Phuket is a Safe Destination for Tourists
Thailand is considered a safe destination for tourists. The majority of visitors who come to places like Phuket will never experience any real problems. The most common negative event that tourists complain about is the fear that they have been overcharged for things. There are undoubtedly people who prey on the gullibility of tourists, but this type of unfair practice is not usually enough to spoil a holiday. There is also a minority of tourists who fall victim to scams – these can involve a great deal of money and so seriously impact the ability of the individual to enjoy their time in Phuket. One of the most common of these scams involves jet skis.
Jet Ski Scam
The jet ski scam has been reported in other tourist areas of Thailand. It seems to be particular rife in Pattaya. According to reports there are many foreign visitors caught out each day be this con. It is even suggested that some corrupt police officers are involved. In recent months there have been some moves to eliminate the jet ski scam in Pattaya, but it continues to be a problem in Phuket. Patong beach seems to be the place where visitors are most likely to fall victim to this scam.
How the Jet Ski Scam Works
There are different versions of the jet ski scam but the one that seems most popular at the moment involves:
- A tourist decides to rent a jet ski on one of the Phuket beaches.
- The owner will offer the customer one of their jet skies that is already in the water. This means that the tourist can view most of the jet ski but not the part that is submerged underwater.
- What the unwary tourist does not realize is that there is already damage to the hull of the machine.
- They customer unknowingly takes the jet ski out for the duration of their hire period.
- When they return the machine to its owner the jet ski is pulled right out of the water.
- The damage to the underside of the machine is pointed out, and the owner accuses the customer of causing it. They then insist that the tourist pays them an outrageous amount of money to fix the jet ski – as much as 100,000 THB.
- In most instances the owner will be joined by other operators to put added pressure on the tourist to pay up. In Pattaya there have even been reports of police officers turning up to insist that the customers pay.
- The owner may try to intimidate the customer with aggressive behavior and threats.
- To reinforce the con the owner of the jet ski may be able to provide photographically proof that the machine was in good repair earlier that day. Such proof is easy to fake.
- The customer feels forced into a position where they agree to pay even though they know that they did not cause the damage. They may even begin to believe that they did cause the damage.
Another version of the scam is more straightforward:
- The customer does actually cause some slight damage to the jet ski.
- The owner sees the damage and insists that the customer pays a hugely inflated price to have the machine repaired.
- They owner can even get the repair shop to collude in this overcharging for repairs.
The owners of these jet skis know that they can make a great deal more money from such scams than from renting their machines. It is a relatively low risk crime for them so they can be tempted to rip off foreign visitors. They know that most of these people will pay up with minimum fuss.
How to Avoid the Jet Ski Scam
The jet ski scam can completely ruin a day out in Phuket – if not a whole holiday. In order to avoid being a victim of this scam it is recommended that people:
- Fully inspect the jet ski before taking it out – including the hull.
- They should take pictures of any existing damage to the jet ski and secure the camera in a safe place. There have been accusations that some of the owners have gone so far as to remove such photographs from the customer’s cameras while they were out on the waves.
- It is not a good idea to ever give these jet ski owners a passport, as they can use this for leverage when trying to demand money for repairs.
- If things are getting out of hand it might be best to call the tourist police who have experience with dealing with this type of thing.
- Because of the continued reports of people falling victim to the jet ski scam the best approach might be to avoid renting them altogether.
Recent Updates in Phuket Jet Ski Scam
The Chief of Phuket’s Marine Office, Phuripat Theerakulpisut, has recently claimed that the jet ski scam has been eradicated in Phuket. Jet ski owners are now required to have insurance so there should be no need for them to demand money for repairs from tourists. This may well improve the situation, but only time will tell if it does manage to completely eliminate the jet ski scam. In the meantime it is recommended that tourists remain cautious when renting these machines.