Tourists around the world have been easy marks for scammers. They’re in a new place, don’t know the area or its customs, and often don’t know the language either. Whether it’s the Paris ring scam or the Chinese tea ceremony we look to local police to be arbiters and protectors of the innocent (and gullible).
But what if the police are in on it, working with the scammers? That was the charge at the start of the year by a television producer who visited Mexico and sat in a jail there, saying that no he didn’t run up a $300 bar tab? Or what if police respond when you’re presented an inflated bill after a Chinese tea ceremony and insist that you pay?
And what if it’s the police doing the scamming? In a video shot last year, that only recently went viral, Bali police officers are videotaped extorting a Japanese tourist.
The visitor was driving a motorbike without its headlights on, which is required both day and night in Indonesia. The maximum fine is less than US$7. However the officers demand one million Indonesian Rupees in cash (about ten times the maximum fine). Since the man didn’t have that much, they haggled and accepted a lower amount. And by the way the officers who approached him aren’t even traffic cops.
The good news is it’s Indonesia and everything is cheap. I figure if you’re extorted by law enforcement and it costs you only around $60 you’re doing fairly well. Several months ago I told the story about bribing a U.S. border official as a teenager, so this isn’t entirely a ‘third world phenomenon’. But that cost less than $100 as well.