Cambodia Scams

Cambodia is a scam capital of the world. Sure, Nigeria may be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about scam, but Nigeria focuses on on-line scamming, whereas Cambodia is still on top of the game when it comes to face to face scams. Just as is the case with violence, scam is a part of daily lives of all Cambodians. They need scam to feel alive and no walk of life is left out.

Scamming Government Officials

Cambodia is ruled by the most corrupt government in the world which results in all government officials being professional extortionists. Whether it’s the police, Apsara Authority or immigration people appointed to issue visa, they will all want extra money if you end up having any dealings with them.

Poipet Border Scam

Poipet border between Cambodia and Thailand is infamous for endless scam and indeed I have been subjected to it when I tried to cross both to Thailand and back from Thailand to Cambodia. Thais do not scam, but Cambodians make it their profession. Buses will purposefully take you to the wrong place so you have to pay extra to get you to the border or to stay overnight in a guesthouse that pays commission. On the way to Cambodia you will have Cambodian immigration officers and the police insisting on bribes or else you’re left to sweat and roast in the sun until you shell out. This type of scam is not limited to Poipet through. Coming to Cambodia from Laos will expose you to the same scam and so will the Cham Yeam crossing from Thailand (direct access to Sihanoukville).

Planted Drugs Scams

Given that the police are as corrupt as the government itself, their entire purpose is to scam. The police will go through any lengths to get money off of tourists. Planting tourists with drugs is a common practise and could set you back a few hundred dollars unless you shell out right after you’ve been set up. In that case, the scam cops may be happy to let you go after being paid just $20 each.

Fake Pills Scams

I understand that UCare Pharmacy (can find one in both SIem Reap and in Phnom Penh) is supposed to be the one pharmacy in Cambodia which doesn’t sell fake pills, but it’s hard to take any such claim by a Cambodian company seriously. Other than UCare, though, Cambodia specializes in selling fake pills cause that’s an easy money. One type of pills worth particular mention are anti-malarials. When news of fake malaria pills hit the web, I was not surprised at all when I found out that Cambodia was the front runner of the scam. It’s so typical of this country to sell counterfeit pills to people who foolishly believe they will be protected against malaria… Don’t trust anything you buy in Cambodia, but if your life is in question, then multiply this rule tenfold.

Photo: UCare Pharmacy in Siem Reap - Allegedly Selling Real Anti-Malarials, Unlike The Rest of Cambodia
Photo: UCare Pharmacy in Siem Reap - Allegedly Selling Real Anti-Malarials, Unlike The Rest of Cambodia

Rental Scams

This usually happens with motorcycle rentals as there is more money involved than in bicycle rentals for example. The scenario is simple – you come to rent a motorcycle, sign a rental agreement which has a clause that you will have to pay the full amount if you lose, destroy or someone steals the motorcycle. You will be provided with the key from the lock while a copy of the key is provided to a person associated with the rental agency. They will follow you from the distance, patiently waiting until you park the bike before the superstore or some other place where you’re likely to step away from the sight of the motorcycle for a while. They will use the key they have to unlock the motorcycle and will drive away. When you come back, there will be no motorcycle and no chance for you to recover it. The police are often part of this scam and will participate with the rental agency to force you into paying the full amount that equals the value of a brand new bike. Many, many and then some foreigners have been scammed this way in Cambodia. Again, businesses in Cambodia don’t try to make it by offering quality service or product. They just look for easy and quick money, and as much as possible the first time.

Bootlegs Scams

Virtually nothing you buy in Cambodia is genuine. Nothing is real. By selling genuine goods the businesses would have to work hard to build up their reputation and customer loyalty and who can be bothered with that? They are simply too lazy to do deal with real business model, so instead they focus on an easy solution – theft. As a result, you will find bootlegs of anything you can imagine sold right on the main streets of every town with store windows displaying all bootlegged items with spotlights on. They have entire stores specializing in selling bootleg software, bootleg movies, bootleg music CDs, bootleg you name it. Cambodians simply like to steal and make money by selling stolen goods.

Photo: Cambodians Sell Bootlegs of Latest Movies Before Official DVDs Are Out
Photo: Cambodians Sell Bootlegs of Latest Movies Before Official DVDs Are Out
Photo: Do You Think These CDs Sold in a Cambodian Shop Are Real?
Photo: Do You Think These CDs Sold in a Cambodian Shop Are Real?

Pirated Merchandise Scams

Theft of intellectual property and trademarked names is the name of the game in Cambodia. It starts with photocopied Lonely Planet and National Geographics books being sold on the streets by touts, and ends with sales of fake Borderline suitcases, Gappa wear or Nike shoes. I don’t even understand how they go about selling fake iPhones and other electronic devices, but if you think you’re buying a genuine product here in Cambodia, you’re in for a big surprise.

Photo: Cambodian Market Selling Fake Diesel, Converse and Nike Shoes
Photo: Cambodian Market Selling Fake Diesel, Converse and Nike Shoes
Photo: Cambodian Underwear Shop Selling Fake Calvin Klein Underpants
Photo: Cambodian Underwear Shop Selling Fake Calvin Klein Underpants

Internet Cafes Scams

Be very careful when using internet cafes in Cambodia. Many have keyloggers installed on their machines to steal your passwords and other valuable information. People have seen money transferred out of their accounts following the use of internet cafes in Cambodia.

Repair Scam

If an electronic device breaks down on you in Cambodia, don’t be silly and try to have it repaired there. Wait until you get to a civilized country, otherwise you’re standing a chance of getting your machine ripped off genuine parts and have inferior, generic parts put in instead. Again, this is Cambodia. Any way they can scam you, they will.

Gas Station Scams

If you are new and don’t pay attention, you stop at the gas station to throw some gas in your tank but the attendant will purposefully not zero out the counter so you will end up paying for the balance of the precious customer, on top of the gas that went into your gas tank. Always make sure the counter is reset before the attendant starts fuelling.

Police Check Stop Scams

Cambodian police just love foreigners riding around on motorcycle. They will pull you over and fine you with… something. It could be that you had a headlight on during the day, or that you turned left or whatever else they can pull off. All traffic infractions have set fee schedule which is usually around 2,000 Riel (roughly $.50 US) but the cop, if they see you don’t know this, will throw something totally outrageous at you – such as $50. If you are able to bring it down to $20, you will feel like you got off easy, yet you had just paid 40 times the amount you should have. Fines for common traffic offences are less than a dollar. Always ask for receipt by saying “sombot”, otherwise insist on going to the police station and calling the embassy to have this handled. They will likely not want to sacrifice their time dedicated for ripping people off by false fines with this and may let you go.

Fake Jewellery Scams

Unless you are an expert on precious metals and precious stones, don’t ever buy any jewellery in Cambodia. Remember, nothing you are being offered is real and unless you know your stones and metals really well, you’re gonna end up buying a chemically produced worthless junk. If you know what you’re doing and can take the risk of having your life put in stake, then rejecting the fakes and insisting on getting the real deal could land you with the real deal, but you’ll be looking for trouble with this approach.

