A 15-strong gang has been scamming tourists in downtown Ho Chi Minh City by shining their shoes without being asked before demanding an extortionate amount of money, threatening those who do not pay, a Thanh Nien investigation has found.
On August 11 for instance, two foreign men were sitting on a bench in September 23rd Park when two men suddenly approached them and polished their shoes without saying a word.
The tourists did not turn them away but were shocked to be asked VND1 million (US$45).
The two men threatened the tourists until they paid them the money.
Thanh Nien found similar incidents occurring elsewhere in the city’s downtown.
On August 11 a foreign man was about to cross Le Lai Street when a man insisted on polishing his shoes though the former said no.
A Thanh Nien reporter managed to join the shoeshine group and found there were 15 men who had moved to the city from Thanh Hoa Province.
They rent rooms on Hoang Sa Street, District 3, and usually take buses to the downtown area.
A member, who claimed he could earn VND2 million in a morning, said they often go in pairs so that they could threaten the victims easier. One would polish shoes and demand money while the other would keep an eye out for police and voluntary youths, he said.
Dinh To Hoa, deputy chief inspector of the city Department of Tourism, admitted that her agency is aware of the scam.
Authorities have recorded more than 2,500 cases of hawkers and shoeshine boys hassling tourists, she said.
“[My] department has coordinated with relevant agencies to step up patrolling. They will also be punished if caught on street cameras.”