holiday in cambodia

In high school, I remember hearing the Dead Kennedys* song, “Holiday in Cambodia”. At that time, I didn’t even know Cambodia was a country and shamefully had to Google Earth it. Since then, it has always curiously remained in the back of my mind.  Little did I know, seven years later I would be living in its next-door neighbor. Seeing as this year (in a cheesy way) can be considered as my “gap year”, I had filled my head with dreams of visiting as many places as possible while living in SE Asia. So where to?

Can you think of a more alluringly exotic-sounding place than Phnom Penh, Cambodia? It was only a $10 6-hour bus ride from Saigon, so what was stopping me? I had talked to many people who had been before so I feel as if I had the total rundown of the place. I bought the Lonely Planet, agoda-ed my hotel, and off I went….alone. I decided it was perfectly safe to go alone, as I had been living in Vietnam for a year and felt I knew everything about everything–plus I knew people who came here before with no problem. It was going to be an adventurous little trip from Saigon–>Phnom Penh–>Battambang–>Siem Riep–>Saigon. I also cannot deny that I had this arrogance with me about how cool it sounded to be travelling to exotic places by myself. Well 48 unbelievable hours later, this arrogance not only dissipated into thin air…it was violently crushed into smithereens before dissipating into thin air. I hope to share my story with others so those planning on travelling alone never let their guard down as I did.

Prepare yourself for the most absurd (yet terrifying) experience I have ever had in my entire life. This is a one-of-a-kind Laurelbury Tale of being fleeced by the Filipino mafia in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. And believe me, I wish that last statement was as much of a joke as it sounds. Brace yourself for the ultimate brick job.

Things were going great. The first evening, I walked along the riverside snapping photos of the tuk-tuks and the vibrant cafes and bars that lined the street. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought. My first impression was that Cambodia was far more developed than I had imagined. I cashed it in early, seeing as I had a jam-packed day of Phnom Penh sights the next day. I woke up early and started off with a tour of the impressive Royal Palace and meandered my way through the National Museum. At this point, I was quite cooked as the sun was beating down and the museum was not air-conditioned. Time to take breather and plan where I was going next. Heavily recommended in the Lonely Planet was the “Friends” cafe where apparently the proceeds go to a good cause. Well that’s great, but it also means it is swimming in tourists. However, it was very close to the National Museum, so I thought “Why not?”

To my demise, it was 10:30AM. Upon finding the cafe, I walked up and asked the employee if they were open. When the worker replied “not until 11AM”, a Filipino lady using the name “Aisa” approached me and asked “Is this cafe any good?” I replied “I read about it” and friendly conversation about my travels ensued. She invited me to continue to talk at another nearby cafe on the corner of Street 13 and 178. She said she was on holiday visiting her brother who was married to a Cambodian lady. Her brother worked ship. She also told me she had a sister who is soon moving to Cleveland, Ohio after hearing I was from Ohio. She invited me back to her brother’s house for lunch where she said her niece would love to meet me. I agreed as I often enjoy meeting local people.  After living in Vietnam for a year, I cannot tell you how many times I have met random local people for coffee or went back to their family’s house for dinner. “This can’t be that different, right?” I was driven to the outskirts to a house where I am not able to report the street name. It was about a 15 minute tuk-tuk ride from the riverside area. On the way, she asked me for my name and e-mail so she could  “friend me on Facebook”. Looking back, I painfully regret dispensing this information.

Upon entering the house, I was warmly welcomed by the uncle (also Filipino) who went by the name of “Rudy”. He began to tell me that he was a black jack dealer on a cruise ship. He said he was just in Saigon working at the Caravelle Hote (RED FLAG #1). We ate lunch and I also met the niece (also Filipino) whose name I never quite caught. There was no sign of the “Cambodian wife” (RED FLAG #2), but they kept the conversation pumping so I never asked. The lunch was not quite what struck me as traditional Cambodian cuisine or remotely delicious (RED FLAG #3), but I didn’t want to be rude and tried to eat every last grain of rice (as you are taught in Vietnam–it is very rude to leave anything on your plate if somebody cooks for you). After lunch, the uncle invited me to play cards and although hesitant, I agreed.  I was lured into a closed room with no windows (RED FLAG #4). We sat down at a card table and he taught me how to play a game called “Poker Jack”.  The sister came in and said she wanted to watch and would be on my team. She also offered me something to drink and came back with some “hot tea” (RED FLAG #5). After some friendly rounds, he taught me some tricks the dealer often plays to guarantee that he always wins. He invited me to continue to practice and no money was actually being bet yet. After a few minutes, Rudy’s phone rings and “Mr. Asis”, a rich Bruneian man called and said he was coming over. Upon hanging up, Rudy told me Mr. Asis had cheated him by only giving Rudy part of the commission that was promised to him and complained of Mr. Asis’ greediness. Rudy said I could practice the new game and some of the tricks when Mr. Asis came. I said I had no money to play with but Rudy gave me $200 I said I could practice with. If anybody gets this far into this situation–this is where you excuse yourself politely. From my research, they usually are thrown off by the assertiveness and seem to be letting people go unharmed. Say you have to meet your friend or booked a tour and have to be back at your hotel. ANYTHING TO GET THE EFF OUT. There are obviously a million red flags going off right now. Listen to them. (See my explanation below for my Red Flags).

