A worrying incident has been reported in which an unsuspecting American tourist in Los Cabos had their credit card swapped at a gas station. The attendant processed the transaction as normal and returned what the tourist thought was their card. After which, they carried on their journey and returned to the U.S.
The First Sign Of Trouble
It was once back in the U.S. that the traveler became aware there was an issue. After trying to use the card to make a purchase, they were informed it was maxed out. It was at this point, upon closer inspection, that the unfortunate traveler realized the name on the card was that of someone else and that their credit card had been swapped at the Los Cabos gas station.
The traveler then contacted their card issuer, Bank of America, and found out it had been used for 12 separate purchases in Los Cabos, which maxed out the card.
What Happened Next
Thankfully, credit cards are insured against fraud in the U.S., and the tourist was able to contact their card issuer’s fraud department and have the charges reversed. While adding an upbeat warning to anyone else traveling in Los Cabos, “check your card if you give it to someone and get it back. Make sure it’s your card!”.
Is This Common?
This particular scam is not known to be widespread in Los Cabos, but the area does have a historical issue with gas station attendants double charging tourists. This happens when the attendant will either tell the customer their first payment didn’t go through or claim an issue with the card and ask for another to process the payment or for cash.
Unfortunately, this particular scam is very common, especially at the gas station outside of Los Cabos, where there is much less oversight. There are many forum threads on the likes of TripAdvisor with travelers sharing similar experiences,
How To Avoid These Scams
In Mexico, gas is almost always pumped by an attendant, who will then take payment in the form of cash or credit/debit card. Therefore, extra care is advised when purchasing gas. The following points will help reduce the risk of these scams:
- If an attendant says the card didn’t process – Immediately check your banking app to confirm this is, in fact, true. It’s advisable to pay with a card from an issuer that has this mobile banking function.
- In the event mobile banking isn’t available – Ask for the card processor receipt. If the card is rejected, a paper receipt will be dispensed stating this.
- After the attendant returns a card – Check for your name on the card. This is the simple step needed to be sure the card hasn’t been swapped for an identical one.
- Be aware & be assured – Keep an eye on the attendant and what they do with the card. The payments are processed either on a static machine on the gas pump or from a mobile card processor. If it’s mobile, request it be brought to you while the transaction is made.
- If possible, pay in cash at gas stations. Know how much your gas bill is and check your change.
What To Do If This Happens To You
First of all, it’s not advisable to get into a confrontation at the gas station. Immediately contact your card issuer and inform them of the situation. If a credit card was used, then the process is fairly straightforward for a charge reversal; unfortunately, if it was paid using a debit card, it may be more difficult to receive a chargeback.
The next step is to report the incident to the local Police. This is best done either in a Los Cabos Police station or via the non-emergency numbers in the area. Both of these contact points will have English-speaking officers available to aid in the situation. Although they don’t have much power to rectify the situation, it does give them the information needed to have the gas station in question inspected to lower the chances of it happening to a fellow traveler in the future.
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