The Ratanakiri province is riddled with mines containing precious and semi-precious stones. It is a great place for experts to go get some valued stones for cheap, but unless you know what you are doing, you’re gonna end up buying a fake. Cambodians will do their best to first ensure they’re selling you the fake and unless you show them that you know your stones backwards, you will have little success scoring a good buy.

Pailin area (homeland of Khmer Rouge) is also known for rubies and sapphires but as it is with Ratanakiri, unless you know your stones, don’t buy anything or you’re gonna end up with a chemically-treated copy.

Helpful Locals

Helpful locals are the most frequent and most potent type of scam in existence. They will offer to negotiate a better price on your behalf because you can’t speak Khmer but will instead negotiate a hefty commission for themselves in exchange for cheating you into paying the price they told you was the best you can get for this item. I got this right away after the Tuk Tuk driver offered to “help” me negotiate the best price for a bicycle. If I followed his help, instead of paying $30, I would have paid $185. Helpful locals are never helpful because they want you to feel good about visiting Cambodia. They only and solely want to help themselves and are only pretending to be helpful because that’s what will get them to scam you.

Local Business Scams

The name for local businesses is “discrimination”. Cambodia is all about us vs them. If you look different, you will be subjected to discrimination. You will be treated like a crack whore by the Tuk Tuk drivers yelling at you and clapping their hands from across the street while market people will make a point of overcharging you just because your color of skin is different. There are a few businesses with clearly posted prices which apply to everyone equally. As someone who doesn’t support discrimination, I stuck with shopping there, instead of with local businesses. Scamming me just because I look different is not my idea of a good business practice.

NGOs and Orphanages Scams

NGOs and orphanages are some of the most profitable business ventures in Cambodia. There is no middle class in Cambodia, only 12 million of extremely poor people and a handful of extremely rich ones. There is a hefty group of those in between, though. They ride Lexus SUVs and honk their horns at everyone to make way. Those are the NGO owners who came to easy riches by establishing NGOs. Through foreign donations none of which made it to the people in need, they were able to secure themselves with above average lifestyles. They often use fake orphanages as storefronts to make foreign donors feel sorry for the impoverished kids and send some money over. This money is used to finance outlandish lifestyles and expensive cars of the NGO owners. This is one extremely successful scam that yields insane and easy revenue.

Fake Monks

When it comes to Cambodia, the locals will stop at absolutely nothing to scam you. They will also dress up as Buddhist monks because those usually enjoy a great deal of respect and it is easier to lure money out of unsuspecting victims when your head is shaved and your body wrapped in an orange robe. Fake monks exist all over Cambodia but the more touristy the area, the higher a density of them.

It is not a secret that monkhood (is there such word?) is the shelter for criminals who would otherwise face repercussions. Joining the ranks of Buddhist Monks saves the delinquents from punishment which is abused by the lot of them. That’s why you will see the monks behaving in the ways monks should not behave – you will see them drinking and smoking, browsing porn in internet cafes, rubbing it up with bar girls in karaoke restaurants and stealing valuables from the pagodas so they can sell them for personal profit. You can tell who’s in it for the right reasons and who’s not.

If you get approached by a monk and asked to make a contribution either to the pagoda or towards his studies, you are likely speaking with a fake monk. Real monks don’t approach strangers like this directly. You will see them making their rounds every morning which usually consists of standing silently in front of businesses or homes and waiting for someone to come out and make a food donation into their alms bowl. They will wait silently for a minute or two and if no one comes out, they will move onto another house. This is their standard morning ritual.

Keep in mind that because someone is ordained, it doesn’t mean their natural greed and habit of getting hand-outs goes away. This is Cambodia. Cambodians do not like to work, they like to get stuff for free and draping oneself in a saffron robe doesn’t wipe their natural selves clean.

The saddest part about Cambodian Buddhist Monks is that they are Cambodian. That means that all head monks are as corrupt as the rest of the country. Anyone who’s in a leading position in Cambodia is corrupt, including religious leaders. Money that the temples generate through donations and other contributions usually end up in pockets of those corrupt head monks so even if there is a new monk with the right intentions looking to change the world, they will soon be defeated by the corruption that deeply penetrated all walks of life, including religion.

Considering that Cambodia is a Buddhist nation, the number and omnipresence of scams is unnerving. Shouldn’t they think of Karma, you ask? I was asking the same thing myself and can’t explain it in any way other than by calling them “hypocrites”.

Cambodians don’t believe in building up on the name of their business by offering quality product and/or service. They strictly focus on ripping each customer off as much as possible the first time they attempt to make a purchase to boost the initial score to the max, even if it means that the customer will never come back. There is also an ongoing currency exchange scam but that only results on about 5 cents loss on every dollar and usually doesn’t end up making a significant impact on your budget. It is truly saddening that Cambodians don’t see and don’t treat tourists as people, but as wandering cash cows. Their smiles so many people talk about are fake. They force them upon their faces because that could engage you into an eye contact which for a Cambodian is an invitation to sell you something or entice you into falling for one of the many scam they’d mastered.

Seeing how Cambodia is a major scam operation, I was not surprised when I found out that “Seeing Hands” massage by the blind did not have any blind people doing the massage, but they were good at pretending to be blind. It was nothing more but a marketing gimmick combined with a scam to generate more interest in the business. Foolish foreigners believe they are supporting the blind yet they are simply supporting scammers. This is real Cambodia!

70 thoughts on “Cambodia Scams”

  1. Oh dear. Cambodia has not only beaten you as a ‘traveler’ but has gotten deep inside your brain and taken you over. It has reduced you to a journalistic stalker of sorts, obsessively wasting untold amounts of energy on this daily anti-Cambodia crusade in which you have become entangled. Honestly, the amount of effort and words you have spent the last two weeks trying to smear this little third world backwater says far more about you than Cambodia. As a traveler, it is long past time to chalk up your misadventures in Cambodia to experience and move on. And considering how many problems have befallen you in such a short period of time, it is probably also a good time for you to reassess some of your travel habits and practices. Lightning strikes once or maybe twice and that’s just bad weather and bad luck. Lighting strikes a dozen times in the same place and one can only conclude that it is being attracted by something.

  2. Hit the nail on the head, didn’t he? Well said Mark. It’s not like one cannot verify the claims you have made by searching the internet. These scams are well known to all who pay attention.

  3. You hit the nail on the head Casey. I’ve never read such an extraordinary blog by such an “unlucky” person. I’ve lived in Cambodia for many years and I can only say that I have never heard such things. One would say you attract disaster (read most of your other entries) or otherwise suffer from revenge fantasies…

  4. Truth Breeds Hatred
    ~Bias of Priene, Maxims

    Here’s the proof that people love to “shoot the messenger”. Thanks for having the balls to say it how it is, Mark. Hang in there and don’t give in to the haters with agendas. They live by make-believe, sacrificing truth for vanity.

    Look at Galileo, for example. They wanted to burn him at stake for having the audacity to say that the world was round. You have the audacity to say what real Cambodia is like and you are being hated upon just as all the great minds of the past were for saying it how it really is. Don’t let it put you off, it only proves that you are right.


