Taiwan Scams

My Taiwanese wife and I were scammed three years ago in a way I’d never heard of in the U.S. We answered an ad in the paper for an apartment to rent and met the couple at the apartment. Their two “nieces” were there with them. They said they lived in Tainan and the apartment was family-owned and they’d decided to rent it out. My wife checked their identity cards and apartment registration and then we paid a deposit. Next day my wife wired two months rent to Tainan. Shortly after, I got a panicked call from her saying the “landlord’s” telephone number had been disconnected.

That night at the police station near the apartment, we met several other people who had rented the same apartment from the thieves whose identity (and apartment registration) documents had been forged. They had used them to rent the apartment from the real landlord. I wasted three minutes of my time in the police department, saw the cops on duty were little more than worthless bumfuks, while my wife and the rest of the poor souls spent a couple of more fruitless weeks finding that out. The bank we’d wired the money to in Tainan claimed there was little they could do due to their own in-bred incompetence. I believed them.

Occasionally as I think back on the experience, I wonder how I could have avoided being scammed – given that as a foreigner unfamiliar with the customs here my instincts would have been all I had to rely on. One thing I’ll do in the future will be to take a camera with me to take pictures of any apartment I plan to rent and if the “landlord” and his crew are even the least bit camera-shy I’ll just beat the crap out of them then and there and ask questions later.

There are probably other scams peculiar to Taiwan it would be helpful for us to share with one another. Got any experiences to share that might not be common knowledge?


I got ‘done’ by the phoney gas men a couple of years ago. They look all official and say they have come to check the safety of you gas pipes. Of course their meter soon starts beeping and shrieking and you find yourself paying out for new valves etc which didn’t need replacing.

When the real gas engineer came to do the same I subjected him to such a violent interrogation he was ready to give me blood samples!

Ha! Those guys came by my place a couple of years ago when I was living in a rooftop flat in Jingmei. They said that they were just following their work order. I asked why - they said that my gas bills were too high and that possibly some gas was escaping.

Really, says me. Is it expensive to get this checked out?
No, says the guy - only a couple of grand at the most, but my gas bills will be much lower in the future.

I then informed him that my flat didn’t even use gas lines - I was still using the gas canisters. I asked the guys for their id, business cards, anything, and they said that they didn’t bring any with them. I asked them to hang on while I called the gas company to straighten out this mess and they were off like a shot. Strangely, the gas company didn’t seem at all concerned that there were people impersonating their employees coming around and bilking unsuspecting victims. :?

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Occasionally as I think back on the experience, I wonder how I could have avoided being scammed

Considered using an agent? Ok, so you have to pay the fee but it may turn out to be cheaper than what you experienced and you get to stay at that place …

you think thats bad wait till the real gas man does you in. a few years ago we noticed that we were going thru gas bottles twice a month, on the next delivery i checked the bottle,a little light and greasy, i call the boss and he come by and checked, said give him a few days to check the delivery man. a couple days later the boss replaced the gas bottle and said i had the next 4 months free. reason why, everytime the company picks up empty bottles they clean and repaint them. the delivery man had his own little place in the night market and the boss caught him switching co. bottles for his then giving them to customers.

Another great gas scam was companies delivering 20kg bottles of gas containing just 18kg of liquified gas. The additional 2kg was made up by pouring 2 liters of water into the cylinders before they were filled.

We probably went around with five different agents prior to trying on our own. Everything they showed us was marginal and priced above market. Paying the fee wasn’t a problem but they were clearly serving the needs of landlords with problem properties and not the needs of renters.

After being scammed by trying to go through the newspapers, we simply started walking around the areas we liked and talking to residents and security guards until we found something we liked at a reasonable price. We’ve been living in our current apartment for a couple of years now and couldn’t be happier with our living environment.

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I’m sure I’ve never been ‘done in’ because I’m suspicious of everyone, unless I know them. And sometimes not even then…:?
I refused to open the door and talk to anyone who came by my last flat, and in this one, I’ll just call the security guards if someone comes around unsolicited.

I don’t have a very trusting nature when it comes to strangers, wherever I am in the world, which hopefully may have its advantages. On the other hand, I’m highly intuitive and can sense immediately when people are genuine or not.

I’d say that even though there are scams in Taiwan, they are much, much less frequent than in other parts of the world, and that your average Taiwanese is a great deal more trustworthy and upstanding, than your average US citizen, to draw a simple comparison. I’ve had lots of experiences to exemplify this.

But hey, what about those Nigerians?. Scamming seems to have become an artform in their society, as of late.

Doesn’t ‘done in’ mean assaulted or killed rather than scammed. It’s ‘done’, isn’t it?

If some bogus ‘landlord’ scammed that much money from me, I’d have him done in!

The thing that cracks me up is all the TV scams. Channel 7 apparently shows nothing but ads for breast enlargement products. But even dumber, they carried an ad the other day – with before and after photos of the scamsters being measured – for something that supposedly makes you taller, though I didn’t figure out how it was supposed to work. Do people really buy such garbage?

