Credit Card Fraud in South Africa

Jul 7th, 2009, 04:27 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2009
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Credit Card Fraud in South Africa

To all those looking to travel to South Africa during the World Cup or any other time:

I have just returned from a trip to Cape Town. The city is beautiful but unfortunately I was the victim of credit card fraud while there. It seems that housekeeping searches your room while you are away (although not in the room's safe, I had my wallet hidden at the bottom of a suitcase). If they find your cards, they scan them through a device which reads your information. Your info is then sold and duplicate cards are then manufactured with the fraudster's name on the card.
So while you have your cards in your possession, your information has been obtained an is being used.

My advice is to PLEASE keep your credit cards on you at all times. Even if left in the safe in your room, they can get in there as well. The country is beautiful and I would recommend travel but you must remember crime is a big problem here.
LisitaNYC is offline  
Jul 7th, 2009, 04:47 AM
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Those small hand-held credit card scanners are used worldwide. You can't even be guaranteed that at the finest shop some clerk won't scan your card on a personal scanner at the same time as they're ringing up your purchase.

One has to watch their credit cards at all times and check your statements as soon as they're received. Use the safe at a hotel's Reception Desk sooner than the one in your room as this is the one (at least in the US) that is supposed to be insured against theft.

It's always good to be reminded to never leave important items in one's suitcase.
sandi is offline  
Jul 7th, 2009, 05:58 AM
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Lisita that's hardly a problem unique to South Africa. It can happen almost anywhere. Assuming of course that you don't take basic precautions. Such as either not keeping your card(s) with you, or not ensuring it's in a reasonably safe place. And I don't class "hidden" at the bottom of a suitcase as one of those!

For what it's worth, the only time I've ever been a victim of credit card fraud was in your NYC. When I was silly enough to get distracted by a dispute about my hotel booking in central Manhattan, and my card got lifted from the hotel's reception counter. That was in the 80's so it's also not new. (There were many fraudulent transactions after that incident. None of which I had to pay for, because the signature on the hard copy was nothing like mine. But someone got himself a new bike, bought flowers for his girlfriend, shopped at Macy's, etc.)

Because of skimming many restaurants in S.A. now bring a terminal to your table, so that the card is never out of your sight. But I confess that I still haven't disciplined myself enough to ensure that every single time I don't let the card leave me.
ArthurSA is offline  
Jul 7th, 2009, 06:29 AM
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While it's true that this could happen anywhere, I personally have heard more people complain about this while traveling in South Africa than I have any other country.

That being said, I've been there twice, not practiced safe credit card precautions, and not had problems. And I plan to go back in the near future.
Gritty is offline  
Jul 7th, 2009, 07:50 AM
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we didnt have any problems in SA last year with credit card fraud. Once in a restaurant, the waitress took the hand held terminal away which made me suspicious but a quick call to our credit card company immediately put me at ease. And everything was OK.

I suggest that you take the number of your credit card co just in case and monitor the situation with them every few days. They told us fraudsters tend to try and use the cards quickly before the owner realises.

Maybe also have a back up card in case you do need to cancel one so you are not left 'high and dry'.

I also thought the main problem was at cash points but we never needed to get money out so I con't know if this is true or not.

We are planning to go back and exercise the same caution!
prettyinpinkmum is offline  
Jul 7th, 2009, 08:20 AM
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Is there in fact any basis for believing the room safes are not secure? If so, at which SA hotels or camps for that matter have people lost valuables? In many camps the safes are available but not secured to anything. Somehow I never feel vulnerable while in camp but perhaps I'm too trusting. In Joburg I would like to be able to leave valuable camera gear and cash locked away in the room safe. It would be useful to know if anyone has lost valuables from one of these in room safes and the particulars.
Temba is offline  
Jul 7th, 2009, 09:17 AM
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While credit card theft/fraud is real, it is way down on my list of things to worry about when traveling.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jul 7th, 2009, 01:43 PM
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Lisita-where in SA did this occur? Jo'burg,safaris,Cape Town?
dutyfree is offline  
Jul 8th, 2009, 05:13 AM
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She said in Cape Town!
sandi is offline  
Jul 8th, 2009, 06:18 AM
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I travel a lot and use hotel safes all over the world. My crew does as well and never any problems. Sure, leaving a wallet unsecured and in a suitcase is foolish, in any country so take normal percautions whenever you leave home. Hotel room safes are generally regarded as safe everywhere. If anyone has first hand experience that indicates otherwise, it would be helpful to post that information here. Second hand information isn't worth posting IMHO so unless you have had something taken from your own safe the validity usefulness of the information is nil. By the way, when keying in your hotel room safe code, don't use your birthday. The desk probably has a copy of your passport and that info is available. Your dogs birthday will work.
Temba is offline  
Jul 8th, 2009, 06:47 AM
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Friends of mine had things stolen from their room safe in a top hotel in Cape Town (sorry, I can't remember the name) - I'd definitely recommend using the reception safe.