  5. Ms. Casey Nelson, you must be living in a fantasy. If lighting strikes a dozen times, you’re in an area of unpredictable and uncontrollably high lighting activity and should move out of there while you can. Go somewhere safe, somewhere where you don’t get bombarded by out of control life threatening activities on a daily basis.

    Are you people for real? Are you really trying to sweep unruly scamming of native Cambodians under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist?

  6. Another common scam is to sell an inferior product for the price of a superior one. We bought a ticket from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap for $4 with Sorya and when we were to go back, we wanted to buy the same ticket, with the same company and expected the same price. We remembered the name of the company so asked to have the ticket with Sorya as we found their bus decent.

    The guy old us that the ticket back to Phnom Penh cost $5, not $4 per person, but despite ensuring us that we were getting the tickets with Sorya, when the time came to board the bus, we found out that we will be travelling in a small, dirty bus without air-conditioning that stops on every corner and is not used by foreigners because it’s too slow and uncomfortable. Not only have we ended up paying more than going the opposite way, we also got significantly inferior service and were lied to. They call it sCambodia for a reason.

  7. Travel and learn.

    One rule of thumb: ‘You get what you pay for.’ Another rule of thumb: ‘Shop around.’

    There are a dozen different bus companies running the route between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, of varying quality an price. You were wrong to expect the price to be the same in both directions. That’s not the way it works. Almost all of the bus companies charge more to go one way than the other, as they do on most major routes in Cambodia. These prices are published and available in the company fliers and local tourist guide books. The company you chose, Phnom Penh Sorya Transport is the cheapest of the lot. It is the company used by cheap backpackers and poor locals. The prices you paid ($4 and $5) were the correct, published prices for that company. In fact it is now ($4.25 and $6.25.) Deluxe tourist buses, e.g. Mekong Express and Paramount Angkor, charge twice what you paid ($8-$10), make only two stops along the way, have newer buses, bigger seats, a toilet on-board and even a tour guide pointing out the sights. The company you chose, i.e. the cheapest one, caters to locals, makes several stops along the way and though it is rare for them to use a smaller bus when there aren’t enough passengers to fill the big one, it is not unheard of. You get what you pay for. All of this information is available by either simply opening a local guidebook or by going to the bus company offices, all of which are grouped close together in the center of town.

  8. Oops, sorry. Should have made myself clearer. There was nothing wrong with the $4 Sorya bus. That’s why we asked for the same and were assured we were getting the same. The reason I mentioned that we were lied to, is because the man who sold us the tickets assured us that these were the Sorya tickets he sold us, but they were not. It was a whole other company. I can’t recall the name at this point, but the name consisted of two short words – if I’m not mistaken. It was not Sorya we were going back to Phnom Penh with, despite being assured that this is what we were paying for.

    As a matter of fact, there was a Sorya bus parked next to the bus we were loaded into, leaving at approximately the same time (left about 20 minutes before us, because our bus departed an hour late) and it was a decent looking bus, same type we were on when coming to Siem Reap. We were lied to, we were scammed. There’s no reason trying to play it down.

  9. You know the Sokimex gas station right across the street from Center Market in Siem Reap? Just up the road from the gas station, towards Taphul Road there is a corner shop that sells tickets of all sorts. I won’t tell you what it’s called but it was just your typical ticket selling shop you see on every corner at Boeung Kok in Phnom Penh, but I don’t recall the name. There was one young fellow and two girls, both eating rice from plastic bags in the shop, the man came to answer all our questions we needed answered prior to buying the tickets.

    I was beyond unhappy because it was a particularly hot day, we ended up paying more for the same distance than when coming here and there was an air-conditioned Sorya bus right next to us while we were dripping sweat inside a smelly and dirty bus with no windows that would open. We specifically asked for Sorya cause we took their bus to come to Siem Reap and spent a few minutes asking the fellow how it was possible he was selling us a ticket with the same company, for the same distance but charging 25% more than we paid to come here.

    By the time we were in the bus it was too late to do anything. If we didn’t have to go or if the bus station was any closer to downtown, I would have gone back to shove these tickets in his face for this low blow.

  10. Fair enough. There’s probably a lesson to be learned in there for the traveler in Asia. Don’t buy bargain basement bus tickets at backpacker bucket shops, especially in South and Southeast Asia. You’re just asking for problems. Also consider paying a couple of extra bucks and for a proper deluxe tourist bus.

    Just FYI: The office for Phnom Penh Sorya is right in the center of town on Sivutha Blvd. There is no need to go to a third-party commission-based backpacker bucket shop, especially the dubious sort you describe.

  11. It’s very interesting what you’re writing about Cambodia. When I visited this country I was impressed and shocked at the same time. Though I spend only three days in Siem Reap I had the chance to talk to a lot of locals there. What I learned from them was mostly the same: many of the complained about the high level of corruption. Since I’ve been the some of the places I’ve been I’d like to talk to you more about your experiences. I send you a message last Friday. Did it reach you? Hope we could stay in touch!

  12. Yes, I agreed the level of scamming is definitely shocking. I was shocked that when I was in Siem Reap I couldn’t find a single English book (and there are lots of bookstores) which was not (illegally) copied!

  13. I noticed too that sorya had a very inconsistent price policy. When i asked why I had to pay $5 for travelling from phnom Penh to Siem Reap, I got a haughty reply from the unprofessional woman manning the sorya ticketting booth at the sorya bus station.. She coldly told me that travelling to siem reap is $5 and from siemreap to phnom penh is $4! I know it is another one of their scams. Then I noted their bus service was horrible and scary, not to mention their inconsistent departure time, where tere are not bothered about rushing you or squeezing you in to make extra profit. .. All in all, a scary and horrible experience travelling by bus in cambodia.. They have a very horrible attitude toward unwary tourist like myself who were unawre of their scam.

  14. Sorry people thats the way it is.i lived there for 3 years maybe cambodia not the end ofthe world but you can see it from there.

  15. I enjoyed my trip to Siem Reap last month. The only thing that marred the trip was being scammed on buying gemstones. I was sold synthetic sapphire and synthetic ruby at Rickey Gems. I can’t believe they’ve been in business for over 4 years — scamming tourists that long! Is there a way I can report them to the Police?

  16. I was thinking this exactly. Why anyone would bother to go to Cambodia in vacations? It is not beautiful as Laos, not friendly as Thailand, and because of the heat and lack of public transportation, not as cheap as it seems. My recommendation is to go to Siem Reap, see Angkor in three days or five (of course, you will get repeatedly ripped off paying 20 USD- 60 USD per ticket for Angkor without receiving anything in return, not even a small flyer about the place, plus USD 15-18 for a tuk tuk since there is no mass-transit system for this incredibly profitable UNESCO site) and run out of there to more friendly-civilized places. Of course, after paying the corruption dollars at the border.

