This Thailand scam sounds like it could have come from gypsies anywhere in the world. It’s playing out across Thailand right now – and many people are losing boatloads of Thai baht after being scammed this way. It will probably hit the expat world soon – or maybe it started with the expats… it’s a pretty ingenious scam and goes right along with Thai culture – and what Thai people want. What everyone wants that has money – more money.
We visited our Thai friend we hadn’t seen in 4 years the other day. He is 66 years old, and a really smart guy with money. He was a mental health technician in a local hospital, and married a younger Thai woman that was a teacher. They have 2 great kids – boy and girl twins, studying in Bangkok.
When “Pichet” retired he realized he couldn’t make it on his small retirement income from the hospital. He started selling insurance for AIA. He started going to the train station with his truck and trying to talk to foreigners so he could transport them to Chong Mek, Laos or Cambodia… some of them even stayed at his house where he’d rent them either a room in his house or the entire house – like he did for me when I was there. I rented his giant 5 bedroom house for 3,500 THB per month for a year while he slept in a dorm room with his wife – so they could make money off renting their new (just finished) house to me.
Twenty years ago Pichet started building cheap dormitories for students. There are many students attending tech schools, Rajabhat, Polytechnic, and other schools in the area – and he wanted to supplement his small retirement income.
He built the most basic dorms he could afford – with a community shower and restroom area in back of his house – and a row of 10 one story rooms on the other side of his driveway. Soon he was filled to capacity and after a couple years he got a loan from the bank to build more of the same next to those. Now he had 20 rooms. He kept 20 simple rooms like this for a decade. He charged the students whatever they could afford – 1,000 Thai baht per month – no matter how many girls lived in one room. He only allowed girls to stay in the dorms, as guys drank too much and were trouble.
Over the years Pichet’s rooms were almost always completely full because they were cheap, and he provided some security with guys not even allowed on the property after 8pm. I once saw him forcibly remove a drunk guy that was in a girls room and that refused to move. When Pichet pointed the silver gun at the guy’s chest – he walked right out – no problem.
Within the last two years Pichet upgraded all his rooms, flattening the basic dorms and creating new concrete buildings with 2 levels. He now had 40 very nice rooms and was charging 2,500 THB per month which included tv, fans, big bed, refrigerator, hot water shower, and internet.
Pichet was smart with money – as I’ve said. As I’ve shown. The guy knew the value of a baht. He would bargain with people over the cost of his rooms, motorbike rentals, and everything – as if the last baht was the world to him. He started out with no money at all – and over time, grew it and grew it to something that could be called a legacy to give to his kids when he passed.
A Thai man, Somchai, showed up asking Pichet about a room for his daughter that would be attending the university close by. Pichet showed him the rooms and talked to him – the guy was very friendly and Pichet liked him immediately. The stranger saw that Pichet had a truck for sale for 700,000 THB and told him that he might know a lady that is looking for a truck like that.
Somchai gossiped about the woman a little bit – giving Pichet the idea that the woman had tons of money due to a very rich husband that was now disabled. The woman spent money freely – and the guy said, if she wants the truck – she’ll buy it cash.
They said goodbyes, exchanging phone numbers.
Somchai didn’t call for 3 days, Pichet said he feared the rich buyer wasn’t interested. But then Somchai called, and Pichet was really excited about possibly selling his truck for 700,000 because that was just his initial asking price and it wasn’t worth but 500,000. Somchai said he would pick Pichet up – they’d go meet this rich woman and have lunch with her at one of the nice restaurants in town.
Off they went.
At the restaurant Pichet was introduced to what he thought was an exceptionally rich woman – and there were a couple other people at the restaurant too.
The woman’s purse was open at some point during the lunch – when she went to the rest room – and the people sitting there saw that she had thick rolls of cash – over a million baht in cash in her bag she carelessly left at the table.
While the woman was in the restroom Somchai told the group of people at the lunch table a story about the woman having a weakness for gambling – and that she was always ready to play some cards if she could find others willing to bet a lot of money. Somchai said she was notoriously bad at cards – and always lost. He said he had seen her lose tens of millions of baht over the last year alone. She didn’t care – she had money to burn if she wanted to.
When she returned to the table they all talked about gambling and the woman of course offered to play some high stakes poker but only for 5 million baht if anyone could afford it. Somchai, and the two other women and one man in the group all said they would come up with the money and everyone was looking at Pichet to see if he could come up with 1 million baht to play too. So as not to lose face, and, facing the prospect of huge gains of money – he said yes, he would get 1 million baht to play too.
The group met at a house 2 hours later where the card game was supposed to take place. There were some security guys there – the rich woman’s bodyguards. The plan was that Somchai would put the 5 million in a pool of money and one of them would play the woman in cards for it.
Somchai asked who wanted to play the game… nobody answered. He asked Pichet – and Pichet said, oh no – I think better for someone good to play her. Pichet suggested Somchai play for it because Somchai knew his cards – so he said.
Everyone in the group gave their 1 million baht to Somchai and he went into another room with the woman who was sitting there with her bodyguards and a table in front of her – everyone saw that she had about 5 million in cash on the table.
The woman insisted on closing the door while the card playing was taking place – for security.
At first the group outside the room heard people there – talking and some gasps and things… then for a long while it was very quiet.
They were all starting to ask questions about the outcome because they were dying to know – did they just make a lot of money off the rich but horrible card playing woman?
They sat another hour sweating – dying to know – what happened. Wait, what was going on? There was no sound in the room.
They started to knock on the door. No answer. Bang. No answer… They went around the house and saw that the window was open and nobody was in the room anymore.
They had just been scammed for 1 million baht each.
But really, only Pichet had been scammed for 1 million baht – as the others were ALL in on it.
It was like a gypsy scam… many people in on it and Pichet was the “mark”.
Pichet just couldn’t come to grips with the idea that it was a scam because he felt he KNEW Somchai and that somehow Somchai was a good guy. The others in the group felt the same – thinking it was just the old woman that ripped everyone off – and maybe they killed Somchai!
A month later Pichet gets a call from Somchai.
He said he was knocked unconscious by the old woman’s bodyguards and they carried him to a car – dumping him off in a trash yard. He was in the hospital for a month.
He said he could get Pichet and the other players’ money back for them.
He just needed 100,000 more Thai baht.
Pichet wired it to him.
And you can guess how that went.
So, this scam is making the rounds ALL OVER Thailand at the moment. There have been many victims of it.
It is well put together. Well rehearsed. And a pretty perfect plan which goes down really easily in Thai society. Most Thais are gamblers – or want to be. Most Thais really want some extra money – and if they can get it illicitly – they will try. To save face in front of the group of people – Pichet said he could come up with the money to play the game. He wanted to be part of the group. He didn’t want to miss out on the gains. Pichet, is a good person inside. That’s obvious to me. He trusts people quickly – foreigners too, when they come to his house to stay. I have warned him about a few guys that I thought were out to rip him off. One guy took a motorbike of pichets for a month – that was supposed to be for 2 days. Recently a foreigner stayed for 2 months – delaying rent payment – and then didn’t have any cash at all to pay.
So, the scam is going around – be careful for it – and variants of it that hit the expat world. There must be many similar scams going around the country… the world.