Gi2C Guide for China Travelers: How does a typical scam happen?

Gi2C offers an important warning and advice on how to avoid scams in China

Traveling in China is exciting and interesting, yet every year thousands of tourists and expats get taken advantage of while visiting and living in China. At Gi2C, our goal is to make sure our Gi2C interns and China expats have the best experience possible in China. The last thing we want is for Gi2C interns or any foreigner to fall prey to scams while out and about in China.  Here is some advice from our Gi2C staff and long-time Beijing and Shanghai expats about what to look out for in order to avoid being scammed:

 What do scammers look like in China?

They often look very nice and seem friendly. The person wanting to scam you of your money may be a middle-aged woman, a good-looking guy, or a couple of cute college girls who approach you and start talking to you in good English.

How do they start the conversation with you?

They most likely will offer to help you with something such as directions, bargaining, reading some sign in Chinese or help to take your picture. They may come up to you and ask if you speak English or what nationality you are.

What type of foreigners do they target?

Most scam artists will look for foreigners who look lost or confused or who are carrying a backpack or luggage with them. They may also look for people from specific countries who may generally be more friendly to strangers than other countries. Lastly, they’ll look for foreigners who appear to be somewhat wealthy or at least those who might be carrying all of their travel cash with them at that moment.

How do they get you to trust them?

They talk about things that interest you and are very knowledgeable or curious about your home country. They explain a little about themselves and may have a story of hardship such as struggling to come to Beijing or Shanghai and feeling very lonely to cause you to feel like you’re helping to cheer them up by befriending them.

They may say they are also tourists and just got to town a few days ago and are staying nearby. They will often flatter you in every other sentence and make you feel good about yourself.  When is the last time a stranger said you were beautiful, hilarious, cute, fun, brave, strong, handsome, smart and cool all within 15 minutes? Don’t fall for it.

Where do they want to take you?

They ask you to go join them in having some tea, coffee, beer or a meal at a place that just so happens to be very close by but most likely is not a legit or legal establishment. They will then escort you to this shady location in the back somewhere that has little signage and no prices on the menu.

What happens when you get to the destination?

After a usually enjoyable lunch, you’ll be ready to leave in order to get back on schedule. When you ask for the bill, you discover that the total amount is several hundred dollars or RMB. Your escorts may offer to pay 50%; however, in the end, they won’t pay a dime and you will have been seriously overcharged.

Why can’t you refuse to pay and just run out?

Sadly, most foreigners don’t even consider this an option because they either don’t know they are being scammed or simply because this would never be an option in their home country. If you did refuse to pay, most likely scary looking fake security guys who are also in on the scam might appear to try and frighten you into paying.

To be on the safe side, should I just not talk to any locals?

Of course not. The majority of Chinese people are very friendly and kind and have no agenda. However, every country has black sheep and simply due to the sheer size of China, China has more black sheep than other countries. Our advice at Gi2C is to be friendly, but only up to a point. If you are on your own without a trustworthy China tour guide, then don’t go anywhere with a stranger. An alternative might be to take them to a place of your choosing. If they say, “Come with us” you can say instead, “Let’s have coffee at the Starbucks right there”.

Why do foreigners often get scammed in China?

Chinese people know foreigners are usually kind-hearted and think the best of everyone. As a result, certain scams are prevalent to take advantage of this naivety. You should be wary of anyone who approaches you for anything other than wanting to take a picture with you. People offering you a hotel, transport, or entrance tickets may deliver, but you will never know how much more you paid for that service than a Chinese person paid.

Also foreigners, especially those on vacation, are easy targets. They are clearly just passing through and may be carrying all of their belongings with them along with a good deal of cash. Try to blend in more with the crowd and leave extra money, fancy clothes and possessions at the hotel instead of carrying your backpack with you. Even if you don’t fall prey to a China scam, you may fall prey to theft. There are a lot of sticky fingers in China’s big cities. Keep any expensive belongings in front of you where you can see them at all times.

If China scams are so common, why even come to China?

Read any reviews about China and you’ll discover that it’s a place you have visit at some point in your life. Not all Chinese people are out to scam you, and just by reading this article, you’ve done about all it takes to protect yourself against being scammed. Although scams in China exist, they shouldn’t discourage you from missing out on an opportunity of a lifetime.

Over 3,000 Gi2C interns have been brave enough to leave home and come to China and the majority have had an amazing and extremely positive experience. Now that you’re aware of this particularly common China scam and if you prepare well for the unexpected, you’ll have nothing to worry about. China is a fascinating and exciting place for visitors, expats and foreign interns. Don’t waste a second longer waiting to come over to China!

This how-to guide in avoiding China scams is brought to you by Gi2C Group. Gi2C has been an internship provider in China since 2008 and has become a leader in the internship industry. Gi2C’s goal is to help students and young professionals not only safely get into China without falling prey to any scams but also to help them understand China and Chinese business culture. Gi2C interns write honest reviews of our programs which can be read on a variety of online third-party sources. Gi2C provides tailor-made opportunities for interns to work for a variety companies in multiple industries based in China.

  1. I think with little bit of patience, scrutiny and common sense, you can avoid most of these scammers. The problem is when travellers think they are some how entitled.