  17. Thanks for this post mark. being in cambodia just for two days and already seen many of the scams you mention.

    Before even entering the country being taken to the cambodia consulate in aranyaprathet and being charged 200 bat extra for the visa
    Poipet and the freeshuttle bus
    tuktuk trying to take you to different hotel
    changing prices at last minute when you re about to pay
    we ve seen the “blind” masseusses, the fake lonely planet guides (actually we saw one published august 2011!!
    As someone said in prev post i don t understand how people enjoy themselves here. I m trying to get out of the country asap. Waiting for a vietnam visa in siem reap i wish i d bought in thailand. Not reassured at all.
    Also can someone that shares marks opinion on cambodia tell me how is vietnam in that regard?? Thanks

  18. Hi Sandra,

    It’s Mark. I realize you were asking for someone else’s opinion, but I’d like to share my experience as I went to Vietnam from Cambodia, which is what you are intending to do (though at the time of my visit one had to go to Phnom Penh to get Vietnamese visa, there was no consulate in Siem Reap).

    Cambodia was the first country I visited in SE Asia and I was shocked by the level of hostility a foreigner encounters on every step. From the very first second I set my foot on Cambodian soil to the very last the hostility had not stopped. After a whole month in this type of environment, my mind was switched to a mode of acceptance of this hostility and I took it as something that is normal in this part of the world.

    Then I went to Vietnam and expected the same thing to happen to me there. Like in Cambodia, people were riding their motorcycles everywhere, honking like their lives depended on it and you got an occasional motorcyclist pull over to ask if you wanted a moto ride. What shocked me right away was that after I told the motorcyclist that I was fine, he simply replied that it was OK and moved on with his life. This has never happened in Cambodia where they would follow you and would not give you a second of peace. The bashing from them never stops and if you go through a lot of effort to eventually shake them off, someone else will jump you right after.

    And here I am in Vietnam and they take do “No” for an answer. What’s going on? And then I noticed that even though Vietnam is much more densely populated and millions of bikers pass by me on any given day, I would only be approached 4 to 5 times a day. Not 20,000 (or every 2 to 3 seconds) like it was in Cambodia.

    Then I would go to a grocery store to buy some groceries. I’m done shopping and I’m walking out of the building, I see all those men and women outside so I automatically expect them to come running towards me as soon as they see me walking out of the building like it always, unmistakably and every time happens in Cambodia but no one did. They all minded their own damn business and let me mind mine. I could not believe my eyes. Did I really just walk out of a grocery store and nobody came to jump me so I could breathe in freely and decide in peace, without being pressured what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go next? Yes I did. This was when I finally realized that I was not in Cambodia anymore and that the type of hostility that foreigners are exposed to in Cambodia is exclusive to Cambodia.

    But this was just a beginning. Cambodia showed me the lowest point a man can stoop into. For a Cambodian, if they see a person in need, they take it as a blessed opportunity to take advantage of them because a person in need is a person who’s out of the options and is as such easier to exploit. Cambodian would never ever help another. They are only looking to help themselves. Sometimes in order to achieve that they put on fake smiles, which is enough to trick the vast majority of visitors into believing that Cambodians are nice people, but deep inside they always crave to exploit another and take advantage for the purpose of their own enrichment. No matter the cost.

    One day when my bicycle broke down 10 kilometers from where I lived in Cambodia, I was stuck pushing it in heavy rain. Tuk tuks passing by, who normally charge $5 for this distance were asking for $15 because they could tell that the nearest town is too damn far away and I couldn’t ride the bike so since I was out of the options, they would try to rip me off more royally than usual. This is a typical Cambodian behaviour. A person in need is a person who’s an easier target and needs to be taken advantage of, instead of helped.

    So after these types of experiences I go to Vietnam, I walk down the busy streets of Saigon, I buy myself fruit to eat and tired of the sun, I pause under a tree on the side of a street where I proceed to eat my fruit. A man from a shop on the side of the road approaches me with a stool in his hand and offers me to take a seat to take a breather from the heat. It was my second day in Vietnam, I was still in a mind frame of Cambodia so I instantly suspected foul play. Nobody in Cambodia would ever offer you a seat unless they had an intention to get something out of you.

    Suspecting the same type of deal was in play here, I politely declined the offer, turned around and minded my own fruit completely ignoring the man. But he came back at me with a big smile and honest eyes that bore no sign of foul play. I looked him in the eyes and saw what I have never seen in Cambodia – sincerity. Then I take a look at the store from where he walked out to offer me a stool and see he’s selling CCTV cameras for businesses. I was thinking to myself – a Cambodian would only walk out from their business towards a foreigner because they want to entice the foreigner to buy something from them. Never ever would a Cambodian offer a foreigner a stool unless it’s with an intention to make them feel obliged to buy something from them. But this man’s business were CCTV cameras. He knew damn well that his line of business is something no traveller currently visiting his country is interested in. So why would he offer me a seat if he knew I could not buy anything from him?

    His eyes were not lying. I accepted his stool and we started talking. When I was done with my fruit, he went back inside his business and brought more fruit which he insisted we shared. He had fruits I have never seen so he told me about them as he asked about my country and my travels so far.

    He was really cool to chat with so I asked him: “Where exactly am I? I don’t even know where I am”. And he goes: “Well, where is your map, let me show you where you are on the map”. But I said: “I don’t have a map, I never have one. I just go with what randomly befalls upon me”. To which he responded with: “You really need a map in Saigon. This is a large city, it’s hard to find your way without a map. I don’t have a map myself, but I know my friend has. Wait here, I’ll go to see my friend and give you his map”.

    At this point I already started to feel as though I let it go too far and if he gives me something, I will definitely have to give him something of my own in return. It got far worse when I saw him put a helmet on, unchain his motorcycle and ride off. I could not believe he actually had to ride away to get that map. I thought he was talking about a friend from a store next door or something.

    He closed his shop to go get me the map. He didn’t make it back until about 30 minutes later during which his shop was closed. I had million and one opportunities to lift up and take off, but for some reason I didn’t. I knew I was setting myself up for a situation in which I would have no way out of repaying the man, yet I still did not leave. Once he took off, I could not turn into a backstabber and have him come back to never see me again. I mean, that’s something a Cambodian would do, but I’m not a Cambodian.

    He comes back 30 minutes later, parks his bike, puts the chain around the wheel, opens the shop for business again and hands me the map. At this point I knew that there was no way for me to get out of this and it was my turn to repay the man. I offered him what I believed he wanted. So I said: “OK. Thanks so much for the map. It’s already late in the day today, but I will come back tomorrow and you can take me on your motorcycle around to show me all the sites and I will pay you for it”.

    This is something I would not normally do. Under no circumstances would I accept tour guides to take me around and show me the sights. For one, I love walking, for two I love the experiences that await me while I walk and then – I’m just unwilling to narrow myself down to being toured around for money. But I realized that after the man closed his shop and rode for a few kilometres just to get me the map, I had no way out and had to make arrangements to do it. The response to my offer took me aback a little. The man said:

    “What are you talking about? Welcome to Vietnam. I hope you enjoy your stay.”

    This was a perfect example of unconditional help. It’s something that doesn’t exist in Cambodia but I’ve encountered it on several occasions in Vietnam. A man helped a stranger whom he had minimal chance to ever see again in his life without expecting anything in return. This would simply never happen in Cambodia.

