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Darren Hatcher and son Michael: ripped off, they say, in a jet-ski scam

Jet-Ski Gang Scams Aussie Tourists

Saturday, October 25, 2014
PHUKET: Jet-ski operators on Phuket are still ripping off tourists with scams that should have been stopped long ago, an Australian tourist who was a victim has revealed.

Darren Hatcher, 48, and his son Michael, 16, told Phuketwan this week how a family group were fleeced of 50,000 baht by a gang of jet-ski operators - and that they believe others are still being scammed.

Revelation of what happened in the rip-offs comes with the future of jet-skis on Phuket being discussed and an important public meeting scheduled for Patong on Tuesday.

''Five of us hired jet-skis to ride around Patong Bay,'' Mr Hatcher said before flying home to Gosford, where he works in a hardware store. ''The thing is, they pointed out the pre-existing damage to the jet-skis on the beach.

''Then when we returned, they claimed we had caused that damage.''

Mr Hatcher said that the 40-minute argument on Patong beach became quite heated. A large tattooed man appeared on the scene, threateningly.

''A policeman who arrived soon after immediately sided with the jet-ski guys and said we would be arrested if we did not pay,'' Mr Hatcher said.

''The policeman said, 'If you don't pay, you will be locked up for two days.'

''We took the skis out knowing the damage was there, and none of the jet-skis went anywhere near each other.''

In the end, Mr Hatcher said, he had no choice except to go to an ATM, leaving son Michael as collateral, and withdraw 10,000 baht to pay to the operators.

''They told me it was for 'loss of income' for the possibility of the jet-ski being out of the water while it was repaired,'' he said.

A 21-year-old woman on another jet-ski in the same family group was made to hand over 40,000 baht.

''I went back the next day and saw the same two jet-skis back in the water,'' he said. ''I believe it is a regular scam, and that other tourists have been extorted in the same way.''

Region 8 police volunteer Wal Brown told Phuketwan that it was the fourth scam he'd learned about in the space of 15 days, but there were probably many more.

The pre-existing damage scam is an old ruse. Tourists should go to the Kathu Police Station if arguments develop so the issue can be mediated.

The police officer who arrived at the scene should have suggested the discussion move to the police station immediately. For him not to do that raises suspicions of collusion with the jet-ski operators.

Mr Hatcher said that after the incident, the jet-ski operators behaved aggressively whenever the family group passed by in Patong's beach road.

He heard that a Japanese group was scammed in similar fashion and on a trip to Phi Phi, was told how another group of Aussies had been ripped off.

''There were 11 of us in the group last week, from New South Wales, Tasmania and other parts of Australia,'' Mr Hatcher said. ''All of us will have bad things to say about jet-skis in Phuket when we get back.''

Asked whether he would be returning to Phuket, 16-year-old Michael said: ''No way.''

Phuketwan Editorial OPINION

THE JET-SKIS must go. The jet-skis' most regular defender, Phuket's Marine 5 director, has an office in an obscure corner on the other side of the island and never gets to hear about these scams and rip-offs.

But they continue without interruption to destroy Phuket's reputation.

Phase them out over five years, setting targets for reduction each year and confiscating the jet-ski of any operator found guilty of scamming.

Get rid of them. Phuket doesn't need them. The vast majority of tourists and residents don't want them.

We still remember standing on Patong beach, trying to help settle a dispute, and being told by a thug that he would ''smear blood over both your faces.''

Nothing has changed. These people never will.

The good guys will just have to suffer because they've let the bad guys do it their way for too long.

Push the jet-skis off this peaceful holiday island for good.

In the event that the logic of getting rid of the jet-skis cannot be grasped by the Army and the Navy, Phuketwan suggests that all jet-ski operators be obliged to contribute a substantial amount each year to a cooperative fund.

Let the jet-ski operators pay for any damage claims that exceed the present insurance contracts.

Let the jet-ski operators collectively check on each other to make sure the payouts are genuine.

Let them fight among themselves.

One way or the other, it's time to free Phuket from this pestilence plaguing tourism.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I like the editorial opinion but why wait 5 years. If the Army instituted change on public land re removal of buildings, umbrellas, sun beds then jet skis can follow the same fate.

