Archive for March 2007

What we did to recover our money

March 24, 2007

We are among the lucky few who managed to recover every single cent (less exchange rate loss) of the money we were swindled for.

Here is a description of what we did.

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(written on 9th October 2006)

I reached Bangkok last Thursday afternoon and was back by Friday night. Miraculously, I got back 100% of the money, albeit on two Credit Notes issued by Yin Dee. We are currently monitoring our credit card accounts but were told that it will take about seven days. (NOTE: The credit notes didn’t go through and eventually, our Thai friend went to Yin Dee to get cash back for us.)

In my opinion, there were a few factors that helped us get back the full amount, which I’d share with you, and other current/future victims. Of course, it’s just my experience, and different people who have been conned by different companies would probably have different outcomes.

Firstly, we spent some money to get a Gemologist in Singapore to write a report on the gemstones. According to him, he has been doing this for many a Singaporean victims. His findings were that the gemstones, although genuine, had been given ‘Beryllium Treatment’, which should have been reflected on the certificates. He felt that the very fact that this had been hidden from the buyers is sufficient for us to ask for a refund since it was a false representation. He said that, if required, we could challenge the shop to bring the gemstones to the GIT (Gemology Institute of Thailand) to verify his report. BTW, we spent S$60 for each report and incurred a total of S$240. So, my first piece of observation is, if the amount that was conned is a few times more than the amount that is paid for the reports, a victim should get the reports done. If needed, I would be glad to help victims get in touch with our gemologist in Singapore. However, the gemologist would need to physically examine the gemstones to come up with the reports.

Secondly, two Thai-speaking friends (one was a local Thai girl, the other was a Thai-speaking Singaporean man who had been staying in Thailand for more than 4 years) went with me to the Tourist Police Division situated on the 19th Floor of Bangkok Tower (sorry, I don’t have the exact address off-hand), and they, rather than me, were the people who were doing the talking more than 90% of the time. The Tourist Policemen were pretty friendly with my friends. Actually, the Tourist Policemen must have told Yin Dee something because when the rep from Yin Dee arrived at the place, there wasn’t even any negotiation – that guy just produced two signed credit notes (credit card) of the full amount with our names already imprinted on them. I’m not sure if the presence of the Thai-speaking people made a difference, but it certainly made my job simpler. I would urge other victims to try to get a Thai-speaking person to accompany him/her – it’s so much simpler and less frustrating.

On hindsight, it might just be due to our good fortunes (I just hope the credit notes go through) that we got back the full amount. All we did was to maximize our chances, by getting the gemstone reports and getting Thai-speaking friends to accompany us.

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Appended 8th November 2006 below.

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Just to summarize – DON’T ACCEPT CREDIT NOTES!!!

My credit notes didn’t go through even after 4 weeks, and I had to ask my Thai friend to help again. Thank goodness, she was able to go straight to Yindee and asked for cash, which they finally obliged – the whole amount of THB 136,000+ was paid to her using THB 1000 notes! I don’t know the details, but I understand she has some police contacts.

In short, we should advise fellow victims NOT TO ACCEPT CREDIT NOTES BUT INSIST ON CASH.
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How it all started

March 24, 2007

Here is my story of what happened to me and my wife. More information will follow.

