‘The other day, I felt a tap on my back while at a Japanese-style shopping mall in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I turned around and there was a beautiful, wide-eyed woman smiling at me. She asked me a favor in broken English: “I don’t have any friends in this city, and I’d like to hear more about Japan. Won’t you get dinner with me?”

I was surprised at myself by my cold reaction–“Ah, not another one.” Despite my efforts to ignore her, she continued pestering me, this time asking how long I was planning to stay in Cambodia. When I responded, “I’ve lived here for over 15 years, she promptly disappeared with a creepy cackling noise.’

The following piece, and the text above, was published on our RocketNews24 sister site by one of our Japanese reporters, who has been living in Cambodia since 1997. This English version is translated directly from his own perspective.


Now everybody, I’m not trying to boast about my attractive physique here–I’d just like to caution you to be extremely careful if you’re traveling in Southeast Asia during the summer.

Be aware of common techniques used to swindle people!

Every year like clockwork in Cambodia, countless Japanese travelers are tricked into losing millions of yen. According to the Embassy of Japan in Phnom Penh, close to 50 people were victims of such crimes between 2011 and May 2014. Many of them cried themselves to sleep after learning that nothing could be done about their missing finances.

Guidebooks have been warning people about thefts like these for over 20 years. The techniques that criminals use and their victims’ resulting desperation are the same, yet nevertheless the new waves of people continue to be fooled year after year.

So, if you happen to run into one of the bad guys, what will most likely happen? Of course, not every case gets reported to the embassy due to their somewhat shady contents, but recently I had the chance to observe several would-be perpetrators from a close distance. Today, I’d like to introduce a typical scenario which left a Japanese woman crying at her hotel’s reception desk sometime last year in Phnom Penh.

▼ Safety information provided by the Embassy of Japan in Cambodia–“Protect yourself by yourself.”


■ “I can save my friends with money!”

The following true story is about a young Japanese woman who visited Phnom Penh on her first trip abroad. During her travels, a man who claimed to be Malaysian called out to her in English near the Royal Palace. They began chatting, and before she knew it, were even going sightseeing together.

The next day, the self-proclaimed Malaysian invited her to dinner at a friend’s place. After eating, they played several games of cards, and she won many games in succession.

“You must be a genius!” they continuously praised, until she was feeling quite high and mighty. Then next: “Hey, you know what? There’s a rich Cambodian guy who lives nearby. He’s a bit of an idiot, so let’s take him on and win all of his money!” And just like that the Japanese woman was made a member of the team.

That night, the woman practiced blocking signals with her new friends. On their way to the rich man’s house, they went up and down many narrow alleys until she had completely lost all sense of direction. But it didn’t bother her; rather, she was excited by the sense of adventure that she was feeling.

She and her team began playing against the rich man. They won a few times at the very beginning, but before she knew it, she was penniless. “We can see everything in his hand. Just play a little bit longer and we’ll turn the tables for sure!” her “pals” said while urging her on. “If I do something fast, I can save my friends!” she thought, and voluntarily decided to go withdraw some cash from an ATM.

In the end, the crooks took not only the cash from the ATM, but also used her credit card to buy precious gems. All in all, she was tricked out of over one million yen (approximately US$8,000). Despite vehemently declaring that “Tomorrow, we’ll offer up the starting money. It’s your payback time!!” after losing the games at the rich man’s house, she never saw nor heard from them again.

▼ A victim’s report of events


Looking back, that story definitely had a suspicious flow of events, but you may just be plain out of luck if your swindler takes on a benevolent facade like the “friend” did above. The crooks created a real sense of camaraderie with the woman, and only after she became penniless did she realize that she had been duped. It’s an especially ingenious trick with which to take advantage of Japanese people, who are often viewed as being incapable of refusing anything to anyone.

In another case, this past spring a Japanese man who came to Cambodia on business lost over five million yen (approximately $40,400) in a similar series of events. After he paid for his losses at the ATM and by using his credit card, he was about to politely ask to bring the rest back from Japan with him when a Japanese acquaintance persuaded him not to do so (this case was not reported to the Embassy).

Among the long-term Japanese residents of Cambodia, there are some brave people who are fed up with the criminals and pretend to be tourists in an effort to catch them, going around shopping centers while actually taking photos of the crooks. The police, on the other hand, aren’t doing anything to help solve the problem.

It’s almost summer vacation time. While building international ties are important, do NOT casually tag along with people you meet on the road and do NOT trust any of those “get-rich-quick” schemes. Please keep those two points in mind as you enjoy your vacation.

▼A reminder to be careful put forth by the Embassy of Japan in Cambodia. Criminals almost always follow the exact same plan of events.

A Japanese person is walking alone in a sightseeing spot and a woman claiming to be Filipino or Indonesian calls out to him or her.

Woman: “Where are you from?”
Victim [Japanese person]: “I’m from Japan.”
Woman: “I’ve been to Japan before! Soon my niece will be going to volunteer for the earthquake disaster (note: the notice is cut off a bit; this is presumably the gist of it). If you don’t mind, how about speaking to her about Japan?”
Victim [Japanese person]: “Sure.”


▼ A report written by a businessman swindled out of tens of thousands of dollars.


▼ A swindler just waiting to rip someone off in a place with lots of Japanese tourists. The woman pictured at the start of this article is his partner in crime.


All photos © RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]