There is an impressive array of scams and schemes operating in Thailand, designed specifically to relieve the unsuspecting visitor of his or her hard earned cash. One of the most ingenious is the gem-stone scam.
The permutations of this scam are endless but the following true story should illustrate the general idea.
If you fall to any kind of tourist scam while your stay in Thailand it’s advised to contact the Thai Tourist Police for assistance
The Gem-Stone Scam
Pat and Don, a middle-aged British couple, had saved hard for their trip. After spending a week in Thailand, their first visit to the country, they were heading on to Hong Kong to spend some time with their daughter.
The first few days, spent in Koh Samed, had been wonderful. Between the lovely warm weather and the charm of everyone they encountered, Pat and Don had quite fallen in love with the country, to the point that they were even toying with the idea of retiring here in years to come.
Returning to Bangkok, the couple decided it was time to take in some culture. Deciding to head off to Wat Po, Don hailed a Tuk-Tuk and asked the driver to take them there. The driver, a friendly chap, who’s name he said, was Sak, advised against visiting Wat Po. “It’s far away,” he said “and the traffic — too heavy.” Why not try another Wat, this one was much easier to get to and besides it was just as beautiful as Wat Po.
Arriving at the temple, Sak waited outside while Pat and Don went sight-seeing. This particular Wat was not very busy, but it was impressive. There was one man at the far end, reverently rubbing gold leaf on a statue of Buddha. Pat watched him discreetly, fascinated by this peek at this Thai stranger’s devotions.
Noticing them, the stranger gave Pat and Don a beautiful smile. “You can take a photograph if you like,” he said and went on to explain he had bought the Buddha for his father. What a lovely man, thought Pat.
Later as they sat on the steps outside the Wat, Khun Yai told Pat and Don he was an off duty policeman. He even showed them an identity card before giving them some advice. The Thai government, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and various overseas governments had a special arrangement, he said. It was set up initially to help Thai oversea students stretch their budget. It was very simple. The Thai government subsidised the students by allowing them to buy high-quality gem-stones at special rates and carry them abroad. Overseas governments played their part by not taxing the stones. The students could then sell them to a registered jeweller. Huge profits were to be made.
“But what about the Tourism Authority of Thailand?” Pat asked, “What do they have to do with it?”
“Very lucky for you!” Khun Yai beamed,”Now tourists can buy gems and make money too.”
Before Khun Yai was quite through with Pat and Don, he’d directed Sak to drive them to another Wat not too far away. Lo and behold, quite co-incidentally, they happened to bump into a charming young man, Khun Ben. Khun Ben worked for the Tourism Authority of Thailand. He even showed them his business card before confirming Khun Yai’s advice. “Oh, yes,” he said “Very lucky for you. Make good money.”
Before they left Khun Ben, he directed Sak to drive Pat and Don to a registered jeweller, who was authorized to sell these special high-quality saphires at government subsidised prices. By the end of the day, Pat and Don had purchased five beautiful stones and spent almost four thousand pounds.
Oddly, the jeweller insisted that the stones be posted on. “You can’t just carry them out the country.” he said,”It’s to prevent the system being abused.” Not to worry though, he had Pat and Don both sign the package before he sealed it with wax. “They’ll arrive in Hong Kong before you do.” He assured the couple before ushering them out the door.
Pat couldn’t wait to tell he daughter the good news but on arriving in Hong Kong was rather put out by her negative reaction. “How could you be so stupid!” the ungrateful child had shouted. “Four thousand pounds down the drain!”
“But we saw the identity card. He was a policeman, wasn’t he Don! And the other, he worked for the Tourism Authority.”
Surprisingly a package did arrive. It had the signatures and the wax seal was still in place. As her daughter was leaving for work, Pat brandished the package triumphantly under her nose. “You see! I’ll take them straight to the jewellers today and we’ll have paid for our whole holiday!”
The tearful telephone call which came later in the day was definitely not a surprise. The jeweller had practically laughed Pat and Don out the shop, but not before strewing a bag of coloured glass stones across the counter-top.
The above story is true. Gullible as they may sound now, Pat and Don were whisked by the tuk tuk driver from one point to the next. They had been given no time to reflect and the people involved had all had ID cards. Both the tourist policeman and the man who worked for Tourism Authority of Thailand were, of course, phonies.