How to Avoid Being Defrauded In Phuket

Fortunately, Phuket is generally a relatively safe place. For the vast majority of people here the worst they are ever ripped off is by an overpriced taxi or a business overcharging foreigners. That being said, with all things gradually, or sometimes rapidly, shifting into the digital realm, all of this connectedness equates to increased opportunities for the unscrupulous. Unfortunately, that means we all have to be a bit more aware and informed of emerging dangers and how to protect ourselves. Nowadays we not only have to be vigilant of the classic scams, but of the newfangled ones of our new digital era. 

Renting a car | Cr: www.utapao.com

While it may sound a bit conspiratorial, one of the most common scams involves motorbike, and sometimes but far less often car, rentals. The way it works is you rent a motorbike or car, then you get stopped at a police checkpoint and are fined for not having the valid documentation, which is usually an international license. Why is this a scam? Firstly is because in many countries a rental agency can’t rent you a vehicle of which you cannot legally drive, otherwise they can be held liable. This is of course why the police have these checkpoints and most of the time only stop foreigners on motorbikes. Many visitors driving motorbikes don’t have a motorbike license in their home countries and police know this. Also, a valid license from your home country should typically enable you to legally drive on Thai roads (no international license required), but most people are not aware of this and police will try and fine you anyway. However, vehicle insurance in Thailand won’t cover you unless you have a Thai license. 

ATM in Thailand | Cr: www.freepik.com

ATM card skimming is another common scam that can happen in Phuket. This involves the scammer acquiring your ATM/debit card information and using it themselves or selling it off to other criminals. The way they accomplish this is they install a false scanner on top of the existing one on an ATM. It is very difficult to differentiate it from the normal one, and it is able to read and save the data from the magnetic strip on your card. Additionally, a false keypad is installed and/or cameras, both of which can help them capture your PIN number when you enter it into the ATM. With the PIN and the saved data from the magnetic strip, they can duplicate your card or sell this info to someone on the dark web who will. Since this extra equipment must be installed on the ATM, machines in less noticeable or inconspicuous areas are targeted. To avoid this scam, use machines in well-lit, well-trafficked areas or preferable at a bank. Also, be aware of anything suspicious looking about the ATM and always conceal your hand when entering your PIN number. 

Rate return on investment | Cr: www.lofty.ai

Property scams are another very common type of fraud found in Phuket, and one with higher stakes. Sadly there are many ways in which one can get caught up in legal and monetary problems in real estate deals. A common one is the “guaranteed return on investment” where a developer will pinky-swear that you will get “10% annual return on your investment property for 10 years”. Spoiler alert: they don’t always have the securities to back up these claims. Buying “off plan” (before construction of the condo/house has begun or completed) is another way some investors get into trouble. The developer offers a hugely reduced price if you get in early, but in some circumstances this means they may not have the resources to complete the project. While this might not be a problem if they sell enough units or secure additional funds to complete the project, there are half-finished, abandoned projects all over the island as proof things don’t always go well. Protect yourself by asking many questions, carefully scrutinize all claims, and, most importantly, hire a reputable property lawyer to thoroughly examine and deals before you pull out your wallet. 

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