ALERT: Scam against expat in Cuenca Ecuador

Posted on October 7, 2016 • Filed under: Ecuador, Ecuador Emergency, Ecuador Travel

From an Expat group in Ecuador. Name of victim from post has been removed. Scam Alert-Cuenca:

I went to the Pichincha cash machine on Mariscal Sucre and Borrero on Saturday. Pichincha is my bank and I know how to use the cash machines there. In this locale, there are 2 ATM’s. There was a man at one of them so I went to the other. He stopped me, saying in Spanish, “That one doesn’t work. It doesn’t have money.” By then I had my debit card in my hand.
The man pulled the card out of my hand and placed it into the ATM in front of him, saying he would help me. His action startled me and I was a bit offended he’d assumed I didn’t know how to use the machine. He punched a few buttons, then looked at me as though I should tell him my PIN number. I did NOT do that, but stepped between him and the machine. Here’s where I failed though. Obviously my instincts were telling me something was wrong, but I didn’t react strongly enough, and was responding politely to him. He left. I punched in my PIN number and got bonged by the ATM. I tried a second time and message flashed, “Su tarjeta bloqueada.”


While I’d been looking right at him when he took my debit card and placed it in the ATM, he’d pulled a sleight of hand and managed to put a counterfeit card into the machine, while slipping my card into his pocket. He must have had a card reader device with him, in order to get my PIN number. I understand they can read your PIN from several feet away. Okay, so I went to Pichincha on Monday and with the banker’s help, I worked out what had happened. The thief had withdrawn $500 from my account later that day, using my card and my PIN number. The banker helped me fill out an incident report, requesting the money be restored. She thinks I’ll get it back from the bank. I remembered exactly what time it was, and told her I was sure the ATM would have a photo of the thief, probably with me in the frame. I don’t know if the police would investigate on behalf of a private citizen, especially an expat, but I’d bet they’ll investigate on behalf of Banco Pichincha, particularly since it was at their cajero.

This was the first time such a thing has happened to me during the almost 5 years I’ve lived in Cuenca. Maybe I had a false sense of security based on my previous luck. I’ve had a couple of hombres get too close to me on the street, or bump into me, where I’ve responded with an emphatic, “No me molesta!” but I didn’t do that this time. Keep your eyes open for this ladrone. I’ll keep ya posted if the bank comes up with his photo . . . and whether I get my money back!

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