Scams in China

The Tea Scam

This one hits many tourists and new visitors. It’s simple. You are walking down the street and a cute girl walks up to you and starts talking. Maybe she says she wants to practice English. You talk for some time walking down the street. She may be very cute, and you are thinking “Oh, today is my lucky day!” As you walk around she suggests, hey, lets go to the park for a walk. You are enjoying this cute girl and continue the walk. After some time she says “I am thirsty, would you like to try some traditional Chinese tea?” Well at this point you thin you are in so HELL YEAH, you want some tea. You walk into the tea place, she orders for you and you think “How much could tea cost?” Or maybe you aren’t thinking at all because she is so cute. Then she looks at you with her cute eyes and says “I have to go to the bathroom, I will be back in a minute, OK?” And of course you have no problem with this. 10 minutes later she is not back. 30 minutes later you are wondering if she fell in the toilet. An hour later you are thinking she must be really sick or I have been duped! The tea is waiting and cold. So you decide to leave because she is not coming back, maybe she had second thoughts. So you get the bill. That’s when the fun starts. The bill is anywhere from 500RMB to 5000RMB or more. You look up and say “How could two cups of tea be so much?” and they hand you the menu, listing the prices. Sure enough every cup of tea is at least 1000RMB. You insist “I will not pay!” and a huge bouncer comes in and says “Oh yes you will!” You look at this mountain of a man, gulp, and say “OK, here’s my card.” And that is how you get quickly scammed for tea.

She runs off and comes back the next day for her commission.

Be wary of anyone that walks up to you for no reason and starts rambling on to you and is overly aggressive. If they are pushing 90% it’s a scam.

Also this is done with young students saying they want to practice English. At first they seem harmless and it’s a great experience.

The Apartment Rent Scam

Someone rents and apartment for 3 months, at the end of the 3 months he rents the apartment to you saying it’s their apartment. You agree, pay the 3 months upfront and the deposit. They may even give you a fake ID card and fake ownership deed. One week later the real landlord shows up looking for the rent. You just lost 4 months rent. This usually happens when someone on the street offers to rent you an apartment, for example at the train station, an they are very aggressive. Be wary.

How to prevent this? As them to do the temporary registration with you, if they go they are the real deal. Also if you deal with any legitimate rental agency you will avoid this problem.

The Organ Swap

Now this one is not so common, but if it happens once your done. I heard this from my Chinese colleagues, according to them it happened in GuangDong, but I have no clue. How it goes is while you are drinking at night someone is very friendly and drinks with you. You go on, your new friend buys you a drink, and another and another, but one of those drinks is spiked. In many cases it’s a beautiful woman that does this. She asks to go back to your apartment, and you say yes. Back at your apartment/hotel room medical students come and cut out an organ. They put you in the bathtub with ice. When you wake up you find a note saying pay XXX dollars for your organ. I will not say where but these medical students are said to be from foreign countries, and these organs are sold on the black market outside of China for a very high price. They make take your liver, and then you will be in serious trouble. In any case it could be death.

I always though these guys were a bunch of dumb dopes. I mean they want to steal a liver to sell on the market and they choose some alcoholic shmuck drunk as hell in a bar? Do you think that’s going to be a good liver buddy? Let’s get real, they cut you open, see the liver, say “Ah, not again!” and sew you back up and you wake up with a big scar. All joking aside, this is serious and be careful.

To avoid this simply do not drink alone at bars and do not take random people home to your place of living.

Fake Alcohol

This is extremely common all over China. At a number of bars they have open bars for 50RMB or 100RMB. This is all you can drink for 50RMB, and you think “how the hell is Johnny Walker all you can drink so cheap?” Well, like everything else if it looks too good to be true it probably is. All the alcohol is probably fake. The main question with fake alcohol is what are the side effects? This can be a big range. The normal side effect is a brain splitting headache the next day, even if you only drink a few. The worst can be blindness or worse. Blindness is not common, but it only takes one bad batch of fake alcohol to make the whole party blind.

How to avoid this? Easy, don’t drink drinks that appear to be too cheap. Most fake alcohol places are known. Drink bottled beer.

Art Student Scam

A young, and usually cute, local approaches you and tells you about their art school, usually from Xian. They want to show you their gallery. This one is simple. First they are not students. Second they are probably not from Xian. And the paintings are all way overpriced. It probably should be 20RMB but they charge 2000RMB.

How to avoid? If anyone approaches you and is overly aggressive more than likely it’s a scam.

Counterfeit money

Do not change money with people on the street. The will give you all fake money for your real currency. They are giving you a better rate than is possible, why? Because they are giving you worthless paper.

Be careful with change, in taxis they will also give you change of fake 50RMB bills.

How to avoid? First do not change money on the streets. For the 50s you will need to know more about the bills, each bill has a watermark and hologram, usually the fake bill lacks one of these. The watermark on the fake bills of Mao Ze Dong is usually very bad and noticeable.

Black Taxi, Fake Meter

Some taxis will have fake meters. This one is very hard to prevent. There meter is rigged so 1km is in reality only .5km. The meter flys and you wonder how it could cost so much. The best is to call him out on this. If you do not speak Chinese you may not be able to avoid this. You can ask them to stop the taxi and get another taxi. But I have to say, I have not seen this scam for at least 3 years.

Cheap Tours

If the tour is really cheap what they will do is only take you to shops to buy things, and after hours of shopping you will go to the great wall for 30 minutes, only to be rushed off to more shopping.

This is easy to avoid. When you sign up for the tour tell them you do not want to do any shopping. Talk to the others on the trip and let them know about this scam. Confirm with everyone about the scam and it should be ok. But to be warned, if it’s too cheap it probably too good to be true.

Traditional Medicine

Usually a tour group will take you to a Traditional Chinese medicine center. The first thing they will do is an examination. Of course you have many problems, your liver is bad, your lungs are bad, your kidneys, something will be in bad shape and they will show you a small dot on your hand and say that is why. But it’s ok, it all can be corrected by buying a bottle of “Blah Blah” Chinese medicine that will cure all your illnesses. And it only costs $500USD! WOW! What a great deal. You have no illness, your kidneys are fine, they just want to scam you.

How to avoid? Just don’t’ get the check up. If you have a known problem go to a Traditional Chinese Medicine shop that is not on tour or if you trust your hotel ask them about an approved shop.

Fake Monks

Simply said, you will be at a Temple and some guy is dressed up like a monk and we think “oh, he looks like a monk, I can give him a donation.” So, what do people do? Everyone dresses up like a monk and begs. It’s actually a pretty good gig, I may start doing this one. Who knows. If you see a huge white guy dressed like a monk, it’s me, don’t trust me, it will be a scam.

Bar Tabs

Keep track of your drinks. It’s well known that people outside of China drink too much and when they get to 5 or above they lose track. So was it 5 or 6 or 7? Ah, lets just call it 8!

Find a system to count your drinks, for example have a piece of paper next to you and for every drink write a line. Something.