Category Archives: scams

The Bird Food Scam

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Whenever you go to a new country for a holiday, you always need to have your wits around you or you might fall for a scam. In places like Thailand this is very difficult as Thais are naturally very hospitable. Numerous times I’ve had complete strangers go out of their way to help me or buy me meals. I always feel bad about turning them down, but really you should heed your parents advice to you when you were a toddler: “DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS!” The scam I will tell you about today is called the “Bird Food Scam” and takes place in front of the Grand Palace and right in front of the Tourist Police. It comes under the category of being forced to pay for something that you didn’t order or ask for.

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The way this scam works is that someone will come up to the tourist with a bag of bird food. In this case it is bird seed. He scatters some on the ground and then gives the tourist the already opened bag. He does this quite forcefully by grabbing their hand.

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Of course, the tourist is quite perplexed as he doesn’t really understand what is going on. So, the man scatters some more bird seed on the ground to demonstrate. He then puts the bag back in the hand of the unsuspecting tourist. By this time he is a bit bemused and decides to play along with this somewhat crazy man.

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He is then given another bag of bird seed and told to throw it to the birds. And then again with a third bag. The tourist is clearly confused but does as he is told. Once all the seed has gone he then walks away. The man then chases after him and demands that he pays 300 Baht. That is 100 Baht per bag! Not bad for 3 minutes work.

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Only a few minutes later this man had his sights on another unsuspecting tourist. The scam starts the same way of throwing bird seed onto the ground. He then puts the bag in the tourist’s hand and tells him to do the same.

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Like the previous tourist, he is confused and so the man has to demonstrate again.

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The man puts the bag of bird seed back in the tourist’s hand and tells him to throw it on the ground. Confused, the tourist does as he is told. Two more bags are passed to him and he is told again to throw the bird seed on the ground.

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Then comes the punchline. The man demands that the tourist now pays him 300 Baht. The tourist at first refuses as he didn’t understand what was going on. But the man starts to get aggressive and demands that he pays him straight away. Finally the tourist capitulates and gives him the money.

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Some people may say that this is the tourist’s fault for being so naive. But it is really extortion and this should be reported to the police. Unfortunately, I tried this but the Tourist Police were not interested. They knew it was going on but they chose to turn a blind eye. I will write more about my frustrations with the Tourist Police over on my blog RichardBarrow.com soon.

The Grand Palace is Shut Scam

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One of the scams in Thailand that annoys me the most is the “Grand Palace is Closed” scam. It is a scam that is most lucrative for them. In front of this one gate to the palace, there were a total of SIX scammers waiting for unwary tourists. When you were growing up, your mother probably told you never to speak to strangers. So, why do so many people ignore that good advice? If a stranger comes up to you in the street there is a high chance that he will scam you. Always be polite just in case they are genuine, but do have your wits about you. See the guy in the black shirt above? That is the start of the scam. He is telling the tourists to enter the palace through this gate.

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The problem is, this gate is only for Thais as they don’t need to pay an admission. All foreign tourists have to use the main entrance. An official on duty here tells the tourist in Thai that they cannot come in this way. The helpful guy on the right now lies to the tourists that the palace official said that the palace was closed for a ceremony and would open again at 3 p.m. Actually, that is about the time it starts to really close.

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What annoys me the most is that this scam is going down in full view of the palace guard and the palace official sitting at a desk. They must surely know what is going on but they don’t lift a finger to help the tourists. What is happening in this photo is that he is telling them about a temple called the “Lucky Buddha” that is only open on this day once a year. Of course there is no such temple.

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If they have a map he will mark the temple on it for them. He will then suggest that he calls a friendly tuk tuk for them as it will be cheaper if he negotiates the fare. Here he is hailing the tuk tuk. “Mr. Tuk Tuk, are you free to take these tourists to the Lucky Buddha temple?”. Of course the tuk tuk driver is in on the scam. There were about four or five of them waiting to “kidnap” the tourists. A strong word but that is what they are doing.

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Here you can see that the tourist is so grateful to this man for helping them that he shakes his hand. What they don’t realize is that at the Lucky Buddha temple they will meet another member of this gang and they will eventually end up at jewelry and tailor shops where they will be coerced into buying overpriced and shoddy products. By the time they have finished and come back, the Grand Palace is really closed.

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I feel sorry for the tourists who planned to see the Grand Palace on their last day in Thailand and they then got caught up in this scam. If anyone comes up to you in the street and says that the palace or anywhere else is closed, please don’t believe them. Always go and see for yourself. I reported this scam to the Tourist Police. I will write about what they did on my blog over at RichardBarrow.com