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On the morning of 16th September 2006, my wife and I were walking towards the Skytrain station in the Pratunam area when we stopped to look at the map in front of a building opposite the Pratunam market. A middle-aged Thai guy stopped to ask us where we were going, and we told him Chatuchak Market. He told us that the market doesn’t open so early, and only in the afternoon. This guy was really friendly and started drawing on our map while explaining that it was a special Buddhist day that day and we should really visit the Lucky Buddha Temple, which is normally not visited by the tourist groups. Then we thanked him and walked away after he was done. Then came another guy almost immediately after the last guy left. This guy, a skinny, older gentleman with white hair, was dressed very smartly in long sleeve and tie. He introduced himself as the Chief Security at PJ Watergate Hotel, the hotel where we stayed. Since he knew where we stayed, we assumed he was really whom he claimed to be. Again, he asked us where we were going to, and we told him we were headed to the Chatuchak market. Again, he said the same thing, that they don’t open so early and it was a special Buddhist day that day. Then he started talking about a special offer that a particular gem company was offering, adding that this is the place where Poh Heng Jewelry (a famous jewelry shop in Singapore) procured their raw rubies and sapphires for the jewelry they sell in Singapore. He also wrote down the name ‘Yin Dee’ on a piece of paper for us. When asked where we could get toys for our kids, the gentleman told us Big C (which we found out later that they did not sell any toys!) Not particularly interested in jewelry ourselves, we thought that we might probably visit the shop during our next trip, but we nevertheless decided to take a look at the temple since we were ‘early’. He said he could get us a tuktuk at a cheap rate and would send us to the temple and then to Big C at 30 bahts.

When at the ‘Lucky Buddha’ temple, we found that there were suspiciously very few people there for a supposedly ‘special Buddhist day’, but nevertheless, we just burned a couple of joss sticks and prayed for our family’s wellbeing. Then we were shown to a statue of a very old and worn-out looking Sleeping Buddha in the next room. There, a gentleman was burning joss sticks. When we started lighting the joss sticks, the late 30-ish, early 40s gentleman said, ‘mister, this is the wrong way, you must burn the candle first, and then the joss sticks and sit here to meditate’. so we did just that. And this guy started telling us he is American citizen and he has made his annual trip back to Bangkok, where he was born, to pray to the buddha for good health. He also told us the buddha statue next door was 700 years old, etc. To cut the story short, he started telling us about how he would come back Bangkok to buy jewelry from a gem mining shop by the name of Yin Dee, during this week in September and that Saturday was the last day of the discount.

Recognizing the name, I took out the piece of paper to compare the name. At that moment, my wife and I were convinced it was fated that we landed in Bangkok on this ‘auspicious’ day. So we took up the offer to go down to Yindee Lapidary to take a look. Not interested in profiteering myself, the thing he said that caught my attention was that he bought the gems for his mum and wife and kids to wear to bring them good fortune. I wanted to do it for my loved ones to.

So, we asked him to get the tuktuk driver to send us to Yindee instead of Big C. When at Yindee, we were introduced to Jenny, the ‘Gemologist’ of the company, who gave us a free lecture on gemstones. Then she brought us upstairs and offered us coffee. Then she brought out some ruby sets to show us. To prove that the gemstones are real, she even used a professional looking instrument called DiamondMate to show us that the gemstones were indeed genuine. After looking at a few sets, I decided to buy a ruby set for about 100,000 THB for my wife and mum and a sapphire ring worth 33,000 THB was given to me by my wife.

We left the place, happy that we have got a good deal.

It was when we returned to Singapore that we realized Yindee is famous for scam. We then went to the pawnshop for valuation and we were told all the things we bought for almost S$5600 are worth about $400 at most.

I had not bought the gemstones because I wanted to make a quick buck off it. I bought it because I believed that cheater’s story of blessing for his family. People pay the price for being greedy, I pay the price for my love of my loved ones.

My wife raised a few questions after we purchased the things. Every time, we came to a conclusion that, it was impossible to pull off such a scam considering the ‘scale’ of the shop we saw. Never in our wildest dreams do we realize that this scam is so sophisticated, well-planned and well-executed. Greed and love, these are the two typical traits of humans and unless one has been warned before, it is almost impossible to be able to discern truth from scam at the very moment.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

March 24, 2007

On Friday 23 March 2007, I received my fifth SOS mail from a fellow Thai Gem Scam victim from Singapore since early January this year. Then, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” came to my mind. These conmen are really getting out of hand. I told myself it’s time to do something to change this. I don’t think I alone will be able to eradicate these scums but at least, I want to let more people, fellow Singaporeans especially, be aware of this.