Hong Kong no doubt one of the safest cities in the world, you won’t get robbed easily on the street and most shops are honest while selling stuffs. However, there are always black sheep in every flock, here we list the most common traps you may fall into as a tourist. We hope you have a memorable tourism experience in Hong Kong.
If you have watched the legendary
melodramatics Scam City Hong Kong Episode, I guess you already know some of the most uncommon scam in Hong Kong. (Taxi Scam is common though, that’s why you should read the No more Taxi fare scam with Taxi Fare Calculator article). Since we have already discussed Taxi Scam, here we list 10 other common tourist scam you may experienced in Hong Kong.
1. Antique Shops Fraud
Well, I know I said that many of the so-called scam in the Scam City aren’t common, I’d like to remind you that most Antiques are just for fun. There are shops selling not very ancient antiques but they are usually very expensive.
How to Avoid: You know that can’t be real antique right?
2. Weights and Measures Frauds
Many tourist like to buy Chinese Medicine, marina food products, herbs, etc. in Hong Kong. While you can hardly find fake products some shops rip you off by weight frauds or misrepresentation of actual weights or selling price. This is because most of these products are sold according to how much (usually weight), how can you tell if the shop is giving you the right amount? When you see a listing price of $80, is it $80 per pound? or per tael
How to Avoid: Look for the Quality Tourism Service Logo in/outside the shop, it can be a sticker or a sigh. The Logo looks like this. The are usually trustworthy.
3. Counterfeit Goods / Parallel Goods & Second Hand Products
There are a lot of shopping streets in Hong Kong, most of them are selling counterfeit products, you should be able to tell when you find products selling at a price which is too good to be true (e.g. a Hugo Boss t-shirt under HK$100). Some shops, e.g. electronic shops, sell you electronic products at a very attractive price and it works perfectly fine when you examine them. Be cautious! They can be parallel goods without warranty or some may even be Second Hand (some shops buy second hand electronics and sell them as new).
How to Avoid: Besides the Quality Tourism Service logo, it is always better if you know your product well including the reasonable price range, while stuffs can be cheaper in Hong Kong avoid deals which are too good to be true. If you are buying electronics go for chain stores (e.g. Broadway, Fortress). As a local, I prefer to buy from them as well.
4. Bait and Switch
Some shops sell you products at a very attractive price, when you go in they say the product is out of stock after you PAID, and they salesperson will replace you with a much lower value product at the same price. Sometimes, the salesperson may tell you the product is sold in the different name in Hong Kong (which is extremely uncommon). Others may actually switch your purchased product when you do not notice.
How to Avoid: Same as 3 & 4, always buy from big chain stores if possible.
5. Spiritual Blessing
These scams involve two to four culprits, the first swindler approaches the victim and asks if he/she has heard of a particular “Doctor” with some super-natural healing power. The second swindler then emerges the conversation saying she has heard of such “Doctor” and leads the party to meet a third swindler who claims to be the granddaughter of the “Doctor”. The third swindler alleges that victim suffers from some illnesses, usually arthritis or their family members had offended some deceased from traffic accident and would be dead by today. However, the “Doctor” can help to heal the sickness / remove ill fortune provided victim surrenders some valuables / money for a ritual. Following the ritual, the swindlers return victim’s valuables, which are wrapped in newspaper / contained in a tote bag, claiming that this is the victim’s property. However, when victim later unwraps the package, he/she discovers the bundle only contains worthless items and their valuables are gone.
How to Avoid: Go to real doctor if you are sick….
6. Borrow Money / Phone
This deception usually involves one to two culprits. One of the culprits approaches the victims, usually teenagers, pretending to be a tourist who has lost his wallet and is therefore in some distress. The suspect asks the victim to lend him some money. In return the suspect leaves his contact means to victims. Later, the victim discovers the contact details to be false. Sometimes the culprit may produce name cards pretending to be reputable persons. In a slightly different scenario the culprit asks to use the victim’s mobile phone to telephone his relative with a view to arranging the loan of some money. The second culprit answers the call and then asks to speak to the victim. The second culprit promises to transfer some money into the victim’s account if he/she lends some money to the first culprit. The victim does so, but no repayment is later made to the victim’s account.
How to Avoid: Leave your kindness at home…
7. Dropped Money
This type of deception usually involves a gang of two, the first swindler will deliberately drop a stack of money right in front of victim. At this juncture, the second swindler appears and picks up the money and suggests to victim to share the money and leads victim to a quiet area nearby. Not long, the first swindler walks back and accuses victim of having picked up his money. Although victim will deny the accusation, the first swindler will request to search victim’s wallet / handbag for their innocence. Meanwhile, the first swindler will stealthily take away victim’s property before both swindlers run away.
How to Avoid: Never follow strangers, your mum did tell you right?
8. Timeshare Scam
Someone come up to you and ask you to a survey, after the survey you got scratch cards and you are so lucky that you’ve just earned a US$1000 tour for free! Well…you won’t believe it can be true, right
How to Avoid: Whenever there’s a prize which you can actually win, stay alert…
9. Art Scammers
You can see Artist drawing on the street if you are in France, you may see “Artist” in Hong Kong as well! The difference is, the drawings in Hong Kong are on the floor and if you accidentally stepped on it, you have to buy it, fair, right…?
How to Avoid: Mind your steps! Mind your steps! Mind your steps!…..
10. Fake Monk
From time to time you can see monks walking around the street and asking people for donations, only that they are not monk, they are just wearing like a monk during “working hours”.
How to Avoid: They’re not scam if you are happy to give your money to them…right…? Good news is, they won’t force you.
What to do if you think you have been ripped off?
If unfortunately you did fall into a scam, contact the Hong Kong Police (call or email to firstname.lastname@example.org) and lodge a complaint with the Hong Kong Consumer Council. Hong Kong Government treats frauds and scam seriously and in many cases the scammers do get caught.
Did you experience some other scams in Hong Kong? Let us know and we will share it to other tourist.