Most common scams in China and how to avoid them

Last updated: Oct. 27, 2019

The thing with travelling to any country is that no matter who you are or where you go, there will always be a chance that you could easily fall victim to some sort of scam or another. In fact, even when we don’t really feel like we’re being scammed, we might be being scammed; at least a little bit. We tend to stand out as tourists, no matter how hard we might try to blend in. Scam artist have been playing their games for a long time, they know the locals and how to spot a tourist, especially a gullible one. On top of that, they know you’ve got money.

Beware of Counterfeit Money

Getting ripped off by being fake money sucks. But it happens all too often in China. More often than not, the way scammers will get you with counterfeit cash is when you take a taxi or buy stuff from a street vendor. You hand over the cash, and when the second you’re not looking they swap out the bill for a fake one. They’ll hand it back to you and say that the bill is fake, meanwhile, the real bill is stashed away in a pocket. There’s nothing you can do about it if you call the cops, they can’t prove anything, so you end up taking the loss. You might not even know that you took a loss either! You might just take their word for it and hand over a fresh new bill, spending way more than you had planned. How to avoid doing that?Get your cash from a bank or a reputable source when you go to exchange currency and don’t carry big bills like 50 or 100 RMB notes. And take a good look at it, do your own research to make sure you can tell what a real bill looks like.

Know Your Cab Fare Rates

Unless you are from the area, most people won’t know right away how long it takes to get somewhere and how much it will cost. So, when you get into a cab, it is easy to get overcharged for your ride. This is another scam where it helps to do a little research before you accept a ride, especially if the driver is trying to give you a flat rate. In China, you’ve got to be ready to stand your ground and negotiate before blinding saying yes to a cad rate. Let the driver know exactly where you are going, pull out your phone and Google map it if you can, and make sure the driver knows that you aren’t as gullible as you might appear to them.

Street Beggars

I am one of those people who usually tosses a bit of change to musicians on the street, it’s just a thing I do. However, in China, you really need to watch out for beggars on the street, sadly. Some of them can be a bit more aggressive than most and they will find a way to weasel money out of you. They can be pretty grabby and not get off your back until you dish out a few dollars, and then they might harass you for more once they’ve got you on the line. But you’ve got to remember that a US dollar is worth a lot more to them than it is to us. Of course, they’re not all bad, but there are a lot that are out there to prey on tourists. Then there are the street beggars who claim to be collecting for a cause of some sort. Watch out for them the most. Those kinds of things are very easy to fake and before you know it, you’ve donated 20 bucks to some kind of kidney society that doesn’t actually exist. Same goes for fake monks. Yeah, there are a whole lot of fake monks… So, generally avoid giving money to street people if at all possible. Musicians are pretty cool though, and they are usually preoccupied playing their music to stop and harass you for more than what you toss into their cups.

Priced On the Spot

Some of these Chinese scammers would have made excellent psychologists or criminal profilers. They will check you out when you are shopping in their stores and watch what you’re looking at, then decide on the spot how much they are going to charge you when you ask for the price. And you will have to ask for the price because they’re smart and they don’t put the prices on the products. It’s their way of asking high and hoping you won’t try to haggle with them. It works the same way as it does with cab drivers. Once they see that you aren’t willing to pay the ridiculously inflated price, only then will they try to keep your business by lowering the price. They won’t start you off with the reasonable price when they know that more often than not, they can get a hefty bonus out of you. That being said, do some shopping around and try to get an idea of how much things cost before you blindly hand over the money and end up paying sometimes 10 times what you should be paying. Keep your eyes on the locals, when you see how much they pay for something, you’ll have a good idea of the real prices.