When an ATM in Malaysia stole $5000 from me

I was in Malaysia for a week last summer on a visa run. I was at the airport when I noticed my savings account was missing FOUR thousand dollars! I had to wait a few hours until I got home to call the international line and cancel the card. By that time, another thousand was taken. After a few frantic emails and calls, I eventually made a report and received my money back. But how did this happen, and why didn’t the bank alert me?

This is so common. There are many ways scammers can obtain your card information. Scammers will set up a fake ATM with a camera and sensor, and can copy your pin and card number that way. What happened to me, I put in my card into an ATM, it was rejected after I put in my pin number. This is probably the incident that copied my information. I tried another ATM in a different location, but it didn’t work for me either. However, it did work for someone else. For the next 72 hours, there were multiple transactions that deducted thousands of dollars from my savings. There were a total of 15 transactions.

I am still upset my bank made no effort to alert me about this. They are supposed to protect my money and alert me of any suspicious activity. It’s crazy that they would often put a block on an out of town purchase, and not a block on actual overseas fraud. What real human takes the same amount of money out of the ATM 15 times in 3 days?

Anyways, there are a few ways to avoid this.

1.) Travel with cash I really don’t know why I didn’t do this. I should have just taken cash and exchanged it there. I was only staying for a week and that would have been the easiest to find a bank. I have traveled to many countries and I always take cash and exchange it. I have no idea why I thought I would do it differently in Malaysia. I am blaming it on stress. I was escaping a manipulative job situation and was not thinking straight.

2.) Only use ATMs with logos that match the logos on your card. You will find one eventually. No worries if the first ATM you see doesn’t have the logos. In case you are in a remote area and there isn’t an ATM certified by international company, use caution.

3.) Only use ATMs attached to a wall. Some scammers will just set up shop with a fake ATM. It is always preferable to use an ATM that is actually attached to a wall.

4.) Check your account online. If you can, check your information periodically utilizing a secured wifi network.

5.) Copy the toll free international number and keep it with you. In case your card is lost or stolen, you can report it immediately.

6.) If the ATM spits out your card, leave it and go to another one. Common sense for some, not for me. Go with your gut. If it feels weird, it probably is.

7.) Let your bank know which countries you are going to, and which dates.  I think this is why I was not notified from the bank. I told them I was traveling and will be gone for a year. I did not specify which countries I will be traveling, so they just had a general notification on my account.

I hope this helps! Be safe but most importantly, have fun in your travels!



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