid is the one who gets ripped off in Pat Pong. Unless he uses to frequent bad areas back in his hometown. One doesnt go to Harlem New york either.

    Stupid is the one buying something he doesnt know sh.. about like gemstones
    If itsa one for your wifes finger okay, but a lot are always bought to make easy profit at home. Stupid gread

  24. This is why I love Thailand so much. There are a lot of great places to explore. I never wanted to come back when I was there

  25. It’s been years since I got scammed…and always small-time stuff. But last year when I visited I did…and I had to laugh at myself. I was walking down in the Sanam Luang area and a girl came up and handed me a small bag of bird feed…and, not thinking at all, I fed the birds…and she kept handing me more and more…and I fell for it. Finally she demanded some unholy amount of money — something like $10 US for what amounted to about 50 cents worth of bird feed. I gave her the equivalency of about $1 and then a bigger, older woman came over and started arguing with me. After a bit I relented a little and surrendered about a dollar more…to no avail. Suddenly I began loudly yelling “Kamoy, kamoy, kamoy,” and off they ran. :-)

  26. Ds J Bongers

    I got scammed too 1000 euro gemshop 200euro by tuk tuk driver 50 euro at hairdresser 500 euro in Pat Pong

  27. Big Buddha: Wat In

    Lucky Buddha: Wat Kok Mu

    Sukhothai clothing store for suits

    I know the drill….. not impressed.

    Scams are a disincentive to visiting third world places like Thailand.

  28. dear sri
    my brother is a senior gem cutting instructor at state gem coparation sri lanka and we do our own lapidary too.natural cut and polished gems can be supplied if required.
    yours truly
    mount lavinia
    sri lanka

  29. Most scams mentioned above work off of people’s own greed, and what they want to believe instead of reality. As far as George is concerned, he too was greedy and did not do his research. He could have saved a lot of baht and heartache had he hired a private investigator, or plain stayed out of the big cities when wife-searching. It is just sad to see that the desperate prey on the ignorant to survive.