In one of our previous posts we’ve mentioned the tea and gallery scams. Some students seemed to be confused about what actually happens there, so, this is a short summary of the net that might be cast your way someday as well.
The gallery scam, or the art show scam, goes in the lines of something like this: When, let’ say walking down Tiananmen (天安门 Tiān’ĀnMén) square in Beijing, or People’s Square (人民广场 RénMín GuǎngChǎng) in Shanghai, you’d be approached by a young student saying: “Oh, Ni Hao, are you interested in Chinese culture (文化 WénHuà) and Chinese art (艺术 YìShù)? I’m an art major and our university is showcasing our work in a small gallery nearby. The gallery is really small, so you don’t have to worry about a fee.” Do not follow this seemingly amicable student, for if you do, you might be pressured to purchase expensive paintings and calligraphy of questionable quality.
The tea scam, or the tea ceremony scam usually involves a young student or a group of young students that approach you in order to practice their English. After a few niceties are exchanged, the students would then suggest that to thank you for your time and kindness, they would take you to a nearby tea shop where you’ll be able to attend the famous tea ceremony. “A must see!,” they say with enthusiasm. Don’t go, for sooner or later you’ll be presented with a huge bill and cornered alone in a tea shop, away from the public’s eye, guess who’ll have to pay.
Let’s move to higher stakes. There’s the injured relative/arrested relative scam. A taitai of a wealthy foreigner would receive such a phone call in the middle of a school day – in English, mind you! – “Dear Mrs such and such, I am calling from the X international hospital, unfortunately your son has been seriously injured and we are just about to rush him for an emergency surgery. In order to be able to proceed we would need you to immediately transfer RMB 40,000 to the hospital’s account. Please, madam, this is urgent and your son’s life is in danger.”
This, sadly, is actually a true story. The said lady actually went to the specific bank where she met with the “hospital’s nurse” and paid the money. Afterwards, they told her to expect a phone call, informing her of her son’s state. Hours passed, nothing happened. The nervous, yet by this point somewhat suspicious lady finally decided to call her son’s school, inquiring them what has happened, and surprised, they tell her that her son is perfectly well and sitting in class as he was supposed to.
It’s scary, how these scripts are carried out to perfection by this team of scammers. And of course, we can now, from the safety of our seats, easily say that this would never happen to us. But they are fine actors these people, they know what to say, how to flatter us, how to exploit our weaknesses and, of course, they wouldn’t be as good if they didn’t already have a lot of practice mileage behind them.