Mr. Asis entered. An older SE Asian looking man with greased over hair, a snakeskin briefcase, and glasses. He sat at the table and Rudy invited him to play cards with me. Mr. Asis purchased $500 worth of chips and I $200 with the money Rudy had given me. After several rounds, I had been winning the chips but Mr. Asis kept playing. I said one more round when I had won quite a bit of money and was not quite sure what I was getting into. The final round began and I conveniently had the highest set of cards with 21 points. Because of the cheats Rudy had told me, I knew Mr. Asis only had 20 points. The betting continued and all of the sudden, Mr. Asis pulls out $30,000 USD in cash and lays it on the table. Now terrified and feeling like I was in a scene from Goodfellas, I would have liked to make a dash but was conveniently placed furthest from the closed door and would have to get through 3 people in order to reach the door. I was very scared of what else was in Mr. Asis’ snakeskin briefcase. Because I knew I had the highest card, there was a guarantee I was going to win. Aisa was sitting beside me begging me to match him. I said I obviously did not have $30,000 cash on me. I was taken aside by Rudy and he said he could get the money from his friend if I agreed to not fold and match the bet. Here’s the pickle: If I folded, I was going to owe Rudy $200. If I went along, surely something super sketch was going to happen. Not sure how I was going to get out of this, I agreed. Mr. Asis said we could continue the game when money was brought to the table and our cards were placed in sealed envelopes and locked in a cupboard. In assurance that “we would both return”, Mr. Asis’ money was locked in the cupboard. I was asked to give something over to assure I would come back. I had my Canon 60D camera and about $100 in my wallet that I gave them. (If you find yourself THIS deep in the situation, absolutely insist you have no money to hand over–or give them like 20 bucks and say its all you have. Say you are a student–anything to just make them think you have nothing to put forward. They unfortunately had already seen my camera.) I also had an iPad but they wanted no part of that. Looking back, I figured it was because this could be tracked by GPS. Mr. Asis said to meet back in 2 hours. Rudy said he was going to meet his friend to get as much money as he could, but thought it was going to be difficult to get more than $10,000. He asked how much money I could put forward and we would split the pot. I said I did not want the money, I just wanted my camera and $100 back. He said that if I put some money forward to help match Mr. Asis’ bet, everything would be rightfully returned because “I was guaranteed to win”.

Rudy went to go pick up more cash and the two girls, Aisa and the niece, took me to an ATM  (RED FLAG #6) where I was told to withdraw as much money as I could. (If you find yourself THIS deep in the situation, this is where you RUN AND SCREAM for your life, as I was finally out in public and could have grabbed the attention of people on the street. I am sure the scammers would have fled). Frightened of the threats that “Mr. Asis’ body guard would be following us to make sure we got the money” and stupidly distracted  on getting back to get my camera, I took out $200, the most possible at the ATM (they first made me try $500 but thankfully it was rejected) with my Chase card. It was near the Central Market but couldn’t tell you much more than that. I told them I could not take out anymore money. All of the sudden (this scared me the most) Rudy comes and grabs the money out of my hand and is all frantic saying his friend is not coming through with the money. They said Mr. Asis would not be pleased and would accept payment in the form of purchased cell phones. I said I only had a little money left but took me to a cell phone shop (RED FLAG #7) nearby (also near the Central Market). Here I purchased a cell phone for $500. They wanted me to buy more but I said I had no more money remaining in my bank account. The store asked for a copy of my passport to “match my name on the card to the passport”. What is listed on my bank account is a pending purchase of :”SOK LY P, KH on 06/18/2012″. The store was obviously connected with the scammers and I feel as if my information is now compromised. After this I said I had no more money and refused to buy anything else. They said okay and returned to the house. The two girls told me the uncle was able to get $8,000 so maybe he would accept the $8,700 and lower his bet. Just wanting this to be over and desperately thinking of my camera, we arrived back of the house. We laid the phone, $200 from my ATM, and the $8,000 Rudy had acquired. Mr. Asis was not happy and said he only makes business with a person of their word.  Aisa said if we were given more time to get more money (as it was conveniently Sunday and the banks were closed), we could meet first thing tomorrow morning to “finish the game”. Mr. Asis agreed and left, but my camera and his money were still to be left locked away. Rudy then said I was to do everything I could to get more money because Mr. Asis was very angry and he was very scared, including having my father wire me more money. I said he couldn’t and just wanted to go home. They said they would pick me up tomorrow morning and Rudy was going to try to get more money.