Posted by expat tiger on October 25, 2014 09:45


I recall a couple of years ago seeing a police officer in uniform sitting at a table on Patong beach , with jet ski thugs hovering around him , while he was doing the paperwork .He looked to be the controlling party in the operation. They asked if i wanted to hire and he looked at me as if to give his approval and guarantee of safety. I have never hired a jet ski and will never. It is disgraceful that these people can still operate like this . There needs to be a permanent NCPO attachment assigned to Jet ski management and control.

Posted by carvets on October 25, 2014 09:58


What's surprising about this event is that despite the publicity about Jet Ski scams they go on and on. Most obvious is the lack of genuine police intervention because the story implies the policeman was part of the scam. Hopefully the Aussie will tell the story to the media back in Australia. It's sickening.

Posted by seht1912 on October 25, 2014 10:02


One particularly wonders why the (poor) massage/peanut/deckchair guys cant work on the beaches yet the jet-skis can.

THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE FIRST TO GO ! I am yet to read about any deckchair scams.................Phase the jet skis out. Don't give them 5 years - they were given 7 back in 2005. Give them a year. 365days and gone.

Posted by Mr Man on October 25, 2014 10:09


Another nail in the tourism coffin in Thailand...BAN the things! Its the only way... with all the negative publicity no one will come soon. These thugs are worse than any of them. In Australia on the travel web site there are 1000's of the warning so much that the government say steer clear! PM Prayuth you need to do something about this these people are what you talk about getting rid of... fraudsters, liers, con men... where is the change for the better.

Posted by abigmagilla on October 25, 2014 10:27


I feel no pity for the Aussies that hired the jet skis... Everyone knows the jet ski operators are scammers. The historical stories about the misadventures of previous tourists that have been scammed out of thousands should be enough for others to steer clear completely of jet skis in Thailand.
On the other hand, why has the army allowed these operators to continue, yet taken the chairs and umbrellas away?

Posted by No pity on October 25, 2014 10:44


Want to make a bet on how the Police happened along ????? I would bet on the J/S Operators making that happen to help force payment. Does the Mayor or other officials hear these stories ? 99.9% of Thai People are great , these guys . . .

Posted by Leigh on October 25, 2014 10:52


How long did it take to get rid of the sun beds etc?
That's the length of time you should give the jet ski mobs to clear out of Phuket.
Also investigate the policeman in this story.

Posted by Seth on October 25, 2014 11:09


Yet with the meeting next week the authorities seem to be bending over backwards to keep these thugs in business. Vendors- bad, jetskis- good. There's no logic to it whatsoever.

Re-implement the lapsed 7 year plan to get rid of them but without the grace period. kick them off the beach tomorrow and stick them in jail if they re-appear. We all know the Marine Dept will sit back and do nothing though. There were 8 jetskis sat idle on Kamala Beach yesterday as no one had any interest in using them.

This is hardly the 'quality' image TAT is trying to ram down our throats at the moment.

Posted by Mister Ree on October 25, 2014 11:40

Editor Comment:

I'd ask a doctor to treat that quality image rammed down your throat, MR.


The jet skis could not operate without the support of Phuket's Marine 5 director, they are never arrested nor charged for any of their activities and it's like that since nearly 2 decades.

Posted by jean-paul patrick on October 25, 2014 11:51


I just drove along the beach road. Jet skis under the trees where people should be relaxing. Touts shouting across the road to harass tourists. Tuk tuks parked all along the road. Stopped in traffic for a slow moving muay Thai truck. Words are nothing without enforcement.

Posted by jon on October 25, 2014 11:57


The army goes in and smashes all the restaurants, sunbeds, massage stalls, vendors etc but it seems as if they are too frightened of the jet ski mafia??? Why are they still operating a commercial business on a beach?

Posted by Mr Wolf on October 25, 2014 12:40


There is no practical advise in term what exactly to do in such situations neither by MFAs nor by media, as insurance an abstract thing, but when someone is approached gang-style with a request to pay (X)XX XXX THB, and a police officer is usually threatining with an applying "Mischief" section of the Penal code, it would be good to produce sound instructions , whether speedy Mischief indictment is for real, whether they shoukd contact alternative police officers do from which office etc. After they pay then hardly anything can be done to bring any money back or the responsible persons to answer against the real law.

Posted by Sue on October 25, 2014 12:56


people, a good piece of advice. Have the telephone number of a thai Phuket lawyer in your phone. let that mafia police office arrest you ( with his 2 day treat lock up). At police station call Governor, NCPO, and PhuketWan/Phuket tabloid/Bangkok Post. Than lean back and see how all the thai start to handle your case. Sure, it will be amusing, specially after you call your consul.