I’m your typical ‘overly’ suspicious Westerner too. In fact, my wife and I had an argument about me being too suspicious when we returned home the evening of paying the deposit. The ‘landlord’ had called us on her cellphone on our way home and said he was going to have to ask for three months deposit. When I heard about it, I told me wife there was no way in hell I was going to pay any landlord three months deposit. She said I was being too suspicious and we we’re going to end up losing the apartment. As a result though, we were the only ones who got nicked for two months instead of three.

It was almost worth the 60K NT just to be able to occasionally remind my wife about that argument.

I’ve heard of this scam in NY as well.

A great apartment finding service is called “Tsui Mama”. i think a web search on that will find their site. i don’t have their address anymore but they’re on wenzhou street? the first alley after hsinsheng s rd across the street from taida, about halfway between hsinhai and roosevelt. completely non-profit, they have some form of landlord registration and ensure a maximum one or two month deposit as a condition of the use of their service. there’s a nominal fee for the service.

Scams abound… Who should/can you trust? FAMILY…

Even in the work force, especially in the Asia, you find people lying about their credentials. The status/face/ego crap. Saying they graduated from Harvard or Stanford, when they just took a class. See this all the time in the PRC. Be careful if you do biz there.

The biggest scam or better yet conspiracy in Taiwan is the cohort of the rich taking advantage of the local workforce. I can’t believe what companies pay PhDs (US$40K) and MBAs (30K) here. Pay the people crap… Make myself wealthier…

Yeah, we got hit by the phoney gas men. But my wife just told them to bill us together with our normal gas bill. After, we insisted on not giving them cash, they just dismantled their device and took off.

Our gas company then came round and fixed our gas fixtures for free. They said that this was a frequent thing and it was hard for the gas company to stop this practise. I guess, it will probably take some kinda of ‘gas’ accident for the authorities to get their act together…

A couple of years ago while working as a marketing guy, I did this successful lucky draw promotion with extensive tv and print advertising support. And got calls from consumers, saying that someone was impersonating our promotion, and telling potential winners that they had won!

Basically, these so-called winners got in their mailbox, a flyer with a rip-off copy of my promotion, and a scratch-off section of the winning number. Once, you reveal the number & notice that it is the jackpot number for a top prize, you would call in at the number given on the flyer.

The so-called winners were told they had won a big prize, like a car or a dvd player,…but in order to claim their prize, a VAT of 5% had to be paid in advance–wired to a certain account. So figured it out, let’s say a car of value of $500,000 that is $25,000 you need to fork out.

I had to put out ads in the newspaper saying that this was a copy rip-off promotion and the police after pressure from our lawyers, checked out the bank account. But, was a dead end, because apparently the account was opened unaware by the original person! Until banks clean up their act of allowing accounts to be opened by anyone, without any background checking, this kind of fraud will continue!!

And if the deal is too good to be true, then…

If anyone receives any kind of call for work and the person says that I have recommended you, please let me know – I have not recommended ANYONE for ANY job or translation work, and yet someone has used my name saying that “Terry from Oriented” recommended a person to do some translation. (I’m sure you’re all eminently recommendable, of course, but… :slight_smile: )

I’m wondering if the gov’t is mining Segue/Oriented for visa issues? Seems unlikely but…?


i bet they work on quotas. when i used to go the wanhua police station to do the residence report thing this one lady used to just keep trying to get me to agree to “tutor” her. i lost track of how many times i told her no over the years.

Funny how the crackdowns on illegal teachers always used to come around election time. Still, I’d guess it’s illicit use of your good rep rather than anything more sinister.

My favorite was this old mainlander they had running the foreign affairs section at Taichung County police HQ in Fengyuan. The old bastard would sit on his fat arse reading the English newspapers everyday. Any hint of KMT-critical rhetoric from any quarter would see to it that no visas or permits were issued, extended, amended or any other kind of service offered to any poor laowai who put his head in the door that day. Instead there’d be a bellicose lecture on how CKS was a great man and the USA should be grateful for him fighting their war against the Commies and so on ad nauseum ad infinitum. I got so sick of this I moved back into the city rather than deal with it.

I bet he died lonely, poor and unmourned.

Yeah, but this isn’t for teaching…it’s for translation. And the ironic thing is, that while I may have translated a few documents for people in the past, this trip (since I’ve been back in March) I actually HAVEN’T, except for doing a test requested by the GIO, who should be able to arrange the appropriate permits, after all! (MOFA used to issue their own work permits, not sure how that worked but they never had problems getting one from themselves.)

Beware of an “Emily Xia” and perhaps others. Interestingly, although she claimed to be searching for a translator on behalf of the government, her e-mail address was listed as being at “hellokitty.com”…I’ve seen this kind of thing occasionally – that is, people using a non-government e-mail to get friends to do things that are kind of official work, but in this case I wonder.

The person who notified me that I had “recommended” him has gotten another call from another person along the same lines, but this one didn’t use my name. I think there’s something going on.

Terry, from this I can see that you were informed by a friend of yours about this, is that right? You should ask your friend how they got your name, etc., let him ask them questions instead of the other way around.

Do you think it could be Tealit that is haunting you?!