I was taken back to the hotel. I immediately googled “Cambodia gambling scam” and realized there were so many other people who have gone through the exact same thing.  It is apparently a very active, very effective scam run by the Filipino mafia that has been going on for years. It seems to have been given birth in Saigon in the backpacker’s area, and these scumbags have now spread like the plague to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Thailand.

Finally admitting to myself I was never seeing anything I lost today ever again, I wanted to return to Saigon immediately, even though I had planned to stay in Cambodia five more days. I was scared because they knew where I was staying.  Rudy and Aisa kept calling me to see if I was getting more money. I eventually started ignoring the calls and stayed up all night paranoid–clenching my pillow watching for shadows outside my door. At 6AM without a wink of sleep, I booked it out of that hotel and headed for the most trusted bus station I knew but the furthest from my hotel I could find and bought the first available ticket home (8:30AM). The scammers continued to call the next morning, but I never answered and changed my SIM card as soon as I returned.

I considered going to the Cambodian police, but was very hesitant due to the amount of corruption involved. I was nervous that either the Filipinos would know I squealed or that the police were paid off by the Filipinos to allow them to carry out their operations. Either way, I decided against it. I did not go to the Embassy, as I no longer felt safe in Phnom Penh and wanted to return to HCMC as soon as possible.

My first feelings were utter shame, embarrassment, and anger for allowing myself to get into this situation. Didn’t my mother tell me to never talk to strangers? But isn’t that part of the fun of wandering around SE Asia–the people you meet? So many red flags were going off? Why on earth would a greedy business man from Brunei be visiting this card dealer whom he apparently ripped off to play cards at his house? How could I not have walked away (See RED FLAG #5) from this absurdly ridiculous situation? Did I really think I was going to get my camera back? I’ve been living in Vietnam for a year, HAVE I LEARNED NOTHING? Looking back, there were so many alarm bells it but I somehow found myself either talking myself out of them or by the end, downright frightened for my life and angry at getting this deep that I felt helpless.

Here are some of the loopholes of their story that didn’t quite add up (I think if I would have questioned them, it would have caught them off guard and a chance to escape):

RED FLAG #1He said he was dealing cards at the Caravelle. For one, gambling is illegal in Vietnam so any gambling that goes on is behind closed doors. And the last time I heard of a cruise ship sailing through Saigon’s harbor was never so… Also, when the uncle heard I had been living in Vietnam for a year, his facial expression immediately changed. He probably was scared I had heard about the very active scam going on on Pham Ngu Lao Street as we speak. Unfortunately, I don’t spend much time in that area since I am working in Saigon rather than visiting.
RED FLAG #2: There was no sign of the “Cambodian wife”. In other stories I have read, she is either in Siem Reap working as a teacher or in the ICU with the very sick mother-in-law (which is also a red flag, as I hardly think Cambodian hospitals come equipped with an ICU).
RED FLAG #3: Their “Cambodian cuisine” was hardly authentic. In fact, it was the most half-assed meal I have ever eaten. From living in Vietnam, I know that traditional SE Asian families go all out when a guest comes over for a meal–not just put forward some dried up sardine fish, rice and soup (which no one ate but myself). Also, we were not sitting on the floor with a mat but at a table with chairs, which as far as I know, every Asian family does. We ate with forks and spoons on a plate, which last time I checked SE Asians eat rice and fish with chopsticks and little bowls (at least when it is family-style). And finally, ASIANS ALWAYS FINISH THEIR PLATES–every last damn grain of rice. I was the only person who ate all of their food, out of politeness. They mostly just shuffled stuff around and had at least half a plate left. The house was hardly “authentic” as well. The only thing in the living room was couches (which Asians rarely have–they love their hard, uncomfortable loveseats). No TV. No photos on the wall (which Asians love to adorn their walls with huge family portraits and gaudy paneled paintings). The bedroom had nothing in it but a bed and a cupboard and card table.  The house was basically set up for the shuffling in-and-out of western visitors.
RED FLAG #4: It really freaked me out when they closed the door. I almost questioned it and asked them to keep the door open, but then I noticed they conveniently put the AC on full blast and probably didn’t want the air getting out.
RED FLAG #5: In about 50% of the stories I read online, people claimed to have been drugged with rohypnol or something of the sort. Although I hate to make excuses for my utter stupidity, if I were drugged, it was definitely either in the soup or with the hot tea. The tea was definitely clouded and was not even very hot. I of course, thought “oh, traditional Cambodian tea”. FAIL. I do remember everything, so if I were drugged, it was only something to take the edge off of things and I suppose to allow me to be more easily pursuaded into doing things without panic or clear thinking. Once again, I am not making any excuses for my utter stupidity of burying myself this deep in the situation. But I cannot dismiss this possibility.
RED FLAG #6: They could have taken me to ANY ATM. But noooo, we had to drive all the way across town to a special ATM–obviously equipped with a skimmer.

