Scams and Dangers

The scams and danger on this page are those that are potentially life threatening. There are plenty of low level scams, like, getting overcharged. This is a third world country, and you are going to get, "low level", caught out if you don't have your wits about you. Manila in particular can be a very dangerous city if you stray into the wrong area or you let your guard down.


Manila is a fairly dangerous city if you don't know what you are doing. It may not be any more dangerous than any other third world city but still nonetheless dangerous. The crime here is quite sophisticated. To make it worse, the police are often involved. There are also many people in police uniform who are not actually police. I read a newspaper article recently which was about how to identify an illegal police road block.

Be very careful when crossing the street. Many, if not most of the traffic lights are out of use because intersections have been closed down with U-turn slots created further down the road. The traffic lights will usually still operate but they mean nothing. Zebra crossings mean nothing. If you are on one and in the middle of crossing a road, cars will pass straight by you within inches on either side. No one will let you cross but they will not try to deliberately hit you either.

Ativan Scam

The number one scam is the "Ativan Scam". (Ativan is also called the "date rape drug"). A friendly, well dressed Filipino, male or female, will start a conversation, sometimes under the pretext of asking you to translate a letter written in your language, or maybe he has relatives in your country; anything to engage you. Then, out of thanks or something like that, he/she will buy you a drink. The drink will be laced with the drug, Ativan, a sedative that will render you unconscious. If you are lucky, robbery will be the only motive. FILIPINO STRANGERS DO NOT BUY DRINKS!!!!!!! Any of the guide books will tell you this is the number one scam. I actually hear of it happening a lot. Be totally paranoid if a Filipino wants to buy you a drink. There is no need to be worried about friendly Filipinos, they comprise most of the population. Just be smart about this scam, especially in the tourist areas of the big cities. The US Consular Information Sheet for the Philippines make a strong mention of this and other scams.


2 tourists drugged, robbed in Manila
Posted: 2:46 AM (Manila Time) | Jan. 21, 2003
By Philip Tubeza
Inquirer News Service

(names replaced with "American" and "Finn")

TWO tourists were robbed over the weekend by alleged members of the Ativan gang, so called because they intoxicate their victims with the anti-anxiety drug Ativan before they rob them.
The thefts happened in a span of only six hours on Sunday, with one of the tourists hit during the festivities of the Feast of the Sto. Niņo in Tondo, Manila, police said. American ....... .and Finn ...................both complained that they were drugged and robbed, said investigators at the Western Police District-general assignment section.
"American" told police that he lost 40,000 pesos and 27 dollars cash, a diamond ring worth 1,000 dollars, and his credit card.
He identified the suspects only as Marlene, Liza, and three men, aged about 25.
"American" said the suspects befriended him near his hotel at about 11 a.m. on Sunday.
He said he fell for their smooth talk and friendliness. But after accepting a drink from them, he fell unconscious, "American" said.
"Finn" told police a woman who identified herself as Liza was one of six persons who drugged and robbed him. He said the other suspects identified themselves as Vivian and Aida. The three women were accompanied by three unidentified men, "Finn" said.
"Finn" said the suspects took from him 4,000 pesos and 40 dollars cash, a mobile phone and his sunglasses.
He told investigators that the suspects befriended him at about 5 p.m. Sunday along Juan Luna Street in Tondo, Manila.
"Finn" said the suspects invited him to join them and offered him a drink. He said he fell unconscious after drinking and found he was robbed when he woke up.


The worst thing you can do is catch a taxi at NAIA, the international Airport. Taxis are not allowed to operate from there, so if you catch one, you are in an illegal taxi. Hotel taxis may operate from there because they are pre-booked. They pick up passengers that have pre-booked through their hotel, and their name will be on a "hotel taxi list". Nothing to worry about if this is the way you are leaving the airport. The only other way out of the airport is to get an airport hire car. There are several car hire companies as you exit the main door. They will try to rip you off by quoting you a price twice as high as it should be. The worst in my opinion is "Nissan Rent a Car". It is just a straight out sleazy trick whereby they, "mistakenly" thought ,you wanted a chauffer driven car, rather than the standard car. The only difference between this and a standard car is the lettering on the side.  This is not a danger, but a rather bad-taste start to you holiday or visit.

Back to the illegal taxis - Every time I walk out through the NAIA terminal exit, there will be someone standing there asking if I want a taxi. The fact that they are not even allowed in the terminal area, and are doing it in front of the security guards, suggest the rewards for them exceed the risks. A colleague took one and was driven down a dark alley and made to pay up in US dollars. He was very very lucky. There are many worse stories than that.

I have not had problems at the completely separate PAL terminal, nor at the local domestic terminal. The Cebu airport in also a bad place to get a taxi - again, not a danger, but a bad start to a holiday.

Always avoid putting luggage in the trunk unless there are a few of you. Make sure that there is always one person remaining in the taxi while the trunk is being unloaded.

I have a "make-my-day" attitude with taxi drivers. I have been catching one almost every day for the last 6 years, and I have no problems with them. They try to cheat me at least once every few weeks, but I punish them with "no tip" and just laugh it off. I NEVER make it into something personal - that would be inviting a completely different problem.

Never let another person into the taxi with you. (unless they are with you). If this happens, get out quick. It has not happened to me or anyone I know, but I hear about it quite a bit. If this happens, you are about to be robbed - or worse. The taxi driver will ask if it is OK that a friend catch a ride with him also. This would never happen unless they are looking to do you over.


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