Scams & Confidence Tricksters, Kuala Lumpur
Please do not purchase tickets online from unofficial online Petronas Towers ticket Vendors as you probably will be refused entry.
Please read the information in the link and buy through the official site.
I had a stopover in KL for the day. I was minding my own business walking the city and ended up at Petronas. I was approached by two "friendly" ladies and after a chat they offered to take me to their house for lunch and meet a niece who is going to study nursing in Brisbane as I mentioned my wife is a nurse-malaysian hospitality, right? wrong!....I got scammed into a blackjack game and before I knew it I was out $5,000. How, you ask? It was a well-orchestrated scam. Took a taxi to the house; a rich "Singaporean" business comes over wanting to play; "uncle" debriefs me beforehand to show how we can win as he doesn't like the "businessman"; next thing I know I am gambling $$$ as the "businessman" ups the ante with each hand. "Uncle" says he'll back me as we are "in cahuts", but in the end after 4 hours I'm ripped off before I even know it. BEWARE....I hope this saves others $$$ and to think I am a well-seasoned traveller.
There are people in Kuala Lumpur (I encountered a man of middle-eastern origin accompanied by a man who looked Malay) posing as "tourist police". They claim to be investigating fake currency and ask to search your bags. The pair I encountered made off with some of our money. The men were able to produce what looked like ID cards carrying the label "tourist police" and they claimed to be plainclothesmen. They seem mostly to be approaching Asians (South Asians included).
Apparently what you need to do when approached by someone who looks like police is to verify that the name on their police ID card matches the name on their national ID card. Apparently police in KL carry two photo IDs. I am also told that tourist police are always in uniform. Lastly, don't allow anyone to inspect your bags except at a police station. Ask a potential scam artist to accompany you to the nearest police station should they wish to inspect your bags.
This article as published in the Bangkok Post 4 Nov 2004:
Men of Mideastern appearance masquerade as narcotics agents in Malaysia's capital
The Malaysian tourism campaign has been highly successful in attracting visitors, but here is a warning from a Travel Talk reader, Renato Castor, for travellers heading that way.
On his two recent visits to Malaysia, he noted the presence of bogus narcotics agents who preyed on innocent tourists, especially from Thailand, visiting places the Kuala Lumpur City Centre and Bukit Bintang.
According to Castor, they look like men from the Middle East. They approach tourists and ask where they're coming from and if you tell them you are coming from Thailand, they introduce themselves as international drug agents. After that they demand to search your camera case and handbag for drugs.
Castor says don't let them search your bags because they will put something in and then claim it to be some kind of drug. They even show you their card identifying them as "AGENTS". They are there to extort money. They will threaten you with arrest if you don't pay them.
If confronted by such agents insists they take you to the nearest police station before letting them frisk you bag or call 999 for assistance. This way they will realise that you know their modus operandi and leave you alone.
They normally prey on Asian visitors because Asians are usually of small built and tend to get intimidated easily. They are also present in other Malaysian cities like Penang. Don't be afraid to yell if you think you need help.
One trick that does wonders is to them straight away that you are Malaysian.
Police reports confirm their existence because a number of them have been caught and jailed, but those on the loose continue to prey on innocent Asian tourists.
Thanks for the warning, Castor.
Night time KL comes alive! It's so colourful and with lots of things and music happening in the street.
However I was distraught to see so many beggers with missing limbs. It was horrible and I just wanted to cry. Beware, do not give any money because it does not go to the beggars. These are gangs of evil people who live off others misfortune.
There are at least 2 monks outside the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (KLCC) wearing the usual Monk clothes asking for handouts. Westerners don't realize it, but they are not real monks. They are out all day. Real monks ask for food early in the morning, they eat their only meal for the day, and spend the rest of the day in study, meditation or prayer. These guys are out all afternoon! Don't fall for it, they are scammers. You will also see them around the hotels before the Convention Center opens.
