Beware! These ATMs Scam Travelers Around the World

by author David Jones

Anyone who’s ever traveled internationally would tell you that pocket money is a vital part of the experience. The money will do more than just give you the resources to buy and pay for the things you need.


With enough cash, you can formulate contingency plans as you go along. Not sure what station to go to? Take a cab instead. A tourist attraction turns out to be a maze? Hire a local to lead the way.


No doubt, having ample amounts of cash in your pocket during travel is essential if you want to curb unforeseen challenges as they come. So, it’s important to make sure you’ve cashed out and, if necessary, converted enough green to take with you on your trip.


But there will always be ATMs wherever I go, I don’t need to carry around so much physical money! Don’t want to risk having it stolen, right?


Before you write off the need for cold hard cash by saying you can always cash out through international ATMs, you need to consider the risks. Wait, there are risks to using international ATM machines?


Unfortunately, not a lot of travelers are aware of the dangers of withdrawing funds through ATM scams worldwide. They can be so drastic in fact, that it might feel just like having your money stolen right out of your bank account.


The Subtle Yet Grand ATM Tourist Scam


So, you’re a newbie tourist in a foreign land that you’ve never been before. It’s been two days since you landed, and now you’ve run out of cash. You scour the place for ATMs and find one in a crowded area in town.


Despite the throngs of people in the vicinity, this ATM is completely line free. You tell yourself it’s probably because locals use a different bank and thus prefer specific ATMs. Whatever the case, you jump at the opportunity to cash out without having to wait through long lines.

You pop in your card, choose a value, enter your details, and outcomes your cash. Sweet! Now, that didn’t seem like a scam at all. Did it? You walk away with cash in hand and go about your day as you had planned.


Sadly, you actually did just get scammed. It just takes a little extra discernment to find out how and how much.


How ATM Scams Work


Keep in mind that the machines designed to scam tourists won’t look suspicious at all. In fact, they work pretty much like any other machine as long as you’re using a card from one of the local banks.


Locals with domestic cards won’t experience the same scam. But because of the stigma that surrounds these machines, they always know better to simply avoid the risk altogether, which is why they rarely have any lines.

Needless to say, the fact that they’re almost always free of lengthy queues makes them even more appealing to tourists who want to get their cash as fast as possible.


For international card holders, these ATMs will completely shift the way they operate. And the way the scam works is two-fold.


First, they suggest otherworldly amount suggestions right off the bat. You know how ATM machines will auto-suggest a value that you might want to withdraw to make the process faster? These ATMs do the same thing, except that the suggested values might be exceedingly unrealistic.


Why do they do that? To encourage international users to take out more money. The more cash you decide to withdraw, the more they can scam out of the transaction.


Plus, the power of suggestion is potent. By simply presenting bigger options, people are conditioned to think hey, why not? If I withdraw more now, I won’t have to do it again later.


Once you decide on your chosen value, then things get tricky. If you’re not paying attention, you might not notice how they reduce currency conversion by over 15%. So, for every unit of currency you withdraw, you’re getting 15% less its actual value based on current exchange rates.


Now, if you’re not careful, you’ll see how easy it is to fall into the trap. But even if you are wary of the way they tweak currency conversions, you might be too preoccupied to notice the next facet of the grand ATM tourist scam.


Secondly, they’ll charge you sky-high fees on top of the amounts they shaved off of your money. These are applied after the transaction and will likely not appear on the ATM screen throughout the process. So, it’s only when you read the receipt that you’ll see how much they charged for the transaction.


How much can you expect? Well, according to sources and previous scam victims, these machines can charge up to 35% of the amount you take out.


So in total, you’re paying 35% the cost of your money to get only 85% of your cash’s actual value. Yikes.



How to Steer Clear of ATM Scams During Travel


It’s always ideal to have more than enough cash when traveling to a distant, foreign land. But in case you do find the need to withdraw using your international card, consider these tips to curb getting scammed by these tricky automated teller machines.


