Nancy Miller considers herself an experienced traveler, so on a recent trip to Bangkok, the last thing she thought she’d get suckered by was a scam aimed at gullible tourists.
But there she was in a jewelry store, being told that today only, the Thai government wasn’t collecting taxes on precious stones. “They did it very, very slickly with multiple seeming unrelated parties corroborating the story of the special time to buy gems,” she recalls. “Fortunately, I didn’t get sold glass, but I overpaid by about 50 percent — ouch!”
Worse, it was months before she realized she’d been taken. She didn’t find out about it until she read about it online. Turns out the Bangkok Gem Scam is one of the oldest in the book.
Miller is an unlikely victim. She’s a college-educated, street-smart New Yorker who has worked in the travel industry.
“When people say they are much too smart to get taken and that the victim must be stupid, naïve or untraveled, I want to slap them,” she says. “Believe me, it really can happen to anyone.”
A recent reader poll found that one-quarter of travelers believe scams against them – which are defined as cons perpetrated against tourists at a destination – are “worse than ever.” About 7 in 10 felt the threat was about the same as ever, which is to say, you still have to be on your guard when you’re away. Only 12 percent thought it wasn’t a big problem.
This column normally focuses on the scams that affect travelers before the leave and while they’re enroute, of which there are more than plenty. But what happens once you’re there?
“Don’t get scammed! 4 cons that target travelers – and how to spot them”