I never thought I would be a victim of skimming – until I was!

Posted by Jennie

Until recently, our travel funds were always in cash, PHP exchanged to Euro or USD brought all the way from Manila. So expenses would be a combination of cash and credit card. It was only when I travelled to Spain with the girls (see related story) when it occurred to me to use my ATM when I saw my friends using their ATMs.

So, if you’re not already using your ATM’s on foreign trips and should you want to, you will need to inform your bank as they will have to authorize this. Inform them at least 24 hours before you leave.

The convenience of using your ATM abroad means no longer having to exchange a huge amount to cover your entire trip. It also saves you the worry of having to “hide” your cash in different places to limit the damage if money is stolen from you.

I’m always the designated treasurer on all our family trips. On this trip, I used different cash machines in Paris, Aix, Nice, Florence and Rome. After our 3 week trip, we left Rome thanking our lucky stars that there were no hitches in our trip.

Naturally when we arrived in Manila, we all wanted to veg and so we did for 2 days. On day 3  I checked my BPI balance online and there had been almost 20 withdrawals from my account over 2 days! What??? The withdrawals were on the day we left Rome and the day after. I went cold all over. It was a Sunday night at around 11:45pm.  I knew I had been skimmed.

I immediately called the BPI hotline. Being a Sunday, it took ages for me to get through to a call center agent. When I did get through she didn’t sound surprised at all. I got the feeling she gets calls like mine fairly often. She asked me the following questions:

  1. Did I have my card with me? – Yes I did.
  2. When did I arrive in Manila and did I have proof of arrival. – 3 days ago.Yes I did, I had the immigration stamp on my passport. This was to determine that I was not in Rome when the withdrawals were made.
  3. She filed a report and asked that I submit my  ATM card and copy of the passport page with immigration stamp to any BPI branch – which I did first thing the following morning

The bank got in touch with me 2 days later to tell me my case was under investigation. Although anxious whether I would recover what was taken, I remained optimistic. Two weeks later, the entire amount was credited back to my account and I was made to sign a quit claim document

So what did I learn from all this?

  1. Subscribe to the SMS service of your bank that informs you if a withdrawal has been made from your account.
  2. Keep 2 online accounts. Transfer small amounts to the account you use for daily expenses. This way, if you are skimmed, you will only lose a small amount.
  3. Do not lose your ATM card. If you are skimmed and you don’t have your card with you chances are you can kiss your money goodbye. The bank will not be as accommodating if you lost your card. To safeguard your money is their responsibility, to safeguard your card is your responsibility.
  4. Use a cash machine with a camera and if possible a machine inside a bank.
  5. Trust your bank.
  6. BPI has great customer service.

Would I visit Rome again? Would I use cash machines in Rome again? Yes to both!

When in Rome….