    And you remember those people from in front of the grocery store who never came rushing towards me like everyone in Cambodia would? As I kept exploring Vietnam with my eyes open, I noticed that the reason why they don’t bother foreigners so much is that they are involved with their own lives. They go to work to provide for their families, take their kids swimming, go buy food to cook for the evening, etc. They don’t have time to bother tourists. They have lives of their own and try to make the best out of them despite apparent poverty and employment difficulties. Vietnam is abuzz with people moving forward, Cambodia on the other hand stands still and waits for a foreigner to come to vicinity so everybody can jump him/her and scam her as much as humanly possibly right there, right in that moment.

    You will find many multinational corporations opening plants in Vietnam, but none in Cambodia. Vietnamese people are not afraid to work. Cambodians however will not work even if they won’t have anything to eat as a result. Who would open a plant in a society that’s this lazy and irresponsible. Their economy is based on scamming foreigners. Vietnamese on the other hand focus on hard work and the relentless desire to earn their living, instead of on getting money without work.


    1. I’ve been helped,by many Cambodians as well as,scammed and of course hounded by tuk tuk drivers. But mark you cannot say that EVERY single Cambodian is like this. I have said no to many groups of tuk tuk drivers and then asked then for directions and they would always get out of their hammocks and regard my map carefully, discuss amongst each other and ecstatically point me in the correct direction. Did you ever try remaining calm?

    2. Mark, we spent a month in VN on our tour of Asia. So far, we find it the most respectful country we’ve visited, followed by Laos and Thailand.

  19. Hi mark, thank you so much for answering me. And sorry for the misunderstanding… By ” someone sharing your opinion” i was meaning including you! Mainly because i wanted to hear about vietnam from someone that sees things as i do. After all these people talking wonders about cambodia i was starting to think that there was sth wrong with me!
    As for the visa, you re right. There s no such thing as consulate or embassy in Siem reap.. Just the “agencies” (travel or guesthouses) that would charge a lot for doing it. But The idea of being stucked in PP for a couple of days sounded worse than the extra$.. As i was saying though i m not reassured at all .. we ll see.
    Anyway, it s a relief to hear that vietnam is not as bad. I really needed to hear it.


  20. I have been the target of a terror and extortion campaign for 3 years in Cambodia, and I am virtually a hostage (forced to pay extortion). And frequently assaulted as an “example” to others.

    You are quite right about NGOs and Government corruption which has sapped the humanity of all Cambodians, and produced a culture where you are either a violent cowardly scam artist, or you are a failure.

    This system is rotten to the core.

    Currently being harassed in Sihanoukville, if anyone wants live reports or specific information on scams in Phnom Penh or here contact me.

    1. Hi,
      I am looking to travel to cambodia with family (wife is cambodian, has never been there for 30 y) but after reading this blog I wonder if we will not be disappointed.




    1. I am interested in learning more about living in Phnom Penh and scam found here. I’ve been here eight months now. I live with my son who has been here four years. He won’t allow me to go to the native markets alone or out on the street after dark. He says I am a target.

      I went to Kampoon Cham with a neighbor. She took me their to get me to pay money to her relatives. I only had fifty dollars on me for my three day visit to her house. She wanted me to give them food and gifts too. She planned to have her cousins charge high prices for tuk tuk trips and sight-seeing, restaurant meals etc. for her entire family, hotel, and more. I came back to Phnom Penh the same day when I figured out how I had been set up. I’ll think twice before accepting invitations to do anything with neighbors and people I encounter out there. I feel sad about this situation. It is hard to make friends. Scams and con artists.

  22. Interesting and good listing of scams.
    Living in thailand, i would say that you will find most of those scams in the whole region.

    I just got back from cambodia, i had a good time and i think it is not good to think that all cambodians are not good people like i read in the comments.

    I met really nice people, knowing about rip offs i have seen in thailand by the way, i was suspicious by the attitud of some tuk tuk drivers or other people i met in cambodia, but they were not lying and willing to help so i think some comments are too much about the cambodian people.

    A lot of poverty there, i have been scamed on bus tickets, but a lot of people i met country side were really nice people. Not asking for money or trying to sell me something.

    Its sad for the people who try to be honest and happy to meet foreigners when others, well, give a really bad image of cambodia.

    But its like this everywhere, there are scams with tourists everywhere.

    Do you know about the scams in rome, people throw you a baby, while grabing the baby they rob you…

    The best way to travel is getting some information on the cost of different things so you know when people are not honest.
    Knowing how much was a tuk tuk ride in phnom penh, i knew how to bargain. etc etc

    We find many things cheap but they represent a lot of money over there.
    I did not like the menu in dollars only for tourist but well, when the country gets more industrialized, this will change little by little.

    I am in thailand and often in some cases, you are still overcharged or charged double price because you are a foreigner and if you are not happy, people just dont care and will not care either if you never come back as mentioned on this page.

    Know about scams before traveling and show people you know, they will change their attitud knowing you are no fool. As they will always find easy victims to be scammed…

  23. if u travel to Cambodia, and if you want to go by tour, Pls don go with STAR ASIA agency, because it is not reliable agency. the schedule always change, and everything changed not as what they stated and introduce to the client.

  24. I was very shocked to hear about Cambodia scams in this topic.

    As a Cambodian Citizen I have to say that it is really embarrased to read this topic about your experience in Cambodia.

    On behalf of all Cambodians, I would like to apologise on what has happened during your trips.

    However, by saying that Cambodia is a scam capital of the world is too heavy for us and it is not.

    I understand there might be some scams you have faced during your trips, however it is unbelievable that you have faced this much scams.

    It looks like you are doing a journal study or research about the scams in Cambodia and most on what you said it does not really exist over there.

    I know it is just your opinion, however I find it that some of this unrealistic stuff could make other people looks differently on Cambodians people.

    There is no discrimination in Cambodia as well. We love everyone and kindly do not using this kind of words on us.

    One most important thing that I really need to discuss with you on this topic is the NGOs and Orphanages Scams. It does not exist in Cambodia. You really make everything in Cambodia looks bad. Not even, the NGOs that wants to help this country to improve.

    Kindly be mercy on what you have written because it is really effect on our life and our future generation of the unrealistic stuff.

    I’m Chhin Hui, a hospitality and tourism student who gonna graduate next year and work at Ministry of Tourism in Cambodia. I will proof your wrong on your perspective and I will make Cambodia a very good country.

    I hope you could rearrange the words you have written about NGOs scams, it is not real and it hurts to read what you wrote about the orphanages scams. I’m really pity the NGOs that you attacked without mercy while they did nothing on scams.