RED FLAG #7:  As with the ATM, they could have taken me to any hole-in-the-wall electronics store–hell, we could have even went to the giant one in the mall we passed. But NOOOO, we had to go to their special sketch electronics store, obviously equipped to steal your identity. That’s cute, they’re all in this together.

Now I am in recovery mode. Obviously the camera is gone and I’m working with the banks about fraud charges. But to be quite honest, I am lucky to be alive. Things could have gotten a lot uglier. I could have been murdered. I could have been sold into sex slavery. I could have lost thousands instead of hundreds.  I beg anyone who stumbles across this blog to read this thoroughly and read about any other most recent scams going on in the country. It was the most terrifying, but bizarre experience I have ever encountered and the scammers feed on the politeness and curiosity of foreigners. And it unfortunately doesn’t look like anyone is doing anything about it any time soon.

So while I lick my wounds, I also hope to join the crusade to eradicate these cockroaches(as well as show people know I am not utterly insane). I would never want this to happen to another person. If I can stop one person from making the same mistake, that’s good enough for me. Please check out some other people’s stories that are either identical, better, or worse than mine:

  1. LTOcambodia’s warning in Phnom Penh:
  2. fisheggtree blogger, Adam Bray, has been following these guys like a hawk for a year, and provides excellent documentation of the scammers in action while also begging people to do something about it
  3. Johnnyvagabond’s near identical experience to mine, but in Saigon Luckily he peaced out at the perfect time and had a fate more fortunate than mine.
  4. Blog of Interpol (although I cannot verify its authenticity of actually being affiliated with International Police) that seems to be somewhat following the scams.

Anyone else who has shared experiences or know of informative links, please feel free to comment.

Future Phnom Penh-goers (as well as other Asian City-goers), here is what you need to look out for:

  • Blatant approaches on the street asking inane, pointless questions such as “where did you get that shirt?”, “is this cafe any good?”, etc. Be especially wary if the person introduces him or herself from the Philippines. I by no means mean to be racist, but it is a well-established fact that it is the Filipino mafia behind this operation.
  • The apparently age old, “OH, I have a sister moving to [insert city/country in which you are from].” In my case, the sister was soon moving to Cleveland to be a nurse.
  • These people feed on politeness. Don’t be afraid to be rude.  The more blunt and curt you are about things, the more likely they are to scamper away.
  • One blog pointed out that these people are blatantly loitering…meaning they are literally just sitting around looking for their next victim. They aren’t sightseeing. They aren’t selling anything on the street. They aren’t drinking coffee.. They don’t have a camera with them. They have no business being where they actually are.
  • An invitation to lunch is the big no-no. Don’t go anywhere with these people. Who knows how long it will take for them to get violent? They are professional crooks.

The only person I have to blame is myself and my naivete. I was duped. But for those who comment on how this scam is fueled by people’s greed and deserve what they get, I disagree and would think twice about what you say until you are put into such an absurd situation.  For those of you who have fallen into the trap, you can receive sympathy from me. It was not a fun day.

