Thankfully, not at point-blank or knife point, but it still left me feeling violated, and I didn’t even see it coming! I seriously had no reason to be on high alert. It was broad daylight, and I was in my own neighborhood. I walked into a bank ATM location, and there were other people there so it wasn’t like I was alone. I walked passed a guy who was talking loudly on the phone. I overheard him say that he tried making a withdrawal, but his money didn’t come out. After I put in my pin number, he told me the ATM was broken. Without even thinking about it, I quickly pressed cancel, grabbed my card, and thanked him as I walked over to a different ATM. He continued his conversation, and left before I had even finished my transaction. To be completely honest, I really didn’t think anything of it until I noticed $300 missing from my account. WTF?
I filed a claim, and it turns out the camera footage showed that guy walking right up to the ATM immediately after I walked away. Somehow, he managed to take money right from my account, and I didn’t even know he stole it. My mind was completely blown!
How could I have possibly fallen for such a scam? Looking back, there were at least 2 major red flags:
Random person lingering & pretending to be on the phone
He waited until after I entered my pin number to tell me that the ATM was broken
At first, I was so disappointed in myself. Usually, I spot these sorts of things a mile away. There was one thing that he did a little differently than most scammers. He made me think he was helping me out by telling me the ATM was broken. So instead of questioning his actions, I thanked him. I believed this guy so much that when I filed the claim I actually told the bank that there must have been some sort of glitch in the system because another customer had an issue withdrawing money right before me. This made me realize that these scammers are getting better and better with each passing day. So, I decided to share a few simple tips to help keep your money safe, especially while traveling. I know I know, tips from the girl who just got robbed????
Keep all of your valuables and your passport (unless you need it for some reason) inside the safe at the hotel.
Do not carry a lot of cash on you, and be discreet when paying for things with cash.
If you choose to carry a bag, then opt for one you can carry in your hand. If you choose a crossbody bag, then be sure to keep it in front of your body at all times.
When traveling in places known for pick pocketing, do not hang your bag on the chair or place it under your seat or on the table. Keep it on your lap.
Avoid wearing jewelry. Even fake jewelry can look real to the uneducated eye, and it can make you a target.
If you are alone, it’s better to stay near crowds especially when waiting for a train or a bus.
Avoid walking in unfamiliar areas by yourself especially at night, and avoid dimly lit unpopulated areas altogether.
Always be aware of your surroundings. If you hear someone walking behind you, turn and look at them confidently as you keep walking. If you feel uncomfortable, then cross the street. If the person follows, then it’s time to run, scream, and make a lot of noise. If you know you will be in an unsafe area, then maybe carry a whistle or a little horn, and have it in your hand ready to use. If you know you are going to be in a dangerous place, then carry mace with you.
If someone tries to stop you to ask for the time, directions, or whatever… keep walking. If you feel the need to answer, then you can tell them from a distance as you keep it moving.
Do not listen to your music on headphones while you are walking. If you must listen to music, then use normal headphones and keep the volume low. Avoid using noise cancelling headphones.
Do not talk on the phone while you are walking. The more distracted you are the more of a target you become.
Book all ground transportation in advance either with a company you trust or through the hotel concierge.
Try to avoid using ATMs that are not inside an actual bank with tellers. If you need to take cash out after business hours, then try going to a grocery store and doing the cash back option.
We already know how the ATM situation can turn out. Ugh, I still can’t believe I fell for it.
Do you have any other tips? Please feel free to share in the comments.