TOURIST Lawrence Andrews wandered the streets of Beijing before popping into a local shop to enjoy a bite to eat and some tea.
But upon his return home, the traveller nearly fell off his chair when he discovered he had been charged $6600 for the experience.
Mr Andrews is the latest victim of one of the most well-known tourist traps in Beijing: The Tea House Scam. After a long battle to get his money back, he’s determined to warn other unsuspecting tourists.
“While visiting the Forbidden City, I went to (a tea house) — a local, unimpressive place,” Mr Andrews told consumer rights organisation Elliott.org, who took on his case.
“Later, I discovered this tea house charged my American Express card a total of $US4704 ($A6600). Although American Express assured me that it would defend me against this fraud, it didn’t. I need help!”
Mr Andrews remembers being handed a bill that he claims converted to around $350. But alarm bells began ringing when he was presented with another bill. Suspicious, he signed both receipts but asked for copies.
“These ladies said they were unable to give me copies,” Mr Andrews said. “Then I knew something was wrong and that I had stumbled into a tourist trap.”
Related: Tourists hit by shocking Bali scam
Tea houses are popular tourist attractions.Source:Flickr
He immediately called American Express, just minutes after leaving the tea house, and claims he was told he would be protected against any fraud. So imagine his shock when he checked his American Express bill upon his return home, only to find the $6600 charge.
A month later, Mr Andrews was informed he’d lost the case with the bank, so he launched an appeal that also was denied. That’s when to contacted Elliott.org.
“There is no way a person could run up a tab of $6600 at this place,” he wrote. “This is a fraudulent merchant. This charge is a scam. But after an investigation on July 27, I officially lost my American Express dispute and the appeal. The (charge) reappeared on my statement.”
That’s because the tea house allegedly provided two non-itemised receipts signed by Mr Andrews, so Amex determined that he was responsible for the total amount.
Make sure to take a photo of any receipt you sign. Picture: Nikolaj PotaninSource:Flickr
Elliott’s Michelle Couch-Friedman said of the popular scam: “Starting at 3.34pm, you can see the mechanisms of the Beijing tea house scam in action.
“What typically happens is a friendly ‘fellow tourist’ strikes up a conversation with their intended victim,” she wrote. “This scammer, who is often an attractive young woman, has been sent out to hunt for unsuspecting visitors to the area and draw them into a local tea house.
“Once inside the restaurant, the victim is seated in a private room and prices are purposely omitted from the conversation. Soon a hostess brings light snacks and a variety of teas to sample.
“In the end, the victim discovers that none of this was done as a friendly overture. The cost of the visit is typically hundreds of dollars for some inexpensive refreshments.”
Ms Couch-Friedman said she had dealt with similar cases she dealt with. Tourist Simon Khin had bought a $67 coffee tin during a visit to a coffee plantation in Bali. On his return home, he found he had been charged $6700.
Elliott.org helped Mr Khin get his money back when they found a copy of a receipt that allegedly appeared to have extra zeros squeezed in after being signed.
Researching the tea house that allegedly scammed Mr Andrews, Ms Couch-Friedman discovered reviews from other disgruntled customers including one tourist so unhappy that they sought revenge by painting the word “thieves” on the front of the building. Ms Couch-Friedman took the fight to Amex, and eventually Mr Andrews received his money back.
How to Turn the Tables on a Phone Scammer1:37
Having become frustrated by constant scam phone calls, Jose Barrientos took matters into his own hands and managed to hack into the computer of a scammer who was attempting to get access to his private files. Watching the tables being turned on this scammer has to be one of the most satisfying things of 2018 so far. Credit: Jose Barrientos via Storyful
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