    Kind Regards,

    Chhin Hui

    1. many cambodian people are not aware of the scams that are actually very common. i see how it can be shocking for a cambodian person to read this post and learn, for example, that only 23% of children living at orphanages are really orphans. at an “orphanage” call hoa in siem reap i got access to the director’s documents. i learned that all of the kids were pretending to be orphans. the director instructed them to cry when a visitor came, and say they had nothing to eat. i got the email addresses of his sponsors and wrote to ask them how much they had given him. he had received more than $10,000 in just a few months, but the kids never benefited from these donations. at 5:30 pm they left the school hut and went home to cook and eat dinner with their PARENTS. another fake orphanage in siem reap is PACDOC the owner is Toun Boran. He has a Lexus, but he keeps it at a place away from the orphanage so that visitors can not see that he is wealthy. a tuktuk driver waits at the gate and when he wants to drive somewhere the tuktuk takes him to his lexus. in this way the kids who come to the orphanage and pretend to be orphans are learning that it is normal to cheat people and lie. a group of 14 american volunteers went to build a playground at this fake orphanage. i came with them to translate. within an hour i realized that this was another business to get money from tourists. the director claimed that he had no sponsors, but i met 3 people who had given him more than $7000 in the past year. i later learned that Toun Boran also has a high position in the cambodian military (whatever that is…there are more soldiers than guns in cambodia) and he also owns a tour company. the fake orphanage and the tour company work well together. as you can see in another of my replies to the main post, tour directors and fake orphanage directors contract with each other to bring busloads of people to visit the fake orphanages and make donations.

      i know many cambodian people who are completely unaware of the complex web of scams at work here (i live in cambodia now.) they are surprised when i tell them.

      a really tragic aspect of cambodia is that most of the ngos that come to help develop cambodia get entangled government licensing issues, leases, and have no one on staff who can speak or read khmer language. then they really get in trouble. they hire cambodian staff. a usaid group called “fintrac” is supposed to be helping fish farmers improve their yields at their hatchery. but the foreign staff must rely on the cambodian staff to translate their scientific docs into cambodian language. the cambodian staff have no idea how to deal with concepts and vocabulary like “plankton.” the director asked me to proof one of the translated documents. his khmer staff had simply written “blangdong” in khmer letters instead of the actual khmer word for plankton, which is ធារាសុខុមប្រាណ. the staff argued that khmer people don’t know this word. but it’s an educational project, so it’s like they are saying we can not teach you this because you don’t already know it.

      this is a common type of failure of ngos in cambodia. they spend 50% of their resources on blunders like this and very little benefit trickles down to people who could actually use it.

      another common scam in cambodia is the conversion of non monetary donations back into money. i bought a khmer astronomy book at preah vihear bookstore. when i came home i noticed that a rubberstamp inside the cover had been whited out (covered). i scratched it off. it was a book that had been donated to an ngo school. the school sold the books back to the store to get the money. a lot of people know about this scam. but tourists come here thinking they will defeat the con men by giving stuff instead of money. this tactic does not work because the directors of ngo schools know how to convert ANYTHING you give them back into money and put it in their pockets.

      the best way to visit cambodia is to keep your money in the bank. do a travel notification and only carry with you the money you will need for a few days. when your tuktuk driver tells you his mother is sick but can’t go to the hospital, and you want to help, meet the doctor and ask for the diagnosis panel. ask for a copy of the blood work.

      an australian man was sick and went to the intl hospital. they told him he had dengue fever and charged him $1200 for one day in the hospital. the next day he went home (if he had dengue he would stay in the hospital for 6 days at least.) my guess is that he had a terrible stomach virus.

      before you give away substantial resources, think. just think. the man who wrote the book “warrior heritage” described all these same problems 21 years ago. nothing is going to change if you think intelligently for a few minutes before you hand over a wad of cash or a stack of resources.

      you could actually be doing more harm than good. there is no industry in cambodia because there is no incentive to develop industry here. with all the free ngo and tourist money flowing, why do any actual work??? think about it and do some serious research before you “give.”

      1. Wow, reading this has thrown a spanner in the works or me. I plan to go to Cambodia in a month as a solo traveler but I’m a little concerned reading this and am considering Vietnam instead now.
        The Australian guy was charged $1200 for a day in hospital? Did he have insurance?
        is there police corruption at all border crossings?
        I am to get a Mekong express from Ho Chi Minh to Sihanoukville where I have booked and paid for a hotel for a week. My plan was to travel onwards to Phnom Penh for a few days and then on to Siem Reap for a week. i was looking forward to this trip but not so sure now. Maybe I should cut my losses and stay in Vietnam?

  25. Dear Chhin Hui,

    Thank you for your opinion. I must say though, you have demonstrated what I would call “typical Cambodian attitude”. Cambodia has a major problem with scammers and 9 out of 10 foreigners visiting Cambodia return having been badly scammed at some point during their visit. Up until recently, everybody kept to themselves about it as people were afraid of being attacked by the hoards of self proclaimed protectors of the “oh so poor people of Cambodia” but this is no longer the case. Internet has evolved and people are now saying it like it is, whether perceived as politically correct or not.

    Your problem is that instead of acknowledging that “yes, we have a problem in Cambodia that needs to be addressed”, you completely wash this fact aside and focus solely on me pointing it out. What bothers you is not that Cambodians are scammers, but that people are openly expressing their experiences with scammers in Cambodia as you fear this could have negative impact on your country. Guess what – it’s what your people do that has negative impact on your country. It’s the scams and other crime that vast majority of foreigners visiting Cambodian become victims of that create the negative impact. The fact that it’s being pointed out now publically is only the effect of the cause.

    Do you want foreigners stop writing about scammers in Cambodia? Then go and start telling Cambodians to quit scamming people. Don’t blame the messenger. Don’t look for something wrong in those who point out the evil of your society. Look for the way to get rid of that evil and the reports will change. I’m no longer the only one who speaks the truth about Cambodia. I started it, I got attacked, but seeing how I stood behind my words, others came out of the hiding and started saying the same. Cambodia plain and simple has a major problem with scammers and the only way to get rid of this knowledge being passed around is by getting rid of scammers.

    Of all the countless scams that Cambodians utilize on the daily basis, the NGO scam is the most wide spread and the most frequently encountered. I myself have been near victimized by an NGO scammer when they tried to make arrangements with me to come to a village where I would pay the family $10 per day for homestay. The family, I was told, would get my money so I would support the village directly and in exchange they would provide me with shelter, food three times a day and would do my laundry. However because I already had friends on several fronts (through volunteerism in the temple where I taught English, volunteerism in the village I chose to volunteer in and friendships forged throughout the Angkor park as I repeatedly came to buy water and coconut from them) I was able to get in touch with the family who were supposed to provide me with homestay and found out from them, behind the NGO’s back, that they would get mere $1 per day out of me paying $10, and the NGO would keep the rest. Is this not an NGO scam? They lied straight to my face to rip me off and not just by a little bit. The family was not supposed to tell (to protect them, I lied to the scamming NGO about the reason why I could not do it this time around) – it was supposed to be a perfect set up and the NGO would put $9 into their pocket for each day of my stay.

    And this is not an isolated incident by any stretch of imagination. Everywhere you go in Cambodia you hear stories of volunteers getting scammed by the NGOs. You hear horror stories of girls getting raped by the NGOs that charged them thousands of dollars to work for them for free. Cambodia is absolutely disgusting when it comes to taking advantage of people willing to donate their skill, time and effort for free (on top of monetary expenses).

    This is not gonna go away. The world deserves to know the truth about Cambodia – the real truth. It was not available when I first went there so I was fooled into believing that giving myself to good causes would make a difference in someone’s life. I found out the hard way that it only made scammers richer. Scammers who prey on good will of well-meaning people from abroad. They take their good will and abuse it in the worst possible way. And that is disgusting. Pointing it out the way it is is the right thing to do. As I had said – I’m no longer the only one who does it and there will be many, many more. People are no longer afraid to tell the truth about Cambodia. And if you wish to see people saying different things, you’re gonna have to try to change Cambodians, not bloggers. Bloggers here are the victims of Cambodian criminals. Don’t mind the victims for expressing their displeasure with Cambodian scammers. Change has to come from you.


