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    June 27, 2009

    Credit card scams (again)

    Posted by: Andoni


    I've reported before on the various shady ways credit card companies and currency exchangers (posing as ATM machines) are using to bilk customers and earn questionable extra profits.

    Well, last night at a restaurant at the Bangkok Airport, I encountered it again in an even more blatant fashion.

    Our food bill came to 609.90 Baht, and I decided to pay by credit card. However, when the charge slip arrived for my signature, I noticed the 609.90 Baht in big digits and then in tiny almost illegible digits was "USD 19.65." This alerted me that something wasn't right, so I asked if they had indeed charged me in Thai Baht or US dollars. The waiter answered that they charged me in Thai Baht. My next question was, "Well why does it have something in dollars here?" and he replied that it was there so I would know about how much to expect on my credit card statement. Then seeing that I was objecting, another person came over to assure me that the transaction had indeed occurred in Thai Baht (the proper way).

    I believed what they said, so I proceeded to sign ----- until midsignature, my eye caught the following statement at the bottom of the slip:

    "Please debit my account with the total amount in USD. I accept the I was given a choice to pay in Thai Baht and understand that the selected transaction currency is final. I understand that the currency conversion is provided by SCB."

    I was livid. This was an outright lie and they wanted me to put my signature to it. I was not given a choice. And they lied to me when I asked. I had expressly asked that the transaction be in Thai Baht. Yet I was about to sign an "informed consent" that said I had requested the charge in USD after being informed of my options. This signed slip would be their proof in any court that I was totally informed and aware of what was happening and that I made that choice - when in fact the whole thing was a lie.

    I immediately tore up the charge slip and simultaneously stood up, yelling at the waiter to call the manager, who by now had already heard me and had come out. My partner (a Thai national) was so embarrassed that he tried to shrink under the table.

    Quite frankly I don't know exactly what I said from that point on because I was so mad, but I do remember telling my partner to tell them in Thai that I was going to call the Tourist Police.

    That got their attention and they immediately starting working to calm me down. Everything was OK they said, and they would undo the transaction. After they undid transaction and gave me all the paperwork that goes with that, they presented me with a proper charge slip in Thai Baht. Needless to say there was no tip and as we stomped out of the place, with the manager and 3 waiters all at the door bowing in humility (maybe humiliation, who knows).

    I encountered this kind of thing in London -- everywhere. Even Harrod's did it, but they at least they really did ask if you wanted the transaction in USD or Pounds Sterling. Most places just do the transaction in dollars -- resulting in an extra 10% profit for them (which probably gets split between merchant and currency trader) - and when you sign the slip, it looks like you were given the choice and chose dollars. You've just signed an "informed consent" even though you weren't informed and they did it without your consent.

    All I can say is beware of this scam and it's variations. It's everywhere now. It's fraud. In fact it's more than fraud, it's outright stealing. When someone takes $100 from you for every $1000 you spend they are stealing real money from you. Now that I see this is global, this represents millions, no billions of dollars of ill gotten profit by banks, credit card companies, and currency exchange dealers.



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    1. Jake Spencer on Jun 27, 2009 8:35:59 AM:

      Thanks for the tip, Chris. I will definitely be on the lookout for this.

    1. Georgiaguy on Jun 27, 2009 12:32:41 PM:

      I have made three trips to Thailand over the last five years and I love Thais. You have to watch scams at the airport, tours at booth offer sightseeing and end up becoming shopping tours. You get hustled through tourist sights to leave more time for shopping. Another is the taxi service, go out to the taxi stand. Do not use the limosine service as it is much more expensive. As with anyplace you travel, be on the watch out. Thailand is inexpensive, so sometimes you just put up with the difference. I had the same thing happen to me at Harrod's in London. Always charge in British Pound, never dollars.

    1. Chris on Jun 28, 2009 8:00:18 AM:

      Andoni - yes, this is an unfortunate and unfortunately frequent occurrence. I'm an American who has been living here with my Thai partner for nearly four years and we run into this all the time. I will add, though, that despite your anger at the situation, blowing up at people is generally not the best way to get resolution. But, if your partner is Thai, you've probably already been told that!

      Thanks for sharing the warning.

    1. kimi on Nov 6, 2009 2:34:06 PM:

      chris, can you tell me what to do next? my brother bought a bag in bangkok for around 1800baht, but he seems to have been charged 18000baht in his credit card statement. what should he do?

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    1. cheap ugg boots on Nov 21, 2010 9:55:25 PM:

      Oh please. This reception and 50 cents will buy me ....what.....? Nothing.

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