I am in KL for 6-8 months on work assignment from the US. While I have not been scammed, I have certainly been approached many times as a single white male, especially when carrying a camera it seems. All the scammers were friendly and had very good English. The first day I was here I was greeted by a middle aged kindly looking man who asked where I was from. Knowing the Malaysians were said to be quite friendly, I sat down and talked to him. Surprise! He knew all about the US and had a daughter who was going to go to Med school in San Diego. He was very engaging and asked to meet for dinner. Something told me this seemed odd, so I took down his phone number to get rid of him but didn't give him mine. Other times I am greeted with "nice shoes", "nice shirt", and my favorite (twice now) a large bearded man saying that I had a "Lucky face!" I was caught off guard by that one but soon realized something was not right. This has happened between Jalan Ismail/Jalan P. Ramlee, KLCC and Bukit Bintang. I never felt threatened at any time, as one person wrote I think they just want my money. They are looking for naive tourists. If I am dressed for business or look somewhat "local" I am never bothered.
My version of the KL blackjack scam.
At the Twin Towers I am approached by two women, for a chat. Another man joins. They claim to be from the philipines, and 2 of them are musicians. This is followed by an invitation to come to their place for one of their kid's birthday party. I am a musician as well, we might jam a little, they say. We make an appointment for 4 o'clock and they take me to a house near Jalan Indah. The party will be later, I am offered a tea, and to pass the time, the host offers to show me his blackjack trick, for he works at the casino in genting highlands.
I am completely uninterested in playing cards, but OK, i am polite (and have trouble saying 'no' politely), and go along with my host's practice rounds. He was talking about a woman who would come later, and likes to play mahjong. Good that i do not know that game, he says, I can play cards with her, he says. A Brunei woman's arrival took me by surprise. I am a good sport, I protest that I do not play for money, but play cards a little with them anyway, until she starts throwing a lot of chips. When I want to quit, there is one more round to go. They deal me a winning (21) hand, and after the first bet she goes up to 50.000 us$, taking a bundle of green paper out of her bag. Now, my host wants to sign me an iou, so that I can match the bet and play. I do not do that and leave the existing bet to her, to end the situation. But I am pressed by my host for the money he 'lent' me (I had not put in or shown any money, I just play chips). I do not think I could have refused, seen the guys waiting in the parlor, and lose 300 $.
They took me back in a brown car with license plate "WLC 598" (7 March). The house is near Jalan Indah, it may be on the side of the Jalan Perdana streets. One of the women who spoke to me at klcc is around 60, with a bad skin and a lot of white powder, short sturdy nose with a high bridge. Update: I've run into her again. I took a hazy video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdmDNc9N7p4) . There is a picture now.
Only afterwards, I realized their tea has been drugged to make me less alert. Constricted pupils and more, I have been to the hospital. If you are sober, you would not go for this.
It works like this: A dad and a couple of female relatives start chatting with you and find out where you are from. Surprisingly the dad had a daughter going to there to study and the mother is worried of her daughter in a foreign land. So the dad asks you back to his house to meet the mother and to maybe help with her concerns. When you get to the house the dad's brother in law introduces himself and says he works as a dealer on a cruise ship and he teaches you a few tricks on how he and you could scam the casino on the cruise ship. He also says a gambler is coming to pick up an invitation and we can scam him and he puts up US$200. The gambler quickly loses $2000 despite winning one round. He then brings out stacks of (supposed) cash which the dealer doesnt check, puts in his filing cabinet before issuing chips. You are dealt 21 and you know the gambler is dealt 20 so you are guaranteed to win. The gambler acts as if he has a strong hand so bets everything he has - in this case US$40,000. You are expected to put in as much as possible and the dealer will cover the rest. Since you are guaranteed to win and are concentrating on the winnings you forget you have put in a bit of your own money. The gambler wont reveal his cards until he sees your chips on the table to match his. If you show your hand you automatically lose. The dealer acts like he is working with you to scam the gambler so he says he will get the money the next day because the banks have closed. The game is postponed until the next day and the cards sealed in envelopes which is locked in the dealer's filing cabinet. You are now the dealer's best friend because he cant complete the scam without you. You are then dropped off at your hotel. You are wondering how this will end but the fact is he already has your money! It's at this stage you realise the dealer and gambler are scamming you and he wont be contacting you again! Bottom line: Dont go home with strangers no matter how nice they seem!
We have went to KL for the second time in September 2005 and unfortunately the crime rate has increased, which is sad to see.
Our hotel had informed us there had been a few cases of imposters around the hotel pretending to be hotel staff asking for money.