  26. 5 minutes ago I had a young moto-dup try to extort money from me by telling me he was going to call the police and tell them to run the Planted drugs scam on me.

    This same kid tried to run the same scam on me months ago when a brawl erupted in the place next door and it attracted to police to quell a potential riot.

    Since the police were nearby and the scene was confusion, this opportunistic thug decided to try to throw his weight and scam some money.

    Thank you very much for posting this blog, I would like to write in great detail about several horrible criminal scams which I have witnessed here in Cambodia.

  27. Hello Mark,

    thank you for sharing your story. There is simply not enough warning out there to let people know what they can expect in real Cambodia. Would you be interested in having your stories published in a dedicated post on this blog? We could help make more people aware of the scams and dangers they are likely to encounter if they visit Cambodia.


  28. I live in Phnom penh, have done for 18 months, i cannot disagree with mark, all of the scams he mentioned I have heard about or witnessed personally.What i do is avoid tourist spots and have learned enuff khmer to let the locals know I am not a tourist.I have been scammed a couple of times, my own fault, to trusting. I have a khmer partner who usually buys or negotiates any purchase that i make. Or I buy from branded shops that have the prices clearly marked on the goods. I will not buy from the markets as I will have to pay Barang prices.My work necessitates that I purchase quanities of building materials, I have after 18 months a selected few suppliers who offer service and competitive prices. I agree corruption is rife here in cambodia, I just got back from Australia visiting the kids, its the same same there only they call them fees and charges. I couldnt wait to get back to the heat and the maddness of the traffic. Riding my motto cross in the country or my scooter down Monivong or worse 63 street at peak hour keeps me young. I intend to spend a number of years here, cannot see any good reason in returning to australia. Not all cambodians are out to scam, unfortunately the tourist attractions usually attract the scammers. Tourists are gully bull where ever they travel, thats the nature of the beast. if you want to experience a country become a resident for a while.I have. My two bobs worth Cheers steve

  29. The scams are real but they are not isolated just to Cambodia,my experience of travelling there is mostly positive considering Cambodias genocide and suffering over along period of time,I met some really lovely Cambodians who I feel give hope to better days for that country.Saying that I saw awful corruption when I was in Siam Reap,being in a car with my Khmer guide and a police roadblock stopping us hitting the top of the car bonnet with a pickhandle demanding a bribe,my guide handled it very well refusing to pay,Cambodians hate this as well,its a cancer on everyday life for them.I feel scamming is an artform in Thailand,its open season on farang,Land of Smiles,more like Land of Lies,I much prefer Cambodia,there are more beautiful places to visit but dont let the negatives put you off…just be aware and informed.

  30. This company Eagle Delivery Service is a Scam shipping company. someone shipping something with them and this company keep asking for more money all the time ,how there paid customs on my behalf. and i was so fooled i did pay the money western union to a Paul Effiong Ndifreke and this morning again asking me to pay more money once more. i just asking you please dont let this happen to you are anyone else you know.

  31. I just read this blog today, I spent around 2h to 3h and I just found out the author is full of hate on Cambodia, of course, it could be a big lesson for us to learn but I’m afraid the people who scammed you might be not Cambodians (of course, some of them).

    In your trip, you might open most of negative points in your way, so that you faced or found thing by all of these, I have many foreigner friends, they found different and very enjoyable to stay here even years.

    Of course, every where in the world could face these issues, you mentioned that Vietnam is quite a good place and you might just walk only at the tourist areas in Vietnam where their government control well, (I agreed) but if you’re unlucky as you’re in Cambodia, you will feel very sad than this.

    For me, I don’t judge this way, each piece of the world has positive and negative point. And some of tourists come to Cambodia also are not good as well. We need time, we need education done well in Cambodia, we need people to push / help government to make work done. People are innocent.

  32. The tour guide took us to the Ricky Gems, and we were told that they sell genuine gems. The gem shop showed us a movie how they mined precious stones and made into gems. They assured us the gems are genuine and they even stamped on the receipts of the gems we bought “genuine AAA quality”. When we went back to check with our local jeweler in Malaysia were told that the gems are fake gems.

  33. ‘Scam’ may not be the right phrase, ‘institutional corruption’ is more appropriate. Have been to Cambodia as well other southeast Asian countries and I have witnessed (although through experience not been a victim of) the types of scenarios described by the author. In any country there are people who are honest but in these countries there is a contingent who make a living through ripping of tourists. The people who dismiss these criticisms and take the moral high ground in defence of the perpetrators are pathetic. We should not be encouraging a developing country to develop a culture of lying and cheating and a false belief that this is an acceptable way of earning a living. Given the similar business is undertaken at the most senior levels of government, it will be a long time before anything changes..

    1. I agree with you John. I don’t foresee any change of attitude in Asia generally. Asia is just full of scams and asians making use of other gullible westerners. There should be no further assistance or developmental aid from Westerners. Nothing will change. It would only spread to the West if the West is not careful. The arrogance of asians, the filth, the dirt and the disregards for decency is so widespread that going to any asian country is not only a painful , horrible experience but also a most risky undertaking. Nothing beautiful in Asia . the way they charged extortionately high rate in times of emergency is another one of their horrible exploitive asian attitudes.cambodia is not a poor country. they just have a poor attitude.

  34. I was also sold fake gems by Ricky’s in Siem Reap. The entire staff and manager assured me that I was buying natural gems but as soon as I returned to Hong Kong and had both stones tested I was told that both were synthetics. In other words Ricky is a scam artist who sells fake goods and trains his people to pass them off as the real deal. Stay away from Ricky’s in Siem Reap.

  35. Mark, I spent a night reading your writings about Cambodia scams and I think you are right at some points. There are unaccountable con artists out there, same in Vietnam. I myself witnessed three cyclo drivers who charged three foreign visitors VND 400,000 ~ $20 for a downtown go-round. The thing was the guy who kept that sum of money hide one bill in his pants’ pocket and loudly claimed that his poor clients mis-paid him VND 100,000. Well, I felt sorry for the visitors and for myself since I just could not help preventing this.

    Mostly, bad guys, con artists, misbehave folks are just the uneducated and lazy ones who want to earn easy money from foreigners. But there are huge crowd of people willing to help the visitors when they are in need, your job is just to find the right one at the right place. When you are lost in Vietnam, do not ask taxi or “xe om” drivers since they speak almost no English or they are going to turn you to their very next victim. Just ask students who go around the corner with a rucksack or bag on their back, office workers or ones who look smart (hmmm). Take the advantages of facebook, twiiter to make some friends in the countries that you want to visit before arriving.

    One last thing, just do not call us Asian pig or whatnot, you dumb ass. Welcome to Vietnam.

