ANOTHER Take-A-Way from our recent cruise. NEVER take your debit card off the cruise ship. EVEN IF it’s in one of those RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) aluminum do-hickies.
Cozumel, January 8, 2015. We docked at noon, departed at 8 p.m. Our previously-paid-for shore excursion, a strip in a semi-sub (glorified glass bottom boat) to go out and see the reef, had been cancelled due to “sea conditions.” As I said before, the tour operator just didn’t want to risk his only form of livelihood, his semi-sub, on my entertainment. So be it.
Left us to walk all over the Playa Maya, the little area near the dock for the cruise ships. Ya know, those people in all the gazillions of little shops at the end of the pier must sit there for HOURS, are just like spiders, waiting for those silly little tourist ants to come streaming out of those floating ant hills, right into their webs.
The shops are colorful and closely spaced, and the hawkers are in-your-face as you pass, while they are holding up pretties and dainties and delectables just to snare you closer to the center of their webs. And THAT’S on the dock!!! Tourists are REQUIRED to walk through their block long building, instead of by-passing it, as we were told “eetz rekwied by law.” That MAY have been an AK-47 hanging from that guy’s shoulder over there… Like sheep being herded into the stocks for their fleecing…
The reputable places, such as Three Amigos Restaurant, where our friend, Jorge Luis Rodriquez, worked and Ron Jon Surf Shop (out of Cocoa Beach, FL), will take your credit cards and provide you with a receipt that shows the dollar amount charged and the peso amount, if you’re interested. Don’t get them confused and have a heart attack when you see the peso amount — about 11-12 TIMES the dollar amount.
The disreputable places will show you the COOLEST bracelets that Carlos makes right there in front of you, charming you so easily that you refuse to see the snake oil oozing out of his every pore. When you pick out your purchases, he says he only takes cash because his little booth at the front of this store he’s standing in is NOT part of the store itself and he can’t take credit cards. But “eetz HO-K, dare ees an ATM just ofer dere. You can go geet de kahsh ofer dere.”
20 days later. You’re home. You’ve given out all of those delightful little bracelets and key fobs and other trinkets as souvenirs and FINALLY gotten all of your clothes washed and your life back in order. Then the other shoe drops.
That $-1,215.34 is in RED on the bank balance on that screen. And that’s a MINUS or NEGATIVE sign in front of the amount. And that’s just over the last two days. If you had not caught it today, it would have been worse tomorrow. Much worse.
A “skimmer” is a device placed on an ATM card reader which takes the encoded information from the credit or debit card inserted, capturing the information encoded on the card, and relaying that information electronically to the owner of the skimmer. Who is NOT the owner of the ATM machine. Once that skimmer owner has that info, he/she/it will take that information, make new cards out of it and sell those cards off to other sleezy, low-life, blankety-blank types who want to steal your money, the money of your financial institution, and the money of the owner of the ATM machine, without doing more than lifting a finger to get it.
Just as sure as in those wild-west days, you’ve been robbed of YOUR hard-earned money, but without the gun or knife at your throat. Unfortunately, the only one to blame for allowing that scenario to play out is YOU. You, and your danged ol’ Anglo-Saxon decency and goodness, which cajoles you to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Almost all of us have done it, because most of us truly EXPECT people to treat us fairly if we treat them so. So be it.
FAIR WARNING: Whether you came into Cozumel on a Carnival or Royal Caribbean or Disney cruise ship doesn’t matter. Half of the people on that dock are after your $$$$MONEY$$$$. And they ASSUME you have it, ’cause they saw the ride you came in on! Don’t give them a better than even shot at riding off to the Taco Bar with more than they were supposed to get from you.
1. Carry credit cards only, in an RFID container or between plates with RFID chips in them, so your cards can’t be “scanned” while you’re shopping. On-board ATM machines, though horribly expensive in terms of fees ($6 per cash withdrawal), are safe (theoretically). But the ones on LAND anywhere else, AIN’T!
2. If you insist on carrying cash, make it lots of small bills ($10s, $5s, and $1s). Sometimes they’ll tell you “no change” and they’ll try to give you pesos as change. Unless you are REALLY up on the exchange rate AND want to lose some of the pesos in the exchange back to dollars, you WILL get taken on that transaction.
3. Any guy that says, “Come over here, I want to give you a present” in a Russian accent, is NOT after giving you anything. He wants what you’ve got. Access to DOLLARS.
Here’s another set of tips I ran across that will help you in planning your cruise. ENJOY!
BE SAFE while you’re overseas. And at home!!!