Foreign Ministry warns on scams targeting tourists

By Kuan-lin Liu, The China Post

Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of West Asian and African Affairs Antonio Chen (陳俊賢) cautioned Taiwanese tourists to be “mindful of overly-friendly locals” when traveling abroad.

During a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 1, Chen said that several Taiwanese tourists visiting Istanbul, Turkey had recently reported cases of con and swindling by locals.

In most scenarios, Chen explained, a friendly local would approach Taiwanese tourists and offer to take them sightseeing. Given that these locals did not present themselves as official tour guides, most tourists believed them to be friendly strangers offering a free service.

The locals would then proceed to take the tourists around the city, eventually ending up at a pre-determined restaurant or bar that was in cahoots with these locals. The restaurant or bar would overcharge the tourists for food and split the proceeds with the locals who took them there. In some cases, Chen reported, the meal would be two to three times more expensive than an average meal in the city.

Chen stressed that these scams were not limited to Istanbul and urged Taiwanese traveling abroad to be cautious. Chen noted that it was important not to romanticize foreign hospitality and to be mindful of one’s surroundings when traveling. Update on Detained Nationals

While on the topic of Taiwanese in Turkey, Chen offered an update on the remaining Taiwanese nationals currently detained in Turkey for alleged fraud.

Of the 51 Taiwan nationals that were arrested on fraud charges, 41 have been returned to Taiwan. Chen stated that these 41 nationals were released because they were involved in telecommunications fraud in which the victims were not Turkish nationals.

The 10 remaining Taiwanese nationals are currently being held in a prison in Turkey. They were allegedly involved in ATM skimming, stealing the credit card and personal information of ATM users via a device that they installed in the machines.

Given that the victims of these ATM skimming cases were Turkish nationals, Turkey maintains jurisdiction to try these 10 Taiwanese nationals and can detain them for up to five years.

Although there is no specific timeline for dealing with the return of the remaining 10 detainees, Chen maintained that Taiwan has a good relationship with Turkey and has been in constant communication about the alleged fraud cases. Chen cited the return of the 41 nationals as “a sign of good faith” on Turkey’s part.

Chen further stated that his department would continue to serve as an intermediary between the detained Taiwanese nationals and their family members who may want to contact them.