  36. i lived in a village in cambodia for 2 years and learned to speak khmer quickly under duress. khmer people truly hate it when a foreigner can “listen” to them, as they put it. after “listening” to khmer people talk about how they scammed foreigners for 2 years now, and observing it personally, i can confirm everything that is described in the original post above. personally my most dreaded scam is the fake orphanage business in cambodia, which is well documented by researchers such as susan rosas. this business is part of a cultural meltdown in cambodia which results from one man having several children by several different women. ordinary cambodians do not get a wedding license. they get permission from their village leader. seven months after the party when the wife is very visibly pregnant, the husband sleeps with other women. it is widespread. ususally the other woman is a prostitute who works for $5 per trick. after the husband has 2 r 3 kids he can’t support he finds another wife. according to cambodian law the first child goes to the husband. but the second wife will not accept the child from a previous marriage (often because she can not tell her family that her new husband is already married.) so the kid goes to the husband’s mother, or….very often to a fake orphanage, where they are welcome advertisements for donations. this cycle is demoralizing in cities where big humanitarian aid groups are based and tourists focus. tour operators actually contract with fake orphanage directors to bring busloads of korean, japanese, and chinese tourists to fake orphanages like pacdoc in siem reap. this scam is deeply damaging to the culture of this war-torn country. it is taking the country in the opposite direction of development. my thanks to the author of this blog. awareness of these problems can be very helpful to visitors. thank you.

  37. Hello Mark,

    Please accept my apology and forgive me for those disregardful words. Yes, I got mad when you call Asian pigs but I can deny that you are right about scams and con men. There are full of bad guys and brain-washed ones in our country too; however, many Vietnamese like me do not want you foreigners to become the very next scam victims. We are proud of our hospitality and, yes, we do believe success comes from hard work. Please advise if there is anything we can do to help out when you guys travel in Vietnam.

    With respects,
    Hai Tran

    +84 988 423 546
    [email protected]

    1. Hi Hai Tran, if you still read these posts I’d like to let you know that we spent one month traveling around the north of VN.
      We found your country very beautiful; we loved your people for their great respect toward us as well as their great kindness. We were scammed once but I’d say that is normal in any other country in the world, but even that was a minor thing. I’ve traveled around for 43 years so maybe I’ve become savvy enough to ‘smell’ the scams and avoid them. We are also very independent, we like to make our own plans and cettainly do our research before we act. We tend to ask reliable sources about prices to have an idea before embarking on an adventurous tuk tuk ride or bus or boat ride. The only thing I disliked in VN was that foreigners have to pay a higher entry fee at various attractions than the locals. Prices are clearly advertized so there is no ‘behind the scene scam’, this is simply a policy across the country. For the rest, we loved it, never once felt unsafe. Thank you for being part of a beautiful country, populated by kind, gentle, peaceful, people with a genuine smile.

  38. i am delighted to see this dialog. i posted similar information about fake orphanages and corrupt schools and ngos in battambang, like kngo, for example, operated by a man named sun saveth, who is very wealthy and pretends to be poor. all of my posts were removed, apparently because the hosts feared libel suits. no one in cambodia is capable of bringing a libel suit against an international webhost.

    yesterday i was eating lunch near my village in the temple area and 2 girls came round selling candy to benefit an “orphanage.” i was with a khmer woman and they spoke to her, assuming that i did not understand them. one girl had a bag of sweets and the other girl had a bag of money. i asked them straight up if the kids were really orphans. they answered honestly, “no many.” they don’t know the exact number. fake orphanage directors like toun boran of the pacdoc orphanage in siem reap instruct the kids to pretend to be orphans. he teaches them to lie and cheat. this is one of many mechanisms of trickery at work in cambodia which reduce the incentive to do actual developmental work. it is the reason that tourism and humanitarian aid are the only sources of revenue in cambodia.

    thanks to all the contributors to this site.

  39. fboac cambodia what is this ????

    Sunday, January 6, 2013
    fboac cambodia
    Foreign business owners association of cambodia, What type of a weak minded attempt at setting up a scam is this??? First “doktor” Rainer Deyhle spends a fortune to get a doctorate in law from hamburg university,and then he sets off for cambodia to sell coffee and afpelstruedel to cheap charly tourists on serendipity beach road?? RIDICULOUS!! Herr deyhle is not and has never been registered with the federal german bar, check it out on [] He has also never graduated from hamburg uni[[email protected]] HE IS NOT A LAWYER.
    Herr deyhle,s business partner and GOOD FRIEND pim professional name” Willem Haak” has been involved in a string of failed business ventures in sihanoukville,in every case the investor ended up losing some if not all of their money.This pair specialize in finding people who are new to cambodia,have money to invest,and become their GOOD FRIENDS.They then direct the greenhorns to whatever business for sale ,where they can get the biggest commision from the sellers, They are estate agents and nothing more.
    If you are new to cambodia,want to invest some money in a business ,DO NOT get involved with these people without first seeking professional advice.

  40. Yes someone should do an article lived in Sihanoulville for many years and saw 1st hand the depths these people will go to. Sellimg businesses that dont exist

    Many elderly men lose their life savings to people like Pim. Sure marrying prostitutes much younger than themselves and opening a business with no experience are foolish, but Pim makes false expectations about the possible profits, before he had a failed guesth

  41. I want to react on antiscam, he is a sick man with a mental (and alcohol) problem who destroyed many peoples businesses and lives. He is writing fake reviews and websites only to get attention. He is only happy when somebody is totally destroyed.

  42. I have been held hostage in Cambodia by a criminal gang for 7 years. They stage various fake crimes and film me, as a way to advertise venues to people who enjoy watching white men and children tortured.
    They police have extorted me and protected various thugs who assaulted my child.
    I can only say Cambodia has the most vile population on earth.

  43. D’s Books in Siem Reap Cambodia is selling books donated to NGO’s here. This is a scam I have documented at other bookstores. Volunteers and tourists come here with the idea to give books instead of money, thinking that this will prevent corruption. All the corrupt NGO’s and fake orphanages have bookstores that they flip books to. Room To Read Cambodia, D’s Books, Preah Vihear Book Center, and many others are among the collaborators. A study shows that less than 23% of the children at orphanages actually have no home. All of the children have families. Most are borrowed for getting money from visitors. Do your research before you donate to one of these bogus groups. Giving money in Cambodia is just turning Cambodia into a society of beggars. Cambodians need to help themselves to stop stealing.

  44. A warning to visitors to Angkor and Siem Reap: The director and sponsor of the fake orphanage called HOA are starting a new fake ngo here and looking for donations. They use several different names, but you can see pictures of the two Khmer men at: (close the pop-up ad and scroll to the bottom.) The director is the one on the left in the tie. He is known to people in the village as “Mr. Oun.” He tells visitors his name is “Sokheng.” He is known in the city as “Kosal” to the guesthouse owners where he takes volunteers and visitors. Peter Hill, the original sponsor of HOA is funding the new fake ngo. His fund raising site is:

    They may change the name on the sign, but i doubt they will go through the trouble to get a new license. So if you ask to see the existing license it should show HOA. These men are absolutely crooked. They have stolen many thousands of dollars from visitors and tourists. They have used the money variously to start businesses selling souvenirs to increase their profit. The children do not benefit from their actions. Please do some research if you are planning to meet these people.

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