Pattaya Jet Ski Scam

The Pattaya Jet Ski Scam has been operating unchecked for a number of years. The basic scam remains unchanged but of late has become just a little bit more sophisticated. I can report first hand on exactly how it works because I have seen it done, time and again, day after day.

A year or so ago I spent a good portion of each day sitting reading and writing on Pattaya Beach. It is a great place. Cool, comfortable and shaded. Just about anything you could ever possibly want will be brought to your chair. I would usually drink the juice of young green coconut and feast on freshly grilled prawns and squid dipped in fiery chilli sauce. I would people watch too, just about my favourite occupation, and watch the Jet Ski Scam go into operation.

Jet Ski in Action


The Jet Ski Mafia

Favourites for the scam would appear to be young boisterous men of any nationality and then Indians and Arabs. Excited by the prospect of bouncing across the waves these people hire the Jet Ski, receive basic instruction and off they go. They rarely check the machine before they go. Fueled by adrenaline the customer will frequently lose track of time and have to be called back in.

The Jet Ski operator will then carefully examine the machine and find a hole in the fibreglass. Usually this is on the underside of the Jet Ski. It could easily really happen. Anyone could hit a piece of flotsam whilst bouncing around on the waves.

The Jet Ski operator points the damage out to the customer and tells them that they will have to take the machine out of operation for several days. He is going to lose X thousand Thai Baht as a result. Believe it or not there are some who pay up straight away and without question. Most will argue.

The Jet Ski operator never really expects to get what he first asks for but he is an expert at haggling. It is quite a frightening situation. Tempers rise and other members of the Jet Ski mafia appear. There is strength in numbers.

Sooner or later someone will suggest contacting the police. The customer does not speak Thai, nor do they know the police telephone number. The Jet Ski operator makes a call and fairly quickly a policeman turns up. The prospect of some time in a Thai Jail enters into the equation. The policeman is a reasonable man. He listens to both sides of the argument and suggests a lower but still exhorbitant some of money. The customer by this time is in a panic but slightly pleased with himself. He believes he has 'won' and just wants to get away. The policeman accompanies him to the ATM. Cash is withdrawn and handed over.

Jet Jump


The Scam gets Sophisticated

The real tragedy of this scam is that everyone who lives in Pattaya knows that it goes on and yet nobody does anything about it. There is big money being made by a small number of corrupt and very dangerous people. It is unsafe to make too much of a fuss about it.

Every year without fail the newspapers will cover the story. Letters will be written, Questions will be asked and then all will be forgotten once again.

It was recently reported that the scam has taken on a greater degree of sophistication. The Jet Ski operator will take a sneaky photo of his clients next to the Jet Ski just before they set out. The Jet Ski will have clear damage. Assuming his clients have not noticed he is very pleased when they set out. Before they are ten minutes into their enjoyment the photo will have been doctored to remove the damage. When they return he has photographic evidence to prove the damage his customers have done. It wasn't there when they set out. Who is going to argue. A photograph never lies. Does it?

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Comments 24 comments

PETER LUMETTA profile image


A good warning. Remember you are a tourist and they live here. Careful. Thanks Peter

4hourmike profile image

4hourmike 5 years ago from Thailand

Peter, I was just down at Pattaya beach today and witnessed first hand just exactly what you describe. Another ploy they use is to fill in the hole with some dark substance that falls out as the customer bounces around on the waves. Just this month there have been hearings at Pattaya City Hall. The government is going to start requiring jet ski operators to be licensed. I don't know how that's supposed to stop the scam, but that is the official response to it.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@PETER LUMETTA - Thanks Peter. Always better to do a bit of homework before going somewhere new. That said, I mostly don't.

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Brilliant hub and thank you for sharing and I vote up.

Take care


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@4hourmike - I don't doubt that the scam goes a lot deeper and higher than we can possibly imagine. Not been on the beach in a week. Maybe next.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@Eiddwen - Thank you....and I will take care.

Hiccupp profile image

Hiccupp 5 years ago

I've been to Pattaya but I never made it to the beach. Thanks for the heads up if I ever make it back that way.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@Hiccupp - Gosh, never made it to the Coconut Bar? One of Pattayas main attractions. Don't miss it next time.

Hiccupp profile image

Hiccupp 5 years ago

I might have but I am a little fuzzy on some of it. It has been 6 years though. I remember going to the Xzite Disco(?) FLB and Blues Factory. Next trip I wont drink as much. lol

The Blagsmith profile image

The Blagsmith 5 years ago from Britain

I always feel it to be very brave for someone to speak out (or write up) about a scam that when exposed could lead them into hot water. You have got morals and the conviction to stand up to them. It is also an excellent write up so I am pleased to not only mark this up but also give it an awesome.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 5 years ago from New York

Even if the damage did occur during the customers' use of the vehicle it still shouldn't be their responsibility to pay. All things break eventually after use so why would it be the fault of the person who happened to be using it at the time of the vehicles last legs, unless they were using it not for it's intended use? Those are some pretty moral-les people.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@Hiccupp - Sadly the X-zyte disco is no more. Closed down a month or two ago and actually was on fire last week. They are....according to rumour going to build another shopping mall.

Never had too much time for the Blues Factory but if you come back (surely it is when!) look out Blue Sky on Walking Street....spend a memorable hour or two.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@The Blagsmith - You are right about the 'hot water'. Some of my hubs on other scam/corruption related subjects have led to some rather nasty threats. Still if it has to be said someone will say it. In this case it is me as I have witnessed it. I don't think though that I would be brave (or is that stupid) enough to actually step forward on the beach and tell people what was going on.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@Melissa A Smith - You are right of course and a compulsary insurance scheme would quickly force these scammers out of business. Sadly there isn't one so corruption rules as it does in so many other areas.

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Why have people always scamming instead earning their money honestly? I sure they get just as far. Thank you, Peter, for an interesting eye-opener.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@Hello, hello, - There is always someone out to make a fast buck.

quicksand profile image

quicksand 5 years ago

I also heard of another scam at the Suvarnabhumi airport involving the purchase of duty free items. The victims were mostly from Europe. This was reported a couple of years back.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@quicksand - Yes I heard of that one too. I believe it has now been stopped. It was just down to a few nasty little people.

TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia


Many local business people in Thailand really don't like it when people talk about these kind of things. The expats that make their living off of the tourists tend to think that people should be quiet about things like this, so as though not to discourage tourists from visiting Thailand. When I share stories of crime, unexplained deaths or other controversial issues .. critics often tell me to stop talking about it. The problem is .. things will never change if nobody talks about it!

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

@TravelinAsia - Yes you are so right. I have had several threats in the past.

adash07 profile image

adash07 5 years ago from Des Moines and Travel Locations

I was in Phuket not to long ago and the guys who rented jet skis to us tried to cut our 30 min ride into 12 min. Lucky for us we had a watch and a group of 5 bigger sized gentlemen so they let us have our full time. You really never know who you are messing with so its important to be careful on foreign territory. Good article!

Steve LePoidevin profile image

Steve LePoidevin 5 years ago from Thailand

Good article! I never rent jet skis but I think I was scammed the same sort of way with a scooter rental. Now I always take a quick photo of anything I rent, with the owner in the picture, or at least watching, before I head out onto the road.

ZandaDee profile image

ZandaDee 4 years ago from Sydney

I was told about this scam when I was in Phuket, luckily as a result I chose not to hire one. I did however get stung by a number of other scams in Thailand, still love the place though!

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 4 years ago from South East Asia Author

Thank you ZandaDee. Yes the same scam runs in Phuket but I like you love home.

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