Phuket is a great place for relaxing and enjoying the tropics. It has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia. Drawing thousands of travelers each year, Phuket also draws some scams and con-artists. Taking advantage of the turnaround that is associated with the tourism industry, con-artists can perform their scams repeatedly. These scams can range from people in the streets, tuk tuk drivers, and even established businesses. While the majority of the population has good intentions and are very kind and helpful, there are some that will take advantage of the unsuspecting tourist. The best way to combat these scams and con-artists is through awareness. Listed below are a few of the scams that are common in Phuket for travelers to be aware of.
The Jet Ski Scam in Phuket
The jet-ski scam can be an interesting one to watch if someone were unaware as to what was really going on. The jet-ski operators will actually damage their jet skis purposefully. To see a jet-ski rental operator launch the jet-ski aground, then take a club to it to inflict damage, then place it back by the water to be rented would seem strange to many. This is a common spectacle on the beaches of Phuket. The next person to rent the jet-ski will be blamed for the damages and have to pay for the repairs. This scam usually also involves a mechanic who will seem to be a third party. The mechanic will get involved with the negotiations and inflate the cost of repairs by around 500%.
The best thing anyone can do who would like to rent a jet-ski is to do their research. Asking hotel managers or front desk clerks to suggest a reputable place to rent from is a good start. Many times, the hotels and resorts will rent out jet-skis. In every case, one should make sure they do a thorough check of all machines and equipment before it is taken off the premise.
Tuk Tuk Scams in Phuket
The best thing to do with tuk tuks is to avoid them all together. Tuk tuk scams are prevalent in Phuket. Even if they do get a passenger to the correct destination, the prices are outrageous. Some tuk tuk drivers will inflate the cost upon arrival, and threaten the passenger if they refuse to pay. Other times, they will arrive at a different destination than the passenger requested because they get a commission from the establishment they arrive. Others will take off without making change for the passengers.
The best thing anyone can do is avoid tuk tuks and take a regular taxicab with green licence plates. If it is absolutely necessary to take a tuk tuk, pay with the smallest denominations possible to avoid having to make change.
The Gem Scam in Phuket
Originating in Bangkok, this elaborate gem scam has made it to Phuket. Thailand is an international hub for buying high-end jewelry. Even an established jeweler is capable of pulling a scam. The con usually involves a few different players. Conversation is made with the person being conned called the mark. One of the con-artists will seem to be offering an inside tip to the mark on the amount of money that can be made from buying gemstones in Thailand and taking them back home to sell. This con also involves a free tuk tuk. Note: There is absolutely no such thing as a free tuk tuk in the country of Thailand. The tuk tuk will conveniently be parked close by to take the mark sight-seeing. While sight-seeing, the mark will be approached by what seems to be a third party who will also strike up conversation. This is to give the mark seemingly independent confirmation of what the mark had previously been told about the money to be made buying and selling gemstones. The tuk tuk will then gladly take the mark back to the participating jewelry store. The jeweler will put on an elaborate show, explaining how to valuate different stones and in doing so, will grossly over-value the stones the mark is to buy. In most cases, these are cash-only deals. The stones are shipped to the mark’s address before they can get them appraised by a legitimate source.
The best thing anyone can do is to not rush into buying gemstones. While jewelry is a little less expensive in Thailand, that is only for the manufacturing of the settings. The stones themselves are roughly the same price anywhere, unless one is dealing in wholesale. People should always do their research before buying jewelry in Thailand.
The Photo Scam in Phuket
This scam is much more about the speed factor than the confidence factor. On many of the streets in Phuket, there are opportunities to get your photo taken with a lizard or other exotic creatures. When their business gets slow, many will rush the unsuspecting tourists and place the lizard on the tourist’s back. Before they know it, they are getting their picture taken and are charged whether they asked for it or not. This has also been known to happen with some of the lady-boys in Patong. They will come up from behind a person who happens to be standing still and pose for a picture. The lady-boys will typically do this in groups to avoid further confrontation after payment is demanded.
The best thing anyone can do is to be aware of their surroundings. If people with exotic creatures asking if anyone wants their photo taken are on the streets, it is a good idea to stay clear.
The Tailor Scam in Phuket
Phuket is a great place to get a tailored silk suit. But, one should always inspect the finished product before payment. The tailor scam is when someone is fitted for a suit and promised a certain fabric. The tailor might say that they have only recently opened an export business and can have the items shipped for a very little cost. After paying for the suits and fine fabrics, the marks might open their deliveries when they get home to find suits made of polyester.
The best thing anyone can do is to check their merchandise before payment is made. There are many fine tailors who are honest so finding a proper suit is very easy.
Hordes of tourists can attract some of the best things Thailand has to offer. Unfortunately, there is a very small per cent that would take advantage of tourists. Being aware is the best thing anyone can do to prevent being taken advantage of.