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Stories of Credit Card Fraud in Indonesia

Buyer Beware ... Credit Card Fraud is very common in Indonesia!

Stories of Credit Card Fraud from the Expat Forum.

Well, guess what it happend to us too. We just received the letter from the bank based in Australia (ANZ) said that someone try to use our card in Malaysia. It is the 2nd time in 3 months. We suspect that it happened in Plaza Senayan Cafe Roti 3rd floor. Coz we visited that place during that time. So be carefull. Now we only using cash money if we visit Jakarta again. 11/2002

Yesterday my ever-vigilant bank in the Isle of Man called me and told me my credit card and my wife's have been cancelled due to fraud. Apparently they were alerted by some guy trying to charge a $3000 night club bill to my card in Taipei, Taiwan; they know I don't spend as much as that in nightclubs. Apart from the airport I never went to Taipei. They issued an alert to the club and they apprehended the guy, who had a brand new gold Visa with his picture and chinese writing on it, but my magnetic strip, ie charge to my account.

It's the 4th time this has happened to me here in 3 years. Last year someone spent $12,000 on a car in Seoul, Korea (never been there either) on my card. He got away with it because they rolled the card manually, it took me 2 months to get the money back from Visa.

This time I know who copied my card, only on last Sunday. I NEVER let the card out of my sight, but I was distracted in the shop and the girl disappeared with my card. I sent my wife looking for her while I waited at the checkout desk. When she came back she swiped the card at the desk. I asked her why she had taken it, she said to get approval because it's a foreign bank (bulls**t). I asked her if she already swiped it, or copied it, she got flustered and said no. Last night I went back to the shop to confront her; she spotted me and ran away through the back. The manager denied all knowledge, and Visa have involved the police and are certain of a conviction. The shop was Alfa supermarket in Menteng.

I was just scammed this week - 2nd time in 3 months, 4th time total. Slow expat business means this thievery is greatly intensifying. Unfortunately for these thieves or merchants or whoever, they will pay in the end. Tourism and business trips could completely end if CC's can't be used. How many tourists and business travellers will really tolerate carrying bundles of untouched $100 bills, 1999 or later only? And feeling safe about it??

I have previously managed a resort where the same thing happened to our guests and yes, my staff were responsibile - we never found them or the mechanism for copying - there are two methods - a small reader, about the size of a nokia phone that they just swipe the card - waiters use them under the tray or bill folder, so the cashier may not even know, of they sit beside the register and simply look like all the other gadgetry. The other method is tampering with the EDC machine and applying a chip to copy each transaction - if the machine looks like it has been openned or taped down with tape (not the bank seal) - do not use it.

I was stung recently - AUD$7,800+ card was fraudulently used here in Jakarta for an airline ticket to Korea, plus a truck load of jewelry in Melbourne and looks like a pretty big tank of fuel at a Shell gas station. This occurred around 2-3 weeks after a short trip to Bali where I know credit card fraud is rampant.

Prior to moving to Jakarta, I was managing a resort on another Indonesian Island and
several of our guests also got stung. The banks and Visa were considerate enough to blame the business enterprise without consideration to the vulnerability of their product - those magnetic strips contain all the info needed.

The scam works as such - a small scanning device is available to discreetly swipe your
card. Check what the waiter is carrying under the tray on on their belt - it is no bigger
than a mobile phone. The other method is another chip is placed in the EDC (the thing at the register where they swipe your card) this then duplicates every card going through.

In the later, it is likely the enterprise is involved as they have had to let someone in to
tamper with the machine. Make sure the shop, bar etc. only swipes your card once - no need for two swipes - especially if it is a small reading device. (I guess the registers at Hero & Sogo are safe??)

As a business, both the banks and Visa made outrageous threats, up to - canceling the right to offer Visa service (please tell me what business can survive today with out this) and a substantial US$ fine.

Not once did Visa acknowledge they are part of the problem. What has Visa done for its millions and millions of card holders to warn them of this problem? What steps have they taken to protect that little magnetic strip? Don't forget, those very high interest rates you are charged are paying for these fraudulent purchases!

I can fully understand the temptation of those involved - it is easy money. The responsibility should fall back on Visa and the Banks to protect their customers a little more.

I hardly ever use my UK cards here now, and will probably be just as wary anywhere else I go. I got shafted for about 2,500 GBP last year (eventually reimbursed by Visa though), following a holiday in Bali, where I had used the card. Like another poster on this forum, attempted usage of the card number came from Taiwan. I haven't heard about the main card swiping machines being altered before, but I have heard that waiters and others who will accept your card for payment, sometimes have small swiping devices on their person. They can swipe your card discreetly while carrying it to the cashier, the numbers being stored then downloaded to a computer when they get home. This was believed to be the major method working in Bali, until they caught some guy a while back who had been running the show for about 5 years. Haven't heard much on the outcome of that though.

Best answer is to get a local Visa or MC from one of the Indonesian banks. They tend to strictly limit your credit availability (unlike UK or US) - I think to about Rp 20 million. This means you won't get stung for as much if they do screw you, and the thieves also tend to target the foreign cards anyway (so I am told!!), with the likelihood of more funds being available there.

My bank called me from Isle of Man the other day and asked if I'd recently made a large transaction in Korea. I've never even been there, but some guy bought a car with my card in Seoul. They told me some dishonest stores or restaurants copy the magnetic strip when you pay for something, and sell it to a syndicate who makes a duplicate card overseas but with a different name, and sell it. This is rife in Jakarta but it's impossible to find out who does it, because they don't use the card themselves. Luckily my bank was vigilant and I'll get the money back. Always watch what they do with the card when you pay, or better still get cash from the ATM for your purchases.

