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This is how the “jet ski scam” works

I’ve written about this before, but yesterday I learnt a bit more about how the jet ski rental scam works http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsPuoaktoAw

I was down at the main beach shooting the breeze with a couple of expats and in just a couple of hours we saw three groups of tourists lose a considerable amount of money when they were caught by the jet ski scam. Here’s how it works:

1. Some tourists (usually young men) decide to have some fun out on the water by hiring some jet skis.

2. They ask the jet ski boys how much it costs to rent a few jet skis. They are quoted a ridiculously high price and then manage to “negotiate” this down. Pleased with themselves, they take their jet skis and off they go whooping and yelling with excitement. The jet ski boys don’t mind dropping their prices as they know the big money will be made later.

3. Tourists come back to the beach and hand back their jet skis. The jet ski boys drive the jet skis up onto the beach and “notice” a lot of scratches and dents on the underside of the jet ski. Or there may also be some trimming which has broken off.

4. The jet ski boys point out the “damage” to the tourists and demand they pay for repairs. Typically they will ask for up to 100,000 baht (£2,000 – a huge amount of money here where the cost of living is about a fifth of that in the West and a monthly wage may be less than £400 per month)

5. While the tourists argue with the jet ski boys about the damage, one of the jet ski boys calls one of his friends in the police. Although you hardly ever see a policeman here, two large, extremely well-fed policemen mysteriously appear

6. Seeing the police, the tourists are relieved and believe the police will help them out of their trouble with the jet ski boys. And sure enough (as part of the charade) the police seem to be sympathetic to the tourists and they suggest that 50,000 baht (£1,000) would be quite enough to pay for the “damage”. (The police, of course, get a healthy cut of money extorted from the tourists)

7. At this point, many tourists will agree to pay and one of the young men will be forced to stay on the beach with the jet ski boys while his friend(s) go off to get the money. Or else, if the tourist is alone, he’ll be marched to the nearest ATM by a couple of jet ski boys to get the cash. I once saw a tourist try to escape the scam by running away, but with jet ski boys all along the beach, he was quickly caught and relieved of his money

8. If the tourists still refuse to pay, things can get quite nasty. They may be taken to the police station where they’ll waste hours waiting and filling in forms and being interviewed until they realise that the whole thing is futile and the only way they can get away is by paying up. Some tourists even get their passports confiscated and held till they hand over the money.

There seem to be two main versions of the scam:

The basic model – here the jet ski is in the water when the tourist rents it and so the tourist can’t see if there is any damage to the underside. But when he returns the jet ski and it’s driven up onto the beach, the damage can be seen

The advanced model – according to the expats I was talking with, there’s another version where the jet ski boys paint over all the scratches and marks with a water-based paint. Then when the jet ski is taken out, the water-based paint starts to come off revealing all the damage which was already there. Or else if some trimming is breaking off the jet ski boys glue it back on knowing it will soon break off as the jet skis crash through the waves at high speed.

So, next time you take a beach holiday and are tempted to hire a jet ski, please remember the jet ski scam – it might save you a lot of money.

2 comments to This is how the “jet ski scam” works

  • Paris Claims

    Can’t figure out why a bright chap like you would spend so much time in a third world crap-hole. Every third world crap-hole seems to have similar problems, life is cheap and corruption is endemic.

  • shortchanged

    My thoughts exactly Paris, well Mr Craig?

    For your book Title. ‘Are you being SCAMMED’.

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