There are several common scams in Shanghai targeting foreigners to be aware of.
This article gives you an overview of these scams and security risks you could face as a foreigner, and some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
This article was provided by International SOS, the world’s leading medical and travel security services company.
China is perceived by many as a fairly low risk country in terms of security threats.
Indeed, in terms of travel security risk, International SOS and Control Risks give China a ‘Low Risk’ rating on their Travel Risk Map 2017.
This means that ‘violent crime rates in China are low’ and ‘security and emergency services are effective and infrastructure is sound’, compared to other countries.
As in most Chinese cities, crime levels in Shanghai are low.
That being said, there are still scams in Shanghai targeting foreigners and security threats you have to watch out for.
Incidents of petty and opportunistic crime are rising steadily, and as a visitor – even a long-term expat in Shanghai you may be more susceptible to the following scams in China’s biggest and busiest city.
The following is a true case managed by International SOS in Shanghai.
Late one evening, a female American expat hailed a taxi in the West Nanjing Road area after leaving a cinema.
She was alone. Instead of taking a ‘normal’ taxi, an unofficial taxi pulled up and she climbed into the car.
The driver did not drive her back to her apartment, but took her to a secluded area where he forcibly took her belongings, including her wallet, passport and phone.
The victim resisted during the robbery, leading the driver to physically assault her before leaving her behind.
A local Shanghainese walking by stopped to help her after the driver had left, and she called International SOS so that our medical doctors could arrange an urgent hospital visit, contact her employers, and start arranging the replacement of her passport with the United States Consulate.
If you’re taking a taxi in Shanghai, bear in mind that:
Violent crimes targeting foreigners in Shanghai are rare, but they do occur. It’s important to remain vigilant, even when travelling and working in a low risk country.
If you become a crime victim we generally recommend that you should not attempt to fend off the attacker as this increases the likelihood of violence being used. Demands to hand over your passport, car keys, phone or money should be complied with.
These are two very common scams in Shanghai that International SOS is aware of.
Two local women claiming to be university students approached a Swedish man on Nanjing Road and enquired whether they could show him around the city to practise their English. He agreed.
The trio visited a coffee shop at Shimao International Plaza, where one of the girls ordered a glass of whisky. When the man went outside to make a phone call, 11 glasses of whisky were added to the bill. The businessman was then presented with a bill for RMB 4,996 (approximately US$680), which he was forced to pay (though he was later compensated after filing a complaint upon his return to Sweden).
Subsequent investigations resulted in the discovery of other instances wherein students are hired as ‘beverage agents’ by food and drink outlets to extort money from unsuspecting clients. Sometimes the students will pose as art students and offer to show you their artwork at a nearby tea house. Quite often the beverage of choice is traditional Chinese tea, hence this scam is also known as the Chinese Tea Ceremony Scam.
These types of scams in Shanghai are periodically reported; you should be alert to possible scams and be wary of attempts of people overcharging you for products or services, especially if you are approached by a stranger in areas popular with tourists and business travelers, such as Nanjing East pedestrian street, People’s Square and the Bund.
International SOS also periodically deals with cases in Shanghai involving taxi drivers reportedly tampering with the meter in order to overcharge newly arrived foreigners.
We recommend that you are aware of the current exchange rate and the average cost of taxi fares, for example journeys from the international airport into the city, to minimise the risk of overpaying.
Estimates of taxi fares can be confirmed by guide books, your local hosts or contacts. Note, however, the approved 30% surcharge for rides after 11pm which is automatically added to the meter.
Another Shanghai security risk to watch out for is pickpocketing and bag-snatching, which foreigners are increasingly becoming victims of in Shanghai, according to government-issued advisories.
Much of this Shanghai crime is associated with the city’s nightlife: petty criminals often operate from Shanghai’s plethora of bars and nightclubs. If you wish to frequent such venues, make sure you choose reputable ones and are alert when arriving nearby or leaving late at night.
Some common scams in Shanghai are not violent, but can affect your long-term health or cheat your pocketbook. You should be careful of:
China is a safer country than many, but it pays to know the common scams in China and other security risks you may face, especially as a foreigner traveling or working here.
If you’d like to know more about how International SOS helps China expats and business travellers manage their travel security risks visit our website at: www.internationalsos.com
Here are some more scams targeting foreigners in Shanghai reported in the local press:
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