RE: Credit card fraud. We've had several reports from visitors being targetted in 'tourist' areas with cloning credit cards (i.e. taking away, swiping to make a copy and returning). One at a beachfront place in Camps Bay, one at big petrol station food outlet on way down to Kruger (N4). I used to work in SA card industry until recently so know that fraud rates are reasonably high and rising in SA, especially as Chip and PIN is introduced in other countries (so it migrates to the weakest points). Chip and PIN is coming to SA slowly but surely. These cards are near-impossible to clone. In the meantime, don't let it out of your sight.

Also take the normal precautions around ATM machines. Had a naive friend accept help from someone hanging around when he was having problems - clearly the guy saw his PIN, cloned his card with machine hidden in ATM slot. Must have replicated my friend's card and then withdrew a lot of cash.

Remember: if you've not given your PIN to anyone deliberately, and pick up on the fraud within one statement cycle, your bank is pretty much liable for all of this fraud (minus a small admin fee typically). They are pretty good at refunded immediately and investigating, so just report it.
satpacker is offline  
Jul 8th, 2009, 11:32 AM
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Temba - this is not first-hand knowledge of hotel safes not being secure - BUT -- my boss just got back from vacation in San Francisco. His son bought a lock-picking kit at some kind of "spy" store there and proceeded to pick their hotel room door lock and also the safe lock. He said withing a few minutes. Not sure what kind of safes/locks they had (it was a Holiday Inn) but it did surprise me that a teenager with a little kit could manage it easily.
Leslie_S is offline  
Jul 8th, 2009, 11:55 AM
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The boy has a bright future Perhaps even a job with the Democratic National Committee?
Temba is offline  
Jul 8th, 2009, 12:11 PM
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Temba, don't you mean Republican Natl Committe?

I've had my credit card info swiped in, yes, South AFrica, but also in Athens and Santa Monica, Calif. And I'm very cautious. But I've never had a problem with a room safe in any place in the world in many years. Not saying it can't happen, but sheesh, let's not get overly paranoid.
LAleslie is offline  
Jul 8th, 2009, 05:47 PM
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I went to South Africa last August and was a victim of credit card fraud. I had used my CC a few times at stores in the V&A Waterfront and that is where the fraud occurred. My card duplicate was used about 2 months after I got back and was used at a Swatch store for a $500 purchase. Just be sure to call your CC company before you go and tell them the dates that you are going to be there. I did that and VISA still let the charge go through but promptly removed it when I told them about how I had notified them of my dates of travel.
enlehman76 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2009, 04:41 PM
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Never had anything stolen from a room safe, but twice I was not able to open it when I needed to depart because the lock ran on electricity and here were shorts or something with the electricity, not enough to make the lights go out, but enough to make the safe malfunction for a while.
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 14th, 2009, 05:43 AM
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I just returned from a trip two days ago that included Cape Town -- and when I returned home I had three messages from AMEX telling me that someone had stolen my credit card number, made a duplicate card, and then tried to make several purchases and get cash advances -- all of which were declined by AMEX. We kept our cards with us at all times and used them only a few times at a couple of restaurants in Simon's Town and at the Waterfront, and for our hotel in Simon's Town. I don't know where or how the theft occurred, but I am amazed (once again) by AMEX's ability to detect fraudulent transactions immediately and refuse to process them. My new card should arrive today.
I don't see this as any reason not to travel to South Africa.
Chris_GA_Atl is offline  
Jul 14th, 2009, 06:00 PM
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Here in the United States, if your card is used fraudulently, you are protected by law and you are not liable for any charges in excess (total) of $50. You must report the fraudulent charges or unathorized use when you first see it posted to your account and within 50 days of the charges appearing on your statement for this limit of liability to apply. This is a federal regualation and applies to all US cardholders. So....while being careful with your credit card is important, I certainly wouldn't become paranoid about using it either at home or abroad. More important is how secure these in room safes are. Most or all of them are powered by small size AA flashlight batteries. If they fail while your stuff is locked away, you might have a bit of a hassle when you come to open the safe. Not a good thing if time is an issue. There is a device made by a company called "pacsafe"
The pacsafe devices include a stainless steel mesh bag that come in various sizes and can enclose anything from a very large duffel or suitcase to a small camera backpack. The bag has a long stainless cable ot teather that is locked around a plumbing fixture or bed frame. In order to open the protected bag one would need a cable cutter. This is of course not heavy duty protection but is will probably slow down or discourage the casual thief. These devices don't weigh very much and take up little space. If you are worried about your photographic gear and you are an amateur, most insurers will cover your camera gear, as scheduled items, for a small additional premium.
Temba is offline  
Jul 15th, 2009, 09:40 AM
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We've been victims in Johannesburg twice in two months ! First time the card was lifted from our room at the Intercontinental while we were at dinner in the hotel (card was burried in luggage we thought was locked, and do not disturb was on the door). Second time was either at the Grace, the Grillhouse, or the department store in the adjacent mall because those are the only three places I used it. All three times the card did not leave my sight, I made sure the receipt did not contain my full account number, etc. etc. My bank has been great about it (especially because they didn't detect the second one) - biggest hassle is changing over automatic payment stuff but it wouldn't deter me from going back.
Toshi is offline  
Jul 15th, 2009, 02:08 PM
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The following alert was sent out by the Cape Tourguide Association (CTGA) to its members today.