Posted by Kurt on October 25, 2014 12:58


How about a 50000 baht fine for even having a damaged jetski on the beach? Sorry I forgot where I lived for a moment.

Posted by Pinot on October 25, 2014 13:00


Tourists!! be aware, no low ranking police office will walk the hot sand of patong beach, unless he is sure he can make his day with good scam money. You just should demand a transport to the police station, make your calls, and see how this works out. NEVER PAY!

Posted by Kurt on October 25, 2014 13:02


This is such a joke. Where is Batman when you need him.

Posted by Iminholiday on October 25, 2014 15:00


Every single Thai tourism website, blog or forum mentions the jet ski scam but people still get caught. Do tourists ever bother to research the places they are visiting????????

Posted by Arthur on October 25, 2014 15:36


Expat tiger and carvets, I,m totally agree with you two. What about paragliders? Do this people have so much powere that they can do what they like?

Posted by Retired Roadworker on October 25, 2014 17:26


Why give them another grace period of 5 years ? It was already decided to get them off Phuket beaches by 2007 or 2008 and still they are there. Make Phuket jet-ski free like all the beaches in Krabi province and we have peace !

Posted by Werni on October 25, 2014 18:53

Editor Comment:

There were no year by year targets in the original phase-out. Halting the jet-skis overnight is not so easy because the investment is substantial and not all the operators are thugs and cheats. But the good jet-ski operators should have attended to the problem themselves years ago. A phased reduction with operators needing to renew their licenses each year on performance would make practical sense.


@ Arthur - they don't. Just had a couple today, wondering why the sun beds had disappeared.

Posted by Hotel owner on October 25, 2014 18:57

Editor Comment:

Did you tell them 'There was this huuuuge gust of wind and the next morning , , , the sunbeds had all gone.'


there under the microscope and still continue in there wicked ways final nail in coffin be gone with them forever why why why are they treated like some protected species.

Posted by slickmelb on October 25, 2014 19:58



why are they treated like some protected species


because they're protected

Posted by Sue on October 25, 2014 20:31


there must be some mighty powerful people in charge
even more poweful than the army

Posted by ayjay on October 25, 2014 23:37


Only one solution: everybody stop to hire ALL jetskis (I think holidays stays holidays whithout this). And just wait what happens ;-)

Posted by Anonymous on October 26, 2014 01:03


The jet skis are the biggest, longest, lasting problem causing the most damage to the island and the Thailand Tourism industry there is,
Everyone would love to see this abomination go 100% permanently.

Posted by Greg on October 26, 2014 08:26


Jet ski scam again !
I think Phuket will loose thousands tourist because of this Jetski mafia. This terrible jet ski scam rumors will spread all over the world, and peoples find other destinations, 4 of my friends has cancelled their holiday here on Phuket, they will go to Viet nam instead.
If this scam continue, bye bye to Phuket and Thailand as a tourist destinations, only Russian and Chinese will come, Phuket has lost European tourists.

Conclusion: BAN THE JETSKIS.

Posted by Expat Norwegian on October 26, 2014 11:22


It's a pity the local media haven't picked up on this story, so it gets proper exposure.

Posted by agogohome on October 26, 2014 12:41


Tourists will keep coming specially Chinese and Russians who do not care about these kind of rip-off stories, as they are both living in terrible conditions in their own countries.

Chinese who are coming from a polluted country which lacks quality food. They are simply interested in eating. They eat and empty the supermarkets with whatever they can bring back home. Russians are on the run from cold weather condition, seeking cheap booze not aware that they are given fake Chinese counterfeit booze in nice packages and bottles!

Only these 2 nations are pouring down enough money compare to rest of the world and unfortunately their number is just growing.

Thailand's tourism is already changed. They want "Q" tourist. What is that?
- Those who happily pay the extortions and rip-offs without any objections!

Posted by neramit on October 26, 2014 13:27


Obviously, there is quite a number of people are interested in riding jet-ski, so it's not that everyone hates it.
And facts of scam and bad press about it obviously wasn't any a detriment of any significance for people stop to hire jet-ski or stop to come to Thailand.

Scam is not only problem that is associated with jet-ski, among others are zoning of the beach to split it into active and quite zones, rules at the sea, and whether it is legal at all for general public to drive a jet-ski in Thailand.

