Tourists visiting Los Cabos for the spring season need to be aware of their credit card charges while on vacation due to a scam making its rounds in the Mexican destination resort community.
Beware of Clones
While it’s hard to control when a credit card leaves your sight to be charged at a restaurant or bar, visitors need to check their credit card accounts while traveling continuously. This is especially the case when using a debit card connected to a bank account.
There have been several instances in Los Cabos where tourists recently have handed over their credit card for a charge at a local business just to find out later their credit card number and pin were cloned from the card and their account drained the same day.
The cards are cloned by using a credit card reader device that reads the magnetic strip from the back of the card. When a new card is then swiped through the reader, it is encoded with the magnetic strip data from the other card and can then be used for purchases by thieves.
Locals Also Victimized
Even locals have been hit by the scam. Employees of some hotels in Los Cabos have found that the debit cards used for their payroll have been hit without them even knowing about it.
A simple transaction to buy dinner, groceries, or even gas is declined leading the victim to realize what happened with their card.
One hotel worker found she had lost 900 pesos. However, the bank quickly replaced the funds due to their debit card policy.
Credit Card Protections
Credit cards issued in the United States come with a mix of consumer protections against unauthorized charges. Both debit and credit cards have protection. Consumers should check with their bank about the protection.
One of the biggest issues is getting the card replaced while traveling. It may be a challenge to get a replacement card sent to Los Cabos within a couple of days.
Some of the higher-end credit cards oriented towards traveling benefits may have this service. Again, it is best to check with your credit card company for information.
Debit cards are more of a challenge as most cards tied to consumer checking or savings accounts can only be replaced at a branch location of the bank.
That generally means returning to the United States to get a new card or having a joint holder get one and send it to you in Mexico.
How to Protect Yourself
There are a number of things tourists can do before leaving for Los Cabos to avoid a nightmare experience if this happens.
First, make sure you travel to Los Cabos with a backup card or two. This way, if one is taken by a malfunctioning ATM machine or the number becomes cloned, it can be shut off, and there are other cards still to use.
Second, instead of using your debit card at restaurants and bars in Los Cabos, find a credit card with low or no ATM fees and withdraw cash to use at local banks. This way, the debit card is only used at a bank which reduces the chances of the number being cloned.
Third, only use credit cards when traveling to Los Cabos. Credit cards only impact a line of credit and not your checking or savings account. It is easier to dispute charges on your credit card as opposed to trying to get money back that was taken out of your checking account.
Fourth, be sure to alert your bank when traveling. This way, they can keep an eye out for unusual charges on your credit card.
Fifth, be sure to carry travel insurance that can help provide you with cash or other replacement payment types if your card is compromised.
Last, sign up for text or email alerts from your bank that notify you every time the card is charged. This way, you can catch cloning activity early and deactivate the card from additional use.
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