Now, the burning question–would I go back to Cambodia? Despite the fact that my parents would nearly have a heart attack if I ever entered the borders again, I am going to answer “yes”. I was quite enjoying myself until I met my good friend Aisa. The Royal Palace was spectacular, the National Museum $3 well spent, and the riverside walk was very charming. I never even had a chance to visit Angkor Wat–an ancient wonder of a lost world–which is why people go to Cambodia anyways. I will amend my answer to saying that I would visit again, but probably not alone. I did notice my vulnerability when I was walking the first night. But of course I thought I had it all together, as I glued my bag to the side, bargained hard with the tuk-tuks, and obsessively looked out for motorbike thieves. Just never let your guard down. Easier said than done I know, but some lessons must be learned the hard way. I can only hope I took one for the team.

33 thoughts on “holiday in cambodia

  1. The Australian comedian Greg Fleet did a show at the comedy festival about 10 years ago about a very similar scam he got caught up in except he was in Bangkok. The show was called Thai Die & everytime he should have heard an alarm bell going off in his head he rang a little bell. Very funny but only with hindsight. His theory was he made more money out of the show than they ever scammed out of him.
    By the way I’ve been to Cambodia twice now & I’ve never had any problems but I’ve always travelled with a few friends. You are always a bit more of a target when alone.
    I hope this experience doesn’t stop you from making a return trip.

    • It does make for an epic story to retell. I agree with Mr. Fleet–the sweetest revenge is to not let them get to you. And by no means does this affect my opinion of Cambodia. I desperately wish to see the country for what it is actually worth. Please don’t let this post deter people from this country. I just don’t want someone to befall the same fate as me. I will be going back one day, but with a much smarter head on my shoulders.

  2. I think you’ve been incredibly brave to post the details of your terrifying ordeal in order to warn other travellers. Thank you for doing so. I do hope that the horrible memories will begin to fade quickly and you’ll return to your usual level of self confidence.

  3. Woah.. I met rudy. His two nieces. His sister. Ive been in this room. I was a victim. A greedy tourist. Now i have next to no money. He even said merry christmas. They were some of the kindest people i have met.

    • My heart shatters to hear that they are still out in full force. I am sorry about your experience but am happy you escaped unharmed. Please do not be too hard on yourself and feel ashamed. Nobody knows how they would have handled themselves unless they were put in that situation. My only suggestion is that you share your story with others in order to help prevent this from happening to somebody else. I tried reporting it to the Embassy and they were extremely dismissive of the case but maybe if more people were reporting it, something will eventually happen. Just pick yourself up and do not let scumbags like this bring you down–it is more power to them!

    • Hey–sorry, your comment went to spam for some reason and I just saw it. See reply to Stephen McGrath. Thanks for pointing it out 🙂

    • Wow, I am so embarrassed! Kudos to you for be the first person to point this out! And actually, the version I had in my music from ages ago was actually the Foo Fighters covering this song. I don’t know why I had Weezer pinned to this in my head :/ anyways, thanks for righting a wrong!

  4. Pingback: My Afternoon WithThe Filipino Mafia | quinsadventure

  5. Hello there, I came across your website after looking on the net to find more info on Black jack Scams in Phnom Penh. It appears we have some mutual “friends” in the city. About 3 days ago I almost found myself lured into a game of black jack. From the way you describe them, it was the same people. I’m really sorry to hear what you went through. Hope any future travels are far less eventful. Take care ok.

    • Thanks for the comment and good wishes! Glad to see you made it out unscathed but it kills me to see that they are still out there a year after I went through this!!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to blog about it. I feel like that is the only way to stop this from happening!! Safe travels…your adventures look incredible!

  6. same happened to me some days ago..lost hundreds of bucks – but it could have been much more but I didn´t bring my main credit card to cambodia…
    so crazy what happened but in this situation I was just dazzled by my own greed and probably whatever they put into my cofee..
    now everything makes sense to me: first he gave me a breakfast and coffee, after that convinced me to to everything he wanted.
    in hindsight its unbelievable..
    all your red flags are so true, but in this situation I didnt question anything!!
    your whole story is so frightening the same like mine..a quite skinny man (the dealer) around 50..and the older”brunei” man..the niece..and the bodyguard who was much more stupid then the rest.
    well I guess I learned my lesson. THANKS so much for writing it down here!! maybe I would meet them again without your story here and then loose even much more.
    one more hint: in my case the dealer introduced himself as “daniel” and the name of the bodyguard was “eddy”, the name mr aziz was the same.

  7. I really, really feel for you. I consider myself more than sceptical and aware of scammers yet I was convinced to go along today by an older man and younger niece. Both very convincing and clearly well trained in the art of scam acting. Sister moving to England soon, blah, blah, blah, can I introduce you to her… she would like that etc. Fell for it. They are smooth. I was slightly weary when taken upstairs but had been enjoying the random experience. No hint of anything suspicious until the money came out and the story of the guy having insulted him the day before. At that point my brain had a moments brilliance.

