Monday, July 28, 2014

Singapore tourist scams

Scams in Singapore are negligible compared to its South East Asian neighbors but this does not mean that Singapore is a scam free destination for tourists. There are some scams to be aware of and better to avoid to not lose money in an already expensive place.

Singapore Electronics Shop scams in Sim Lim Square and Lucky Plaza
There are various scam tactics employed by shops in Singapore but Sim Lim Square and Lucky Plaza seem to be the place where most scams are executed against tourists. Since an average tourist assumes that Singapore must be scam free, many easily fall in these scams.

"Many shops, particularly those on lower levels selling games, cameras and mobiles, in Sim Lim Square resort to scam tactics to reap higher profits. Unwary shoppers might fall into the traps of unscrupulous sellers." Source : Sim Lim Square

There are many scams the shops in Sim Lim Square and Lucky Plaza employs. One very popular one is to sell an expensive smartphone with "too-good-to-be-true" price and after buyer pays and before he gets the product, he is forced to pay for extras which will make the total price ridiculously higher than the most expensive price of the electronics good you can find. See these articles for common types of scams :  Scams at Sim Lim Square: How to shop smart and Singapore Shop Scam Tactics at Sim Lim and Lucky Plaza.

My advise : Do only buy products from their authorized vendors. i.e. Apple Shops. I would not also buy electronics from Lucky Plaza or Sim Lim Square. Funan Digital Life Mall in City Hall is a better alternative. Or you try Changi Airport, Challenger outlets (there is a large  Challenger Superstore in Funan), Harvey Norman or Courts kind of chain stores. If you really want to shop in Sim Lim Square and Lucky Plaza, shop in the highest floors where more honest business are located.

Taxi Overcharges
Unsuspected tourist may be overcharged by taxi drivers by taking a very long route to their destination. It is wise to have a local smartphone card with 1 GB internet in Singapore Changi Airport and use Google maps and simply Google to locate the destination and a reasonable route.

If you are overcharged, write down the taxi licence plate and report it to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) at 1800-2255582.

Overcharging Restaurants / Hawker Centers
First, I should say that you may be overcharged not because the owner is a scam artist but because of a cultural misunderstanding. Some food like tiger prawns and crab are expensive. When you order one of these, no one will warn you about its price because doing so may be rude (the waiter may think that he/she may be implying that "you cannot afford it").

Airport Chrysler Taxi Cabs
I am not sure this also can be called scam but this is a definite trick in Changi Airport to part you with your money. In the arrival hall taxi stand, there are old men, called "uncle", who direct you to the waiting taxi. Since I am "Ang Mo" they almost always do this to me and probably doing it to almost every visitor : They direct locals to normal cabs and when a tourist comes next, they direct them to a Cryslar Taxi which is waiting there. These limousine taxis are expensive. They cost almost twice on the same route and if you are going to west end of Singapore, the difference really hurts (can be plus 40 SGD!).

If you are not intentionally looking for a limousine taxi, reject the old man's offer by saying "I do not want Cryslar" or "limo". He will immediately direct you to the normal taxi, which was probably the real "next" taxi for you.

I do not know these uncles are getting money from Chryslar taxis but whenever I fly into Singapore (and I travel quite a lot), I am almost always directed to a Cryslar waiting there.

Singapore Chrysler Taxi Cabs
A Chrysler Taxi in Singapore. These cabs are limousine taxis and they are expensive.
 Stand-up fortune teller man a.k.a You are a very lucky man/woman sir/madam scam ...
I could not find a good name for this but this one must be finding a lot of victims because I see the same line and the same type of scam artists regularly since 2006. Indeed yesterday, when I was visiting a friend in Swissotel The Stamford, I have been targeted by two scam artists in the 20 meter radius of this central Singapore hotel.

An Indian or Sikh dude approaches you with almost always the same line : "You are a very lucky man / You are a very lucky woman ...". And without asking permission, he starts to "read you" with probably one of the few lines he picks based on your gender, age and looks. This "casual" fortune telling takes around 5 minutes and then it is followed by a persuading request to donate money to a charity in Nepal / India / somewhere ... He will have a photo book to show you and this donation will be anything above 20 SGD.

Simply avoid them. I believe there are dozens of these guys roaming Singapore for new victims every day.

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