As this 2008 Beijing Olympics are now less than 1 year away, its scary toÂ think the number and types of scams perpetrated by Chinese on foreigners is onlyÂ increasing.Â Most of the following examples have actually happened to my guests when in Beijing or other parts of China, and a few are commonly reported elsewhere around China.
- At the capital airport, a guy claiming to drive a taxi says he’ll take you to town for 700RMB! And he makes youÂ walk a long way to his taxi.
- –> Go outside to the taxi queue and insist that the driver use the meter.Â Most rides to downtown Beijing are less than 200RMB.
- Exiting the Summe Palace, a guy claiming to drive a taxi offers to take you back to downtown Beijing.Â You see that his car has a ‘taxi’ sign on top so you think it must me legit and you agree.Â However, after the taxi starts, you realizeÂ the meter isÂ clicking over 2-2.5times as fast as it should be.Â When you arrive at your destination the meter reads RMB400.Â Â The meter is rigged. You protest but the driver pretends not to understand you and so you give in and pay.
- –> Instead of taking a taxi whose driver seeks you out, go and find your own taxi, maybe even walk a block away from the attraction.Â Also, choose standard taxis–(in Beijing) red, green/yellow, blue/yellow, red/yellow.Â If you do find yourself in a taxi where the meterÂ is rigged (and you don’t have any luggage),Â get out immediately, without paying.Â If you’ve reached your destination and find its too late to get yourself out of this situation, take the driver’s license (visibly located about the glove box), then report it to the police to try to get your money back.Â In another case,Â if the driver refuses to startÂ the meter, get out immediately without paying.
- You’ve just paid the driver of the previous taxi his exorbitantÂ rate ofÂ RMB400, then he tells you 3 of your RMB100 notes areÂ fake. You tell him that can’t possibly beÂ because you got them at the bank in your home country.Â And you know he had plenty of time to switch them while you were getting out of the taxi.Â But he again pretends not to understand.Â You refuse to give him new notes, he gets angry and makes for a nearby policeman.Â You guess involving the police probably won’t help the situation given your inability to speak Chinese and a system know as guanxi. Again, you give in and give the driver RMB300Â more just to have itÂ done with.Â All-in-all, you paid RMB700Â for a taxi ride which should have cost less than RMB200.
- –> If paying with large bills, sit in the front of the taxi, then watch the driver as he checks the bills.Â Don’t give him the opportunity to switch them and don’t get out until he’s satisfied with them.Â If its too late,Â take the driver’s license (visibly located about the glove box), then report it to the police to try to get your money back.
- You’re wandering through the hutong watching and learning about local life and a Chinese person starts to chat with youÂ in excellent English. You think, wow, great. This person is so friendly and helpful and I’ll learn so much more about the local culture by having a native to talk to.Â He shows you around, then brings you to a teahouse.Â There you sample tea and the beneficial properties of each type of tea are explained to you.Â At the end you’re told you owe RMB2400(!!) because each tea you tried was between RMB80-500.Â ‘What,’ you balk, ‘I can’t pay that much.Â I don’t have that much money.Â I didn’t drink that much tea.’ ‘That’s ok,’ they explain, ‘they accept credit cards.’ (Note: Credit cards are rarely accepted in China, therefore this is also likely credit card fraud as well.)Â Reluctantly, you give them your credit card.
- –> Before drinking tea, whether in Chengdu, Beijing, or elsewhere, always check the pricelist/menu and ascertain the price of the tea you will be drinking beforehand.Â There are some very expensive teas in China and for the most part, you won’t know the difference so stick with teas in the range of RMB30-40.
- You’re wandering down Nanjing Road in Shanghai and someone with decent, but not great English approaches you and asks if you will practice English with them. You think, wow a great opportunity to interact with locals, learn more about local life, and do someone a favor.Â So you follow them and then take you to a top floor of a building and together you drink tea and chat in English.Â After a while you say you have to go and get up and leave but they say, ‘wait, you need to payÂ RMB1500 for the tea.’
- –> This is also a tea scam and possibly credit card fraud as well.Â See above for how to deal.
- You’re walking toward Forbidden City or maybe down Nanjing Road and a young person speaking exellent English approaches you and says ‘I’mÂ an art student and we’re having an exhibition, please come look.’
- –> This is a scam, usually also involving tea or anÂ art viewing fee.Â Say no and continue on your way.
- You’re wandering through Tiananmen marveling at its size, then a tout asksÂ you if you want to buy a Mao watch, or other souvenir.Â You decide you like that Mao watch then you haggle over price.Â You agree onÂ 20RMB.Â When you go to pay, you realize you only have a RMB100 note.Â Â You give it to the sellerÂ and he gives you a RMB50 and 3 RMB10s in change.Â You think wow, what a deal, until later you try to use that RMB50 to buy lunch but they tell you, ‘no, that’s fake.’Â Â You realizeÂ you just paid RMB70 for that watch, not such a great price after all.Â
- –> Always keep small change on you to pay for little things.Â Learn the security features of the RMB50 and RMB100 notes.Â Then check for them everytime you’re handed one of those bills.
- You go to rent a coat, or a bike, or whatever and you’re required to pay a deposit of RMB100-200.Â When returning the item, and receiving your deposit back, the bills don’t seem to hae the right texture and feel.
- –> Learn the security features of the bills and always remember to check them. If the notes seem fake, insist on differentÂ ones or smaller denominations.Â Consider telling the local police bureau.
These scams may change as they become more well-known to the foreigners visiting China so always be aware.Â Please pass this along to anyone you know visiting China to help protect them and teach China that they can’t treat foreigners this way.