    Luckily, I was quick thinking and declined the gamble on account of some of my family having got into debt through gambling. Abruptly, but seemingly kindly I was sent off within 3-4 minutes of my declination. Via a hired moto drive. I got out safe and without damage. Only paid $3 for the tuk-tuk there and $2 for the moto back.

    They were overly kind, in fact on my leaving… good looking daughter taking email address to contact me for lunch the next day, handshakes from family around living room and a shared moto ride with the original woman during which she was even more touchy and flirty. Seems to be a tactic to distract any failed scams from too much after thought. ‘Give them a nice send off’

    On a side note, the coffee and egg noodles seemed drug free or it could have been the massive Indian meal filling my stomach from only an hour before that negated the effects of any drugs.

    Now that I look back to a few hours ago, a few things raised the old red-flags.

    – On the tu-tuk there…. her hands touching my knees and being playful

    – The tuk-tuk turning left and right and left and right… classic confusion tactics.

    – Hints that the sister would ‘like me’ (something I wasn’t there for necessarily but hey she was pretty cute)

    – Getting me to pay for the tuk-tuk because her $100 bill couldn’t be changed by the driver……. Oh now she just saw into my wallet. oops, they know how much cash I’m carrying (very little as it turned out)

    – The move to the upstairs to teach me the special casino secrets……… why upstairs? You could explain it here surely?

    – The casual mention of sums of $40,000 dollars as if it was nothing…….. How much?????

    I don’t think anyone who falls for it should blame themselves. I was lucky I guess. Lucky to be male, tall, dressed in shit clothes, have little cash on me, no phone and nothing obviously worth taking. Lucky to get out at the right time. Up to that point it had been the most enjoyable of random experiences. I can only think of how horrible it would have be to go past the point of no return.

  8. Hi there ! Well this just happened to me too in Phnom Penh today. When reading your story I realize I’ve been very lucky as I managed to get out when they wanted me to play with real money … I don’t know either where their place was, but I’m pretty sure it was in the south of Mao Tse Toung boulevard. Anyway, it happened in the exact same way, at first a woman came to talk to me near the riverfront. Very friendly, not suspicious at all. She said she was from Malaysia (she even put her clock in Malaysia’s time), that her daughter is studying in an English school here, and she wanted me to give her advices about France as she will move there (I am French, that’s why). So she invited me to have lunch at their home, we went there by moto (didn’t pay anything for the ride, lucky me). First strange thing, the moto driver came in the house with us, and it turned out he was her “brother” ! Why didn’t she presented him before then ?! In fact we didn’t arrived at her house, but at one of her other “brother”‘s house, who’s working in casinos all over the world … From then, I didn’t see that lady ever again ! Needless to say, I’ve never seen her daughter either. We had lunch, rice with a few chicken and poor looking vegetables, and a “Vietnamiese tea”. At that moment I didn’t really realized, but now I consider myself lucky not to have been drugged there. Then this guy explained a game called Poker 21, and taught me how to cheat. A moment later he got a phone call and a woman from Brunei came to play. She started to bet 2000$, and it’s at that moment that I said that I would never play for money. After reading your story I think I stopped right before it could turn really worse. Last weird thing, the guy called a moto and asked a good price to get me out of that place, don’t know why. I don’t think the driver was with all this story, but just in case I asked him to drop me in a random place, not near my hotel. It’s sad but the best to do is to don’t trust anyone here !

  9. Wow I consider myself lucky. This is what happened to me today in Phnom Penh.
    This guy stopped me on the street: “Where are you from?”
    “My daugther is going to study there, come to my house so you can give her some advices!”
    “Ehm… ask her to come here”
    “No no I live close to here we go with a motorbike”
    “Ok, but I don’t have money to pay the driver”
    A motorbike driver came and he drove us at his house (in the meanwhile he asked me everything about me and he told me all his story, he was engineer, daughters, blah blah blah.)
    So we arrived at his place and a fat old man was sitting waiting for me. The other guy sit on a side and never spoke again. The fat man started to ask me EVERYTHING: where I come from, job, how long I will stay here, family etc.
    After 3 min he told me he works in a casino here in Phnom Penh and he knows all the tricks and since it was his day off he offered to teach me all the tricks so I can win at gambling.
    I taught “this is gonna be a big trouble for me”
    Then I told him “no, I’m not interested in gambling, I don’t play. Anyway (to the other guy), where’s your daughter?”
    “She’s at manicure and then hairdresser, she’ll be back at 5” (It was 2 pm)
    “Ehm, I have to go at 2.30…”
    “Ok no problem the driver will bring you back to the market”
    So the driver was still there waiting and he bring me back with the first guy at the market. The guy haven’t spoke any word since.
    “2 dollars”
    “Give him $3 because he waited out of the house”
    I gave him for not being in trouble.

