Avoid ATM Scams In Philippines

Last week I decided to do something different and blog about a topic that was more general in nature as opposed to the usual Philippines destinations to visit. The topic that I chose is one of my, and many other peoples, pet hates in the Philippines and that is taxi scams. One of the things that motivated me to write about taxi scams is that I am always wary about some of the challenges and pitfalls newcomers to the Philippines are confronted with. It is always a concern of mine that if a first time visitor to the country has a bad experience, it may turn them off visiting this country again. Or worse still, they may even tell their friends and family about it and they also might not come here. That would be a real shame as this country really is a beautiful country with many awesome places to visit. Just like any country in the world, there are a number of pitfalls and challenges, but do not let that deter you from visiting here.

After writing last weeks blog, I had quite an overwhelming response from my readers. The topic is obviously one that people feel quite passionate about. This got me thinking back to when I was new in this country and the many things that you need to look out for. There are so many different things to consider when visiting any new country for the first time. Some of these things may be tourist scams, it could be related to the weather conditions or it could be certain cultural practices. There are a number of things that can negatively impact your visit to a new country if you don’t understand or are unaware of these things.

Therefore, I have decided to write about some tourist survival tips in the Philippines to help newcomers to the Philippines. I will provide a few survival tips to help any newcomers to the country to deal with an adverse situation should it arise. Please also read my blog last week about taxi scams.

The survival tip for this week is how to avoid ATM scams. These type of scams happen all across the world and are not just unique to the Philippines. Tourists are easy targets for these types of scams the world over as they often need to use an ATM for cash. What’s more, tourists are usually unfamiliar with the local environment and some of the scams that are being peddled. That is why ATM scams are normally at the top of the list. Wherever there is money you are sure to find a scammer.

There is no place more rife with scams than at an ATM machine. There are a number of different tactics used by scammers when it comes to ATM machines. Following are the three most common scenarios in the Philippines:

1). Skimming devices

This is a threat to everyone that uses an ATM machine. Unfortunately, the Philippines is known as a hotspot for card skimming. Card skimming is designed to capture your card number and also your PIN as you type it into the keypad. This is usually done with a small hidden camera that is virtually undetectable. Once the perpetrators have your PIN and card number, they can use your card anywhere in the world, whether online or even face to face in a shop or restaurant or wherever. I have seen occasions where friends of mine have had their cards skimmed and ended up with a $10,000 purchase overseas that they were obviously not accountable for. Luckily for these people, their bank was able re-credit their account. However, it is still a disturbing thought that a complete stranger has your personal details at their fingertips. Check out the photo below for more details on how skimming works.

2). Distraction method

This method is less sophisticated than card skimming, but it can be equally as effective for the unsuspecting tourist. This happens when scammers operate as a duo. You are at the ATM when you get a tap on the shoulder. A seemingly helpful guy is behind you telling you that you have dropped money or something from your wallet on the ground. As you naturally turn around to look on the ground, his accomplice will come from the queue and snatch your card from the ATM machine or the cash as it is being dispensed. Before you know it, both of them have disappeared. This is a very mischievous method and it is likely that the scammer that the tapped you on the shoulder was watching you key in your PIN. This means they now have full access to your account if they take your card. Most ATMs these days have CCTV so this method is not as prevalent as it used to be but don’t take it for granted.

3). Armed Robbery

This one is not really a scam but something that you need to be very mindful of – flat out armed robbery. Once again, if you are at an ATM you are an obvious target having just withdrawn cash. It has been known for thieves to be observing you while you make your transaction. From this point, there are several different ways in which they will attempt to rob you. It might happen as you are pulling your cash out of the ATM, or somebody will be watching you and then follow you up the street until you are isolated or in a dark area. Then they will attempt to rob you. They can also use the distraction method in which they pretend to bump into you while you’re walking away from the ATM, and then pickpocket you, having observed where you put your money after the transaction.

How to avoid these scams

You must be very wary of using ATM machines that are in back streets or dimly lit areas, particularly at night. Preferably, you should use ATMs that are situated at bank branches or in shopping malls. These are least likely to have been tampered with and also have better lighting and security 24/7. It doesn’t hurt to have a quick glance over your shoulder while you’re queuing at the ATM to get a feel of how many people are behind you and if anything looks suspicious.

As far as card skimming goes, the only thing that you can really do is make sure that you cover your fingers when typing your PIN into the keypad. Most ATM’s these days have a protective cover over the keypad so that also provides a level of protection.

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