‘Sometimes it’s bullshit; sometimes it’s not.’

Thailand Scam

Years ago – when I was living and working full-time in Thailand (2002 – 2004), there was a well-known scam that I came across regularly on the Sukhumvit. The scam involved a westerner (usually English, in my case) approaching me and giving me a sob story about how he’d just been drugged and robbed by a ruthless Thai girl that he had met earlier on in the day. Apparently he had just woke up (thus the reason for looking ‘mad-wae-it’) and all his money and valuables were gone. Could I please give him 300 Baht, he would implore: for an ‘International Phonecard’ in order that he may phone home and get his situation resolved?’

I’m a big softie at heart and like helping people out if I can, so I was sympathetic to the guy and slipped him the only 100 Baht note that I had. I knew Thailand was a notorious destination for being drugged and robbed and there were lots of warnings from embassies in Bangkok warning people to be on their guard when travelling on buses and trains and such. I had a feeling, however, that this guy was at it, as he was pie-eyed and manky, and looked like a ‘down and out’ who had probably over-stayed his visa. Anyway, as I said, I gave him some money and we went our separate ways.

Two days later I was walking along the same stretch of the Sukhumvit when the same guy approaches me with the same bullshit sob story…

I remember that same year I’d been in Nepal visiting my sister who was stationed in Katmandu with DFID (Department for International Development). I was nervous about flying and ended up ‘steamboats’ (drunk) on the flight back to Thailand. I had a few hundred US Dollars on me and I lost it at the airport. With not a sausage I had to approach people with a sob story about losing my money. ‘I had to get to Pattaya and I needed bus fare – a couple of hundred Baht.’ Everybody I approached ignored me or waved me away as if I was a vagrant. I remember thinking: ya f#ckin’ ‘dirty rotten wrang yins’.

Eventually, a cool dude from Hong Kong stopped to listen to my plight. He knew I wasn’t bullshitting and paid for my bus journey from the airport to Ekamai Bus Station, and then gave me enough money for the bus fare to Pattaya.

The moral of the story… ‘don’t judge too quickly – sometimes it’s bullshit; sometimes it’s not.’

Note: a good tip before traveling to any destination is to do some research (eg. Google – ‘thailand scams’) on ‘what scams are perpetrated against tourists in your chosen destination.

See my blogpost on Thailand Scams

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Thailand Scam


18 thoughts on “‘Sometimes it’s bullshit; sometimes it’s not.’”

  1. That’s a crackin story, there’s bams( rip off merchants), everywhere but you can never tell if your being spiritually tested in some manner. Good stuff.

  2. That must have been a humbling and scary scenario having to beg and plead for money. The world could use a little more compassion these days. It’s unfortunate that so many scammers have tried to take advantage of others to the point we are all so guarded.

  3. Love it!!! Such a good point that sometimes it really isn’t a scam. I got scammed a lot in thailand but one time got my wallet stolen in Barcelona. Now I try to be kind and give people the benefit of the doubt.

  4. yes, you have to judge people individually, not just ignore everyone. I was have money in different places so those Thai girls can’t rob it all! It’s great that eventually someone helped you, obviously he was one of the good guys, there aren’t many of us about!

    1. Yes, James – ‘a judgement made in haste is oftentimes wrong’. Top marks for the guy from Hong Kong, he even bought me a couple of beers for the bus to Pattaya. Thanks for commenting…

  5. I like how you used both perspectives here – one that was obviously a scam and the other (you!) that was not. When I travel I often have people come up and ask me for money, but it rarely happens when I’m home in the UK. However, up until a few months ago there was always a woman hanging around outside Cardiff Central station who was “8 months pregnant” and “had to get the bus to the hospital for her appointment”. She was “8 months pregnant” every time I saw her for about 3 years! The pillow she’s stuffed in her shirt must have really aged into fully grown toddler by the time she eventually left!

    1. Ha ha – good one, Rhiannon. And yes, lots of scammers out there, but some genuine stories too. Only prior experience in most cases (like your example) will allow you to see through the bullshit; best to be aware of what goes on but to also allow yourself sometimes to show compassion Thanks for commenting. And good luck!

  6. That’s true that sometimes it’s true and sometimes not, but how can you tell? When I was younger, I felt like just giving everyone money in those situations is the solution, but soon realized, if you keep giving it to the scammers then they will never stop as there is always that one person who can’t say no. I think the decision has to be made on first impression, if the person is being honest or not and it’s not always easy.

    1. No – not always easy, but usually there’s some tell-tale signs that someone is a ‘wrang yin’ (dishonest/bad person). Best to do a little research (Google-ing) what scams are prevalent at where you are off to. Then when you’re there, you kinda know what to expect, and are better informed as to who is ‘at it’, and who is not. Thanks for commenting. Good luck and take care!

  7. Well yeah i totally agree about that. But it should be like this, Most of the time bullshit and few times not. Pity those who are really needy as they are stereotyped as bogus. Glad that you met someone kind who really helped you.

    1. The guy from Hong Kong restored my faith in humanity; you would not believe the amount of people that brushed me off with a condescending wave of their hand. It’s not always possible to suss what is genuine and what is not, but for the sake of a few Baht, I think it is good to give the benefit of the doubt, whilst – at the same time, accepting that you may well just have been fleeced. Usually – for more experienced travelers, there are indications that all is not right. Always a good idea to check out before-hand what scams are perpetrated against tourists in your chosen destination. Thanks for commenting…

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