    Anyway, I always use my garmin gps for running to track my walking. I have exactly the position of their house. But I think it will be wise not to use it. 🙂

    • I spend my hollydays in cambodia and in thailand and at wednesday this week a friendly old man chat with me in front of the independent monument of phnom penh: his sister (in this age 😉 will study Medicine in Munich soon (December???) and he included me in their house in P.P. We gone by Moto to this House, where his brother watched TV in the first floor – and he told me about his work as croupier in many countries (for instance Malaysia). Than he introduced me a young woman, called Aisa and we had a dinner for two (untypical khmer food: with pumpkin and poree and not spicy 🙂 The Mister wanted to introduce me in Black Jack – the very cute girl played with me. He said, that a rhich Businessman from Singapore will come soon to play and we as couple should play against him. The Mister gave me 200 $. And soon the rhich Businessman from Singapore arrived and took 2.000 $ on the table in the small room without window and a futon in the middle. After a round I left this place and run to the door of the house – which was blocked. Aisa and the woman who cooked the meal opened the door. And so I could take a Moto near the Monument of Independent 🙂
      Hope many Travellers will read your Blog.
      I come from Germany and I’m glad to lose no money.

  10. Pingback: Cambodia Scams..

  11. I ran into this same thing yesterday! I was very hesitant from the start and didn’t carry much of value with me. I was lucky enough that they didn’t know my full name or where I was living- so I made it off free-somehow.
    I feel for you girl! It is such a a strange feeling to be so duped for only caring and wanting to help. I am glad you posted this and hope more people read it before getting to Phenom Penh.

  12. If i only got too read this and all the other post about it two and a half years ago maybe i would of been lucky not too end up in this same scam like a bloody silly idiot,
    it honestly happens so fast and next minute your stuck into it, $900 usd later you plan on punching yourself for being such a dumb dumb. But could be worse at least my passport was with the embassy getting my vietnam visa so they couldn’t use that on me….

  13. just so people know, the same scammers are still working this same plot in PP now in 2015. got hit up yesterday by a filipino/malaysian lady who wanted me to come visit her ”ill grandma”. i agreed to meet her in half an hour, in that time i started to question it knowing dam well this place is riddled with scam artists. i tied my hair up (i have long hair for a guy, the thing the lady first commented on liking haha) to change my appearance a little bit. then sulked around up the street a bit waiting for her to return so i could spy on her a bit. so liam neeson from ‘taken’ of me. while i was waiting i done a quick google search not expecting to find much but found everything. loads of accounts like this one. so thanks for the heads up. the funny thing was as i was lingering n reading on this another stranger approaches me and comments on how hot it is. this guy claimed to be just malaysian, nice conversation happens and then he tells me he has a niece moving to sydney (im australian) blah blah same deal do i wanna come with him for lunch n talk to his mother about australia. i literally had just put my phone back in my pocket from reading this same story he was now spinning me.. I laughed at him. maybe he hadnt been communicating with his female counterpart or maybe having my hair up threw them into believing i was a different person. i let him know to. telling him its funny he is the second ‘malaysian’ today to invite home for lunch, what are the odds and does he know the woman. he realised he had fucked up then. I told him his scam is old news and its all over the internet. he coldy told me to ‘be careful’ and walked off….. i thought that would be the end of it but today i got yet again hit up. this time by the older guy. this one was 65 and claiming to be indonesian, very well dressed with a flashy gold watch. he asked me all the same questions like where i was staying what my job was. this time i told as much bullshit as they talk. i have no job, no money, im going home soon, ive been here for a month (he asked me that twice, he really wanted to know how long i had been here) then he lost interest in me when he realised i apparently did have much n had been here a while. guess he figured i wasnt a big enough fish or sensed i wasnt falling for it. he ended the conversation with a hand shake and i left…

    anyway, they are still floating around and playing their games, hopefully no one falls for it

  14. I just had the same experience. Exactly the same on my first day in Phnom Penh. Met a friendly stranger who discussed his family’s wishes to be a nurse in the UK. Went to the house but daughter nurse was out nursing her sick grandma with a heart problem. From the food/supportive aunty on my black jack team/ rich old man – all sounds the same.
    I foolishly gave them my iPhone as a promise to come back and get the $20,000 I knew i’d won. Stressed about with phone calls via his aunty to get deposit so they could get a loan.
    I don’t mind about the iPhone, i am insured and have wiped it via the iCloud and called o2 and my banks – but what i’m worried about is that they know where i live and i’ve told them im here teaching for the whole month! 2:30am now and i’m scared to sleep!
    Catch these criminals!