Read Discarded Receipts


Not to pry into other people’s finances, but to find out more about previous transactions performed through the machine. Receipts will often contain important information like the exchange rate and the fees charged for the withdrawal. This should help you determine whether the ATM you’re staring at is rigged to scam.


Keep in mind though that there might be some locals who withdraw using their domestic cards. So not all the receipts will seem odd. Check as many as you can and try to pick up on a trend. If the international transactions reflect steep fees and unreasonable currency conversions, then mosey on to the next machine.


Avoid Third Party ATMs


If you really need to make a withdrawal, avoid machines from third-party entities and always opt for bank ATMs. These third-party machines are the ones that make big bucks off of unreasonable fees, charges, and currency conversions. So, they will essentially cost you the most.


Remember though that even bank ATMs can subject your transaction to fees and charges. But choosing the right bank can help you limit the amount you pay to get your hands on your own money. Which brings us to the next point…


Do Your Research Before You Leave


All banks have international partners that charge lower fees if you use one of their tie-up companies’ cards. You can usually find these listed on your bank’s official website to help guide their clients when traveling abroad.


Before you head out the door, make sure you check out the partners your bank has in your specific destination. Whenever possible, perform all withdrawal transactions from tie-up companies to spend less on fees and get the best exchange rates.


Pay with Card


Consider all the different items in your itinerary and figure out which attractions, activities, and expenses can only be paid for in cash. Make sure you have that much plus a few extra thousands to cover all the cash expenses you might encounter.

Then, consider all the things you can pay for with your international credit card. Restaurants, shopping malls, and even some tourist attractions like major theme parks and resorts will let you swipe to make your payment. This will debit the exact amount from your account, allowing you to enjoy accurate exchange rates and minimal fees if any.


What’s more, people using travel credit cards can enjoy exclusive perks and benefits for every travel-related expense charged on their credit. Using your credit card to pay for things like food, lodging, and sometimes, even shopping can earn you points that you can use on future travel expenses and flights.


Remember – cash isn’t the only way to pay. If you can avoid withdrawing altogether, then avoid it.


Be Cautious of Other Forms of ATM Fraud


There are more ways that you can become the victim of ATM fraud, so be careful. Aside from machines that charge expensive fees and exchange rates, there are also those that are physically rigged to take your card information.


Lots of opportunistic scammers hoping to fraud tourists out of their money will rig ATMs in areas with lots of travelers using a variety of devices. Fake card slots that take card information, false number pads placed over the actual buttons to steal the information you key in, and a number of other tricky tools can easily fool anyone.

Plus, there are even some more dangerous machines placed in shady areas of town that might risk more than your money. These will typically have disabled cameras and no rear view mirrors to make it easier for robbers and pick pocketers to find their next victims. As a general rule, always withdraw from machines in well-lit, crowded areas to ensure your safety.


Don’t Be a Victim of ATM Fraud


It’s easy to lose sight of the obvious when you’re immersed in a completely new environment. But stay smart! Keeping yourself informed of the many different ways you might become the victim of international ATM fraud can help you steer clear of expensive fees, unreasonable exchange rates, and opportunistic machines that are out to sap the cash out of your adventure abroad.


So, do your research, be cautious, and always be guarded when it comes to your cash so you can get the best vacation experience without risking your finances.

Vincent F Biondo Jr

Euronet scammed me. Saw 3.95 fee on 500 euro withdrawal. Got cash and receipt OMG INSTEAD OF $ cost at going rate of .92 about $547 they charged me $626. That’s right a $75 ripoff. Their claims of full disclosure are bogus. I sure missed the true cost. This is a USA company that gives locals an honest rate. But their system recognizes a foreign card and uses a different exorbitant fee for the conversion. These guys are dirty. Tell all your traveling friends. If you see Euronet RUN AWAY! Do not use!