Wednesday, May 03, 2006

How they rip you off in India, esp. if you are a foreign tourist!

While browing the Internet, I came across an interesting (but sad) story of a person ripped of while visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra:

"I was asked if I could do the gentleman a favour! I thought this was to be another pressure sale and in a way I suppose it was. Mr Singh was a jeweler who traded all over the world, or so he told me. His problem was that after a certain amount he had to pay duty on all items he imported and as a coincidence, he was coming to Scotland in February 2001, which was only two months away. He asked if I could take jewelry into the UK for him, therefore allowing him to bypass this duty he would need to pay. By this time two of Mr Singhs brothers had also entered into the room, they had shown me a receipt book with details of other people from around the world that had helped them as well as an E-Mail from someone looking for more work. After much convincing / persuasion, I had convinced myself that Mr Singh seemed like a nice guy, there was no risk involved and that I wanted to get out of there in one piece. Therefore before I knew it I was handing over my credit card to pay for over £1500 of jewelry, which would not be debited from my card as long as I turned up on the day in Glasgow, and as a bonus I would be paid for."

I am amazed that in this age and time, these kind of stories abound. Basically what happens is like this:
- A tourist comes to see the Taj Mahal. He is "cajoled" by the Taxi/Auto/Rikshaw puller into visiting some shops - asking him to just look and not to buy.
- Most of these shops are genuine businessmen. However bad apples like Mr. Singh also exist. Invariably they trade in precious stones and jewelry as most people cannot identify real gems and it is much easier to dupe someone to carry a small case back with him rather than carry a statue and/or tabletop. It is also harder to make a worthless statue 4 feet in size, while it is much easier to make a worthless pair of rings.
- In case of a genuine business, if the tourist likes something, he pays for it and gets the stuff either right away or shipped to his address. In case of guys like Mr. Singh, he is told long stories about Mr. Singh's business, his various visits across the world, his challenges in saving "excise and custom duty". Many of these folks will willingly smoke dope and make the tourist high before cutting the deal.
- See links below for what are the various permutations and combinations that can be tried out:
India Ring Scam
Victims Cry about the Ring and Gold Scams

The thing that amazes me most is not the scam, but the fact that the European and American Embassies in India are fully aware of this nonsense (invariably they hear one or two complaints each day). However these "bad apple" businessmen have connivance with either local policemen and/or politicians and thus are carrying on this duping. Even the credit card companies like Visa, Amex and MasterCard are simply turning blind eyes to the travails of the conned. It is the free rein of these folks that leads to either food poisoning scams or drug scams where these folks think they can bribe themselves out of any situation. All in all a shameful and sorry state of affairs.

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