  15. A Filipino criminal wanted by the Immigration Police in Hong Kong as well as the Airport Police openly boasts and brags of working with her father, uncles, brothers and cousins throughout Asia on behalf of the United Nations, and other phony sounding stories.

    She calls herself Sheila, and uses the name Sheila Scott as well. She is fat, middle forties, long hair, and so chatty that she seems to be a lower type of criminal, friendly at first. With the male gang however, she is truly dangerous.

    I was looking into her and believe she is connected with a very serious crime, a tourist who has gone missing in Hong Kong. He has been a Christian missionary in the Philippines and holds a dual citizenship passport very sought by crime gangs – Canadian passport, ten years, new.

    She tells among her phony sounding stories that she worked with young Cambodians children and teens to help them, with this male group of relatives. She also showed many photos of Cambodians to tourists she approaches at the Hong Kong Airport doing fund raising.

    The range of possible crimes is very wide, from lowest such as being seen shoplifting at the Tung Chung supermarket.

    Follow this: Sheila, Sheila Scott, crime Hong Kong Airport, missing tourist Marc. etc.

    I POST her photo soon and would like others victims in Cambodia to see if this friendly and warm seeming woman – very dangerous –
    even homicidal – has been viewed by them. Attention INTERPOL.

    The photo is RECENT. Follow this at Twitter. Thank you for helping others….We do not need to be brave if we move forwards together.

  16. Hello.. I met the same crew and the same situation like yours…It seems that they still do the same thing for 3 years…
    They even use the same name!

  17. Same situation for me 2 hours ago and now I feel so happy and lucky I only lost $65 which I gave to the Dealer when bets got higher, the rest was credit. The businessman was an 60 years old guy and they told me he is a rich guy from Borneo and a sextourist and child abuser, so they dont have a heart for him and scam him. So in the end I won a pot of $90300 and the guy wanted to see cash first before we show cards (surprise, I got 21 with 3 cards and when you got 21 with 2 cards you have to show off, so I won) so we sealed it and they wanted me to get money, because the dealer cant get 40k on his own. I had my passport locked in my hostel, so they wanted me to get it, to go to the bank, because i told him I got 250$ limit on atm. So they drove me to my hostel and stopped at the corner before. I had known at this time its 99.999% scam, so my plan was to ask for their passports when we arrive at hostel and copy it at the reception, but they stopped arround the corner already. On the way to my hostel the sister asked me if we want to try to buy a phone already, because there is a shop but I said I get passport first. When we arrived at the corner I adked the sister why she doesnt come to hostel with me and she said “i need to buy something for my mother on the market, we will wait here for you”. So I just went to my hostel and sat inside and smoked a cigarette to calm down and didnt leave anymore. I googled it and saw many people got scammed like this before. They dont have any contact details of me and only my $65, so now I feel so lucky when I read your story and the stories in the comments. I thought about going back from hostel to make a picture of them waiting at the corner, but I was to lazy and uncomfortable and felt more safe inside my hostel. So now I go to the Royal Palace, which was unlucky to me closed before 2 pm because of lunchtime. I am not afraid of them because there is no reason to wait for me or harm me, because they know I found out about the scam and there is no money to get from me. I hope they get busted some day, but I guess they would just pay the police,so only hope is that more people will know about this scam before they get scammed…

  18. I recently fell into this scam (one week ago) in Siem Reap and would love to PM if you’d be willing. I’m still processing it mentally and physically and struggling with the still present fear, anxiety, and guilt. I think it would help to connect with someone who has experienced the same situation and possibly similar emotions. Thanks for the courage to share your story.

    • Today this scam happened to me in Phenom Phen. Looked up gambling scam on the internet after i had given them $200 waiting for them to pick me back up. Never came back. I was playing blackjack against a Brunie man named Mr. AZIZ. Be careful fellow solo travelers. These scumbags are still out there lurking.

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