Some people seems to be as much uninformed about Viet Nam as other about jet-ski scams:
overall, there are much more various scams in Vietnam than in Thailand, only Philipines can be considered in the same league on it as Vietnam;
and 1/3 of visitors are coming from the Greater China - PRC, RoC and SAR.

Posted by Sue on October 26, 2014 16:07


We cant get quality tourists we cant get return custom we cant figure it out
@sue yes they appear protected but who can taint the army to bypass it? all that's really done was pop a Band-Aid on a festering sore there back to there criminal extortions in short order so they must be feeling very comfy they are untouchable.

Posted by slickmelb on October 26, 2014 19:20


Weren't they removed a few months ago by the Junta, only to be allowed back on the beach after complaining they would have to turn to crime (a contradiction) if they couldn't operate their Jet ski business?

Posted by Bri on October 26, 2014 21:21

Editor Comment:

Why not check yourself? It would take about two minutes' research.


It is such a shame that a "few" bad locals cause tourists to believe Thai people are all in it to scam from them. Jet ski scams in Phuket are as old as the mountains so why do tourists still hire a jet ski. If you dont hire a jet ski then a scan cannot take place, right?? Please dont tell me that a tourist going to Phuket for the first time does not read up on their detination. Just google anything about Phuket and jet ski scams pop up somewhere in the text. Really can any tourist honestly say they are not aware of the scam. Ignorant tourists keep this scam alive!!!!!

Posted by Jacques on October 26, 2014 23:44

Editor Comment:

Tourists are entitled to trust that the law in the destination they are visiting will protect them. To blame the tourists is to blame the victims. Do you really believe it's the tourists' fault, Jacques? That the answer to the problem is to take away the tourists? You have a thinking problem.


Take photos of jetski before use

Posted by Anonymous on October 26, 2014 23:53


@ Jacques

Are you for real ?

It is the people who think cheating tourists is their birth right and those who wholeheartedly support and benefit from these scams that keep them alive.

Every person has the right to expect that openly operated businesses are controlled by authorities and any misdeeds weeded out. Jet-Skis are not rented out from some obscure, hidden away backstreet den. They are in the perhaps most visible and noticeable location in Patong. It is unthinkable that these scams can continue for decades without some really influential people backing them up.

Posted by Herbert on October 27, 2014 08:14


@Slickmelb Good God man, would you please learn the difference between "they're" "their" and "there"

Posted by Anton on October 27, 2014 08:22


Is the jetski meeting today still on?

Posted by phonus on October 27, 2014 11:01

Editor Comment:

yes, Monday. Not Tuesday.


@ Anton well that really contributed to the subject matter thank your for enlightenment on grammar I am sure it will be so that your astute observations of the written word will fix the jet ski scams overnight.

Posted by Slickmelb on October 29, 2014 00:46


If you wish to make a pertinent point in any debate then try to use correct grammar. It's called communication. I get confused when so many people write 'the Thai's'. The Thai's what? Language, culture? It's not rocket seance, er science.

Posted by Sam Wilko on October 31, 2014 13:18


Kurt - the idea of calling a "Thai lawyer" is fanciful. They would not dare upset the thugs who control the jet ski racket. This is certainly the case in Pattaya among lawyers, I don't see why the fear of a bullet at traffic lights from a passing motorcycle should be any less palpable in Phuket.

Posted by Barry on October 31, 2014 13:41


Sam Wilko

How do you like the spellng

the a**hOle


P.S. Someone is scribbling supposedly ad rem, but it works only apropos to demonstrate that there were too much drugs or it was necessary to rest a bit more upon rich libations before take up writing for a family oriented hotel:

"Marriages and seminal events are covered, along with our regular articles such as ???Fruit of the Month??? which has, by the way, absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with the sexual orientation of certain members of staff. It???s all happening here and we love you to be part of it."

Posted by Sue on November 2, 2014 05:58


I never heard of this before. So there are some scams going on, in the JetSki rental business. Might just be some misunderstanding from The Aussie family. Even the police was there.

Posted by Karsk on November 10, 2014 22:33


@ sue. With all the advise and info you print in forums, do you have a work permit to act as a guide and online encyclopaedia? We will trace you and follow up. This is working boyo? Stick to the law, or the law will stick to you.

Posted by Duncan B on November 11, 2014 08:12

Friday January 27, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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