There were also stories of people pretending to be police asking for i.d or money. BE AWARE THAT THE POLICE DO NOT ASK FOR YOU TO PULL OUT YOUR I.D.
Common sense would tell you not to hand out money on the first place
I've just heard from the relevant people that lately there have been "tour guides" that offer tourists cheap tickets to go up to the Sky Bridge at the PETRONAS Twin Towers. They get a group of tourists together, then go off to fetch the tickets and charge these tourists something like RM10 per ticket. Please remember THE TRIP UP TO THE SKY BRIDGE IS FREE!!
You just have to go and get the tickets from the counters which open at 8.30 a.m. The view isn't THAT brilliant from the Sky Bridge because you are behind glass and it's not really very high up at Level 41, but hey.. it's free and you get to see the building inside.
You also get to see an overview of the KLCC Park and surrounds (including my house if you only knew which one it was!), but for a better view of the KL city skyline you may want to go up the KL Tower instead. There is a revolving restaurant there with a wide variety of food which sucks, however. You can also get McDonald's but the food is not much better actually.
But, again, with the KL Tower you have to pay. The Sky Bridge is free...!
Tickets may run out fast since there's a limit of 1400 people up to the Sky Bridge per day so go early and be prepared to wait. Group tours are timed (I think 8.30 - 10.30 a.m. and 2.00 - 4.00 p.m.) and restricted to 20 people per session.
It`s a shame to have to give this piece of advice of advice, but be careful of `friendly` people approaching you in shopping centers. There is a common scam going around that has been very carefully put together which ultimately involves a poker game.
I didn`t lose any money because I basically told them where to go. It started like this:
I was in the KLCC (shopping complex in the Petronas Towers) when a woman approached to ask the time. She was about 60 I`d say. I had just handed some photos in for development and had an hour and a half to kill. This woman had shopping bags and seemed fairly harmless; after a chat she offered to have lunch with me and I agreed. She said she lived `across the road` and stupidly, I told her I`d help her with her bags. Another woman appeared (about 300lbs) and we got into a taxi for `the short journey` and ended up on the highway!
We ended up in a wealthy neighbourhood and to cut a long story short, a relative of hers appeared and talked about a poker scam and said he worked at the casino and that we`d go 50-50 in defrauding the casino. I said no way and left the house. The woman appeared in a car and apologised and took me back to the shopping center. I told her what I thought of her once we were safely back at the shopping center and she sped off. The licence plate was covered in caked mud!
I went to the police and after two hours of interviews and transferring between departments, they took me out in a patrol car to try to find the house again but I couldn`t remember.
This all happened in March 2003 and the police said they had found more than 100 cases since mid-2001. They also said I was very lucky - some people had lost more than USD10000. I don`t know if they have been caught between then and now.
I am usually very careful and I can`t believe I went with this person.
The police said the tricksters always target people who don`t know the city well. If you are approached you should say you visit regularly and obviously refuse to go anywhere.
Please be extra careful and catious of people approaching you and asking you the time, then asking more questions leading to them asking you to follow them back to meet their 'uncle' or 'relative' who plans to take a holiday to your country.
These professional conmen/women move around the city solo or as a couple. They target single male travellers on the streets They will approach you in a friendly manner, asking you the time or other general questions. Then they will ask you where are you from, when you answer, they will supprisingly say they have an uncle that is planning to visit your country.
Soon after some chit-chat, they will try to invite you back to their 'uncle's' home for dinner so you can give him more info. Once there, the 'uncle' will befriend you and in time to come, he will try to talk you into a sure-win 'gambling' session with some investor. It's usually a game of poker where he assures that you will win big time if you follow his orders. You usually end up losing up to the thousands due to greed and the blame will be put on you. They will have a alternate way out of this by getting you to use your credit card or to TT money from back home to pay off the balance owed. Then, you will be dropped off in the city somewhere dead broke. They do not harm you. All they want is your money.
These conmen/women are usually from the Phillipines residing here on tourist visa's. They are usually found around the tourist areas. Many cheap hotels and inn's have little posters of this scam pinned up on the walls to warn the travellers.
This is one of the scams I found out from a hotel operator as one of his backpacking guest got tricked into it. He was US$15,000 poorer after that ordeal.