At least your bank called you, unlike our useless ANZ in Australia. We had that problem last March and July. Last March people bought electronic stuff in Taiwan, a country we have never been to and in July some people spent a hell of a lot of money on my card in Yogyakarta while I was in UK. My husband called ANZ to cancel our credit card when he saw the fraudulent transaction on the online banking system and ANZ didn't do anything and let those thieves use the card up to the limit and left us almost without money in the UK. We had to call and call so many times to get that useless bank to act and it was so frustrating. It took three months to chase the bank to get their act together and sort out the problem.

Well, we definitely stopped using credit cards ever since. Cash ... Cash ... Cash!.

There are many ways to copy a credit card, one is to copy the magnetic stripe, that can easily be done with an small card reader and some knowledge. The other way is to put the card under an newspaper page and then rub gently with your fingers until the info printed on the card appears. The info printed on the card is all they need in this country to make an new copy and use it in shops.

So my advice is never let your credit card out of your sight, so if they in the restaurant want to go to the back office to use the machine then follow them to watch. For myself , I prefer to use an ATM, and then keep using the same ATM machine all the time in same city. Beware also to check that there is not an fake front where you insert the card on the ATM, as that often happens. The fake front reads the data and stores it before the card enters into the ATM.

Credit cards from Indonesia are mostly not accepted for internet payments due to the high rate of fraud.

One more piece of advice - tell your bank that you want them to confirm transactions by telephone if over a certain limit is used.

Banks with good knowledge about these matters have procedures to call the user to confirm before accepting payment with credit cards through the Internet.

I make any transactions, especially on the web, I run the program. It gives me a special cc #. I decide the limit on that account and how long it's good for. It is only good for one purchase. I can get more than one cc # this way. If anyone gets hold of the number it will not be any good since I have used it once. If I do not use up to the limit, it still is invalid except for the one purchase at a time. If I buy anywhere, I give them that number which has an expiration date. I always make it for one month only. If I need to make another purchase I get another Shopsafe master card # and all charges are charged to my normal cc #. So far -- so good.

I would also not use any card with a high limit. both Visa and Mastercard extended my limit up to US$50,000. I told them they were crazy, to lower them to $2,000. They said it could not be done, so I said fine then close my account. They said, “How much limit did you say?” and I got it down to US$2000 on one and US $3000 on the other. If I need the limited increased then I can call them and up the limit. So, have 2 cards, both with low limits so that if they get stolen, people cannot buy cars with them ... or are there cars under US$2000?

How would people suggest newcomers set up their banking to try and avoid any credit card fraud?

1. Go to your favourite bank, let's just say Citibank for an example.
2. Open both a USD and Rupiah account
3. When you are asked by your personal banker “Would you like to consider a credit card? We have a great deal” YOU SAY “NO”

When you're rich enough to carry a credit card, I am confident that anyone can sort out their shopping with cash.

Dodgy retailers or individuals in retailers sell card details on. The gap between using the card and it being sold / misused is anyone's guess. For your info this fraud happened to me in mid-January and the last time I had used the card was two weeks before Xmas in both Sogo and Hero's. The card was a Visa debit card issued from a reputable western bank. The bank refunded all the money of course, a total of GBP6.5K in the end. I have heard of four other expats that this has happened to recently. Apparently one western bank is trying to prosecute these retailers. Good luck to them and the Indonesian courts. Selling card details to Taiwan, top of the list shops in Plaza Senayan!

I'm not defending anyone, but for the fairness' sake, it's maybe not the shop's fault.

Here are what I thought could be possible scenarios:

1. You kept your eyes on the card the whole time (assuming you did). If someone made a copy, it's gotta be in the machine, or the phone line. To tap the phone line is not that difficult, not to mention if they guy works for Telkom, or works together with someone who does.

2. It's also possible that nobody made a copy at all. The credit card number is not random, but acquired by some algorithm (using the name and expiration date, and some other data). So, it's possible that someone got your name (or, if your name is quite common e.g: John Smith, it's just a pure coincidence) and just did the algorithm. Of course, this type of CC fraud is more common in the e-commerce, where one doesn't have to show the real card.

3. It is also possible that someone broke into the Credit Card company's database, or intercept the incoming traffic sent by the swipe machines.

4. Maybe someone has a strong memory to instantly memorize the 16 digit of your CC. It could be the person who did the CC swiping, or someone who stood next to you. Please don't just jump into conclusion, blaming all small shops in Pondok Indah. As I said above, maybe it's not the shop's fault, or maybe it is.

Either way, confront the shop about it. Or better yet, make the HSBC sure does the work for you.


A corporate attorney sent this out to the employees in his company. I pass it along, for your information.


We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed us in your name, address, SS#, credit, etc. Unfortunately I (the author of this piece who happens to be an attorney) have firsthand knowledge, because my wallet was stolen last month and within a week the thieves ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more.

But here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know. As everyone always advises, cancel your credit cards immediately, but the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen, this proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

But here's what is perhaps most important: (I never ever thought to do this)

- Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and SS#. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me and application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. By the time I was advised to do this, almost 2 weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done.

There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them in their tracks.

The numbers are:

EquiFax 800-525-6285
Experience (formerly TRW): 888-397-3742
Trans Union: 800-680-7289
Social Security Administration (fraud line): 800-269-0271

See also this article on the Dangers of Credit Card Fraud in Indonesia.

When traveling abroad, especially in locations where credit card fraud is very common, having an identity theft protection plan can help you avoid having to spend countless hours reclaiming what was taken from you. It's one of those bits of advice that you'll really regret not taking if the actual theft happens to you!