Let me start by saying Vietnam is a beautiful country with some very friendly and helpful people. This post is not meant to discourage you from visiting the country. I am simply using my platform to share my experience with crime in Vietnam in hopes that it will help the next person avoid what happened to me. I was robbed my second night in Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. It wasn’t the typical phone or purse snatching that I have now learned to be very common in Vietnam. I was robbed by someone who posed as my Grab driver. So here is a list of things to be mindful of to stay safe when you visit Vietnam.
1. ALWAYS match the vehicle and driver information to YOUR app when you are using a ride sharing platform. The most important piece of information that I want to stress about this robbery is the fact that this person had on a Grab jacket, a Grab helmet and he showed me my name along with my destination address which was my hotel on his phone. I later found out that the Grab driver that completed the ride that was done during this time was supposedly not in the area based on GPS Coordinates. My mistake was that once he showed me my information on his phone I believed him to be my correct driver and I did not match his license plate to my app. He did not give me a Grab helmet but I was told that they don’t always use Grab helmets for the passengers. NOTE: I saw some ladies selling Grab helmets on the side of the road, so them giving you a Grab helmet also does not make them legit because anybody can buy a Grab helmet!
2. NEVER store your personal items in anyone’s motorbike. I had been receiving warnings from previous Grab drivers all day to be careful with my bag and phone. This person played on the fact that the good people give these warnings. He drove off from the initial pickup point a little bit where there were people and lights and then he stopped in an area that had no lighting or people. He very nicely gave me the same warning that everyone else had gave me only he suggested that I put my purse and Hard Rock Café bag in the seat of his bike. I didn’t get a bad vibe from him and I had been safely riding with Grab bikes all day so I thought I should take this advice because it was late night. After the fact I realized how much power I gave him because he could have easily just pushed me off the bike or he could have done something worse like created a situation for me to fall off the bike and get injured so he could take my things.
3. NEVER give your unlocked phone to anyone! As we were driving he asked me to GPS the hotel. I didn’t think anything of that because I have been with ridesharing drivers in other countries before that were new to driving and didn’t know their way around the city. Plus we was on a motorbike so he couldn’t drive the bike and do the GPS. Well shortly after I did the GPS and gave him the phone to look at the map he pointed behind us and there was a shoe. I looked at him confused and then he pointed at his foot and he didn’t have a shoe on. So I jumped off the bike to go get the shoe. The next thing I heard was him speeding away on the motorbike. I ran after him for a few seconds yelling HE ROBBED ME, but most likely nobody knew what I was saying and there weren’t any people on the bridge. I ran into oncoming traffic and a motorbike picked me up and took me to a group of people and we had to work through the language barrier for them to understand what happened. One of the girls gave me her phone and I was able to contact my hotel and the reception talked to them in Vietnamese and the guy took me back to my hotel because I didn’t have money or anything to catch a taxi.
4. Ho Chi Minh City Police are USELESS!!!!! I was told by a few locals that they had been robbed and the police treated them like the criminal and one girl blatantly said oh yeah they didn’t care because you are a tourist. The first officer I interacted with at least took the report. He told me thru my hotel security who was translating that they would deliver me an incident certificate at 2pm to use to file a claim on my insurance. At 2pm my hotel informed me that they wanted me and the security person to come back to the police station because there was a discrepancy in my story. This second officer was a plain clothes officer and he had a major attitude from the time we walked into the station. He was resistant and accusatory toward me as if I had something to gain by coming to Vietnam to run an insurance scam for a stolen phone and camera. I only requested this certificate to have proof of the robbery, I didn’t have any insurance to claim it on because I don’t think travel insurance covers robbery. He pulled the camera footage for the time of my Grab pickup based on the receipt and he said he didn’t see me. I had to keep pushing to get them to show me the video. I told him to go back in the time of the video and he refused. I told him I know I walked right by that area that was on the video. I explained that I request ride sharing pickups in foreign places I pick a specific place in this case it was the Hong Kong Hotel. I like to know that I am choosing an exact location vs a pin drop for my pickup. Since he was so resistant I asked for a copy of the report the previous officer had wrote and he told me no. It was on the desk so I took a picture of the front page so I could get the officers name. The plain clothes officer got really mad and took my phone and deleted the picture. During this time that I was at the station it also seemed that there was an intimidation tactic going on. They brought in some guy off the street and started slapping him around right in front of me and the hotel security. So I’m not sure if they were trying to intimidate me or the hotel security for helping me. I do know that when I called back to the hotel to ask the hotel security for the first officer’s name he told me that if I needed additional assistance I needed to contact the police department. The day we were at the station he was telling me the first officer’s name but I didn’t have a pen to write it down so I know he knew what it was.
5. HANOI GRAB SCHEME: So I unfortunately experienced a second Grab Scheme in Vietnam, but since I had already been robbed I was on high alert. I had been avoiding Grab since the incident because they suspended my account and I had to create a second one, plus my sense of security with them was severely damaged. My hotel shuttle was 400,000VND each way for airport pickup. Grab was coming in at 253,000VND. I went to try a taxi because they usually fall in line between the two, but they were all quoting me 400,000VND. I finally had one give in and say 300,000VND but since he wasn’t honest up front I was skeptical that he would change the price once I had my stuff in his cab (another common scheme in Vietnam). I ordered the Grab and the first driver told me he would need me to wait for 30 minutes because he was having car trouble. I told him no that he needed to cancel the ride if he was having car trouble. The second driver that took my ride messaged me and asked was I alone or with a group of people (red flag #1). He then messaged me and asked me to send a picture (red flag #2). Grab doesn’t use pictures like Uber and Lyft for the passenger. What I figured out with this scheme in Hanoi is they have people standing at the exit that are walking up to you saying Grab Driver. He message me and told me to get in a car with a specific license plate (red flag #3). As I realized what was happening I started taking screen shots and I took a picture of the two people that walked up to me and said Grab driver. I will be submitting all this information to the proper authorities and hopefully these people will experience some type of punishment.
6. ALWAYS ask to speak to an American representative at a US Embassy. I extended my stay in Ho Chi Minh because it was a holiday when this happened and I wanted to make the US Embassy aware of this situation since there were no warnings about this type of activity on the state department website. The lady I spoke to was very dismissive and basically told me she didn’t know what I wanted them to do. I was PISSED! So I went to social media and thankfully someone in a group saw my post and was disappointed that this was my experience. They passed along the information to the proper sources and made sure my incident was properly documented. They were the one that mentioned that I possibly spoke to a local instead of an actual officer of the state department even though that shouldn’t have mattered because they are supposed to act accordingly as a representative of the United States.
I am not the type of person to let things go. I am sick and tired of the evil people in the world getting away with things because good people are tired of fighting and not being heard. After this happened to me I told anybody who would listen because if I can help it they will never be able to still another phone purse or anything. I want people to be equipped with the information they need to fight back. I am mad as hell about this because I don’t work my _____ off to buy things for lazy ______ to come and take it. It’s ridiculous that the locals also live in fear because this also happens to them on a regular basis and they don’t get any help from police either.
I will NEVER visit Vietnam again because I refuse to spend my money in a country where I can’t get proper assistance as a victim of a crime. In my opinion corruption flows from the top down and if the government were to put their foot down with poor law enforcement and protect their people and their visitors then this type of crime would not happen on a regular basis. I am not tolerant of this behavior in America and I am most certainly not tolerant of it in a place where I get to make a choice to be. My final piece of advice on visiting Vietnam is to exercise EXTREME caution (TRUST NO ONE!).