WELP: Debit and Credit Cards Skimmed in Thailand

If missing my flight to Japan was not bad enough, I had an unfortunate discovery after arriving in Fukuoka…my debit card was skimmed in Bangkok.  I always have cash on hand when traveling internationally to protect my credit/debit cards and my peace of mind.  On this trip, I had cash but decided to use it for purchases on my first day.  My rationale was that I could find a bank to withdraw cash and all would end well.  Boy, was I wrong. 

The only ATMs I could find near the Aloft Hotel were on the sides of the streets, in some sketchy locations.  I passed on withdrawing funds from them for fear of skimming.  All of the cards I have offer fraud protection so I felt comfortable using them on my last day.  I went about my day, as usual, enjoying food and drinks.  There was not one instance where I could pinpoint when my card could have been skimmed because there were so many of them.

Here is how it went down: I used my Citi Prestige Card while out and about during the day.  This was done in case anything crazy appeared on the card. I could pinpoint the exact time and place.  The Citi Prestige card escaped fraudulent charges during the trip, minus the Japan Airlines Missed Flight Fee.

USAA logo

This all changed at night when I decided to use my USAA debit card for purchases. I went to the room to change clothes because the weather in Thailand was hot and humid.  From the hotel, I headed to a bar down the street. The bar was different because I could not start a tab. This meant every time I ordered a drink, the bartender swiped my card.  The swiping of my card every time was different than anything I had ever experienced, but I went with it.

After leaving the bar, I made my way to Crave.  It was a night club connected to, but does not belong to, the Aloft Hotel.  Again, my card was swiped every time I ordered a drink. I actually felt comfortable with this because it was the second consecutive establishment that behaved in this manner. I had a decent time and called it a night.

As I said in the intro, I discovered the fraudulent charges on USAA checking account after arriving in Japan.  The charges were four of the same from a software company.  Each charge was $164 USD, which meant the total fraud charges were in excess of $600 USD.  I locked my card and disputed the charges through the USAA Mobile App.  I still did not have peace of mind, so I phoned USAA. The representative understood my plight and verified the disputed charges.  She informed me that the debit card could no longer be used and one was already in the mail. It sucked not having any cash on hand for the rest of my trip, but I needed to stop the charges before the skimmers took more.

To make matters worse, I found a fraudulent charge on my Chase Freedom Unlimited Card for $582.43. I did not use this card anywhere in Bangkok, nor did I leave it in the hotel room. I immediately called Chase. The bank promptly cancelled the card and issued a new one. In addition to this, they credited back the nearly $600 while an investigation took place.  They told me it could take months for the case is finalized.

Final Word

This was another, in a long line of my travel adventures.  I thought I had it all figured out, but as soon as I let my guard down, I was had.  The importance of having fraud protection cannot be stated enough.  If my bank did not have it, I would have been stuck with the charges.  Huge thank you to USAA and Chase for confirming the fraud and returning the money to my checking and credit card accounts.  I will ensure that I have enough cash when I visit a similar destination in the future.

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