Dear All

Please note that credit card skimming is an ongoing issue and that you, your friends, family and all visitors should take particular care in any restaurant or shop outlets - particularly in the V&A Waterfront (and CPT airport). At no time allow your card to be taken away to be processed. You want to see the card at all times and a machine should be
brought to you or you accompany the individual to the card machine.

Points to watch out for possible card scamming are:

1.At no time should the individual processing the card brush your card across their sleeve or breast pocket. Skimming devices are small enough to be concealed against the body.

2. If the card is dropped on the floor stop the individual
immediately and you pick up the card - another area of concealment is the thigh and when cards are dropped the person is bent over obscuring the constant vision of the card and then they 'swipe' the card against their thigh before standing upright. Obviously there are occasions when
cards can be dropped accidentally but at present it is best to play safe rather than assume!

3. If it is apparent there is a problem with your card, you clean it yourself

4. Once your card has legitimately been swiped by the
cashier/waitron, immediately take your card back into your possession. There is no actual need for the cashier to keep hold of it, other than to verify the signature (which most don't actually bother to do). If the cashier does actually request to see the signature, then you can show him/her the signature strip. At least the card will now be under
your control and this will cut down the chances of a criminal
distracting you and skimming the card.

5. The card can also be skimmed at an ATM and for this reason the banks are involved with any incident reported.

At present it is evident that overseas persons or people holding international cards are targeted as their banks will not be calling them here on a cell/blackberry but to an office/ home telephone number. This then gives the criminals more time to make transactions on the card before a colleague or family member can contact the card holder.

If you do experience an incident and 'feel' that something is not right then it is best to talk with the manager of the outlet at the time you are there. Be polite at all times and voice your concern(s) as the action of the individual could be innocent. However, if your card does get skimmed then you will need to report it to the local police station /your bank and complete a form off the SATSA website, - this link takes you straight to the TSI page on the SATSA website (Tourism Safety Initiative and in very small writing in the centre of the page under the contact phone numbers you will notice:

Downloads: 'Tourism Incident Report Form'.
Download, complete and send back to the contact at SATSA.
In this manner a file of incidents can be passed to SAPS to help with any ongoing/ new investigations.

Useful contact numbers for any incident in the Waterfront are as follows:

Table Bay Police Station: 021 403 1001

V&A Security Operations: 021 408 7600 (tel for the Tourist Centre but ask to be put through to Security/Contact:

Operations Manager - Thomas Hawkins

Please note these above warnings should be adhered to by all Fodorites anywhere in the world and not only Cape Town as this is a world wide phenomena.

Hope this helps.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa
Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  

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