Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thailand's famous jet-ski scam goes on

"Early on Saturday Morning two Iranian Men reported threats made by Jet Ski Operators following financial negotiations after they damaged the hired Jet Skis. 
Mr. Alireza Tajikkhaveh aged 24 and Mr. Omidreza Jahangard aged 30 presented themselves to Pattaya Police Station and confirmed they had hired two Jet Ski’s on Pattaya Beach in front of Mike Shopping Mall and admit to damaging both Jet Ski’s following a minor collision." - November 24, 2012 - Iranians file complaint of threats made by Pattaya Jet Ski Operators
One of the most famous and shameful scams running in Thailand for years is the infamous jet-ski scamsUnscrupulous jet-ski operators around the tourist destinations in Thailand are ripping off many tourists without many major disruption to their businesses. 

Although it looks like a small thug operation, Thailand jet-ski scam is a well organized and extremely lucrative business, and it is a big mafia operation that goes way up beyond the scammer thugs on the beach. According to here, it's been reported up to 100 Thai's are involved in the Jet Ski scam on Pattaya Beach Road alone. So since it seems like everyone in the jet-ski business is involved in these scams so the best way to avoid it is to not rent a jet ski in Thailand.

Meanwhile, clueless tourists are falling into this scam every day and Thailands jet-ski scams continues to embarrass Thailand on an international level. The topic is covered many times, filmed several times and several countries have issued official Government Travel Warnings on this, including the USA, Canada, Australia, and Ireland. In February, Larry Cunningham, Australia's Honorary Consul to Phuket, appealed to Phuket's government to stop jet-ski operators who hire thugs and demand compensation for equipment damage renters did not cause. Below is from USA Embassy:

"Rental Vehicle Scams: You should be aware of a common scam that involves the rental of motorbikes, jet skis, and sometimes cars. Many rental companies require your passport as a deposit. If there is damage to the rental vehicle, the company often holds the passport until you pay for the damage. We have received many reports of renters having been charged exorbitant amounts for damage to jet skis or motorbikes, even in instances where the renter had caused no visible damage. A variation of this scam occurs when the motorbike is “stolen,” and the rental agency demands that you pay two or three times the price of the motorbike to replace it. For this reason, you should be cautious about rental arrangements and not use your passport as a deposit or collateral. You should be certain to examine the vehicle and note any pre-existing damage before operating the vehicle. If you purchase insurance from the rental shop, be sure you know what the insurance policy covers, and get a receipt showing you paid for insurance."Source : Thailand Country Specific Information

It seems like Thailand government tries to look like doing something and according to the Pattaya Times (this scam is usually called Pattaya Jet-Ski scam since most of the victims fall into the trap in Pattaya)  Thailand government wows to end jet-ski scams:

"Senior police officers from the entire Eastern Region were brought together for a meeting with the government’s strong-willed Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) for Police Affairs, Chalerm Yubamrung, who demanded action to end the prevalence of security issues that mar the image of Pattaya’s tourism and entertainment businesses.

The meeting took place at the Nong Nooch Tropical Garden. The police assembly coincided with the Prime Minister’s mobile cabinet meeting held at the Royal Cliff Beach Hotels, which addressed a number of critical plans and their implementation for Chonburi province and the Eastern region.

DPM Chalerm stated that the jet-ski scams have been a source of continuing international embarrassment to the resort city for years. He demanded a plan for resolution of this pattern of bad behavior, and wanted definitive action taken as soon as possible."

The scam is run in Pattaya like below:

"Along the Beach Road in Pattaya, often between Soi 10 and Soi 13/4 (entrance to Walking Street), Thai Jet Ski touts will approach the tourist. Most likely time to witness the scam unfolding would be between 5pm - 5:30pm as it is getting dark. Particularly outside Mike Shopping Mall, Royal Garden Plaza, and Soi 13/2 to Soi 13/4. The tourist is required to sign a contract with the Jet Ski operators before they board the Jet Ski and have their fun. Cost is around 700 baht ($20) for thirty minutes. When the tourist returns to the beach the Thai Jet Ski operator will board the Jet Ski and bring it up on to the beach. Here is where the scam starts, as they (theatrically and dramatically) point out the damage and demand that the tourist pay for it, typically ranging anywhere from 30,000 baht ($950) to 70,000 baht ($2,200), but it can be 100,000 baht ($3,180) and up. Of course this damage (deep scrapes on the underside of the Jet Ski, scratches to the paintwork, or a broken plastic bumper) has been there all the time. Often, if not most times, it is a group of tourists that are scammed. More people, more money."
Source : Thailand Jet Ski Scam and Extortion

Still, the only way to not fall into this very costly scam is to avoid renting jet-ski in Thailand. Actually, it is wise to avoid renting any vehicle in Thailand such as motorbike and car. Although the jet-ski scam has been around for years, number of violent threats against tourists who dispute the fee has been increased and some locals are warning that it is only a matter of time before someone is killed.

[1] - Knives pulled on tourists in jet ski scam

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