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Travelers often do the same thing, and with this article, I want to help you avoid losing a lot of money via an ATM scam. It’s not an article about scams (I think), it’s all about a small thing you should do, to avoid a lot of trouble later.
Just using the hostel ATM in LA…
Travelers often take up large sums of money at the ATM to avoid extra fees. I’m often the same when I don’t get a local bank account. So when I was traveling to Los Angeles, I had to book a tour so I had to take up $300. To not do it on the streets of Santa Monica, I decided to do it in my hostel, the HI Santa Monica at the time. It was one of the ‘portable ATMs’ you often see in hotels and some restaurants. The reception was next to the ATM, and I just took out $300, but that was when the trouble started. The money never came out. I always think about ATM scams, but never imagine it being an ATM in a hostel…
The wait… is it a travel scam?
So I waited. And waited. I secretly even searched for a hidden camera to see if it was a joke. $300! When you’re traveling, money becomes very important, especially without a backup travel fund.
So when the ATM just went back to the welcome screen, I walked up to the reception. It felt like an ATM scam. Did this really happen? They told me it was weird and that it never happened before. I should just try again. But in the meantime, I looked up my banking app, and the money was withdrawn. At that point, I knew I had a problem. Money never came out, money was withdrawn from my account. My solution?
How to fix this ‘atm scam’
I GOT THE RECEIPT! You know why this saved me? The hostel reception called the bank, but they basically said they could nothing do for me. So when I showed the reception my banking app + the receipt which said ‘transaction successful’ (or something), they knew I was not scamming them. Otherwise, they’d 100% think so.
7 months later
Thank god. So I always get receipts and scan them to Onedrive immediately, just to be sure. And this was what saved me…. When I FINALLY received the money 7 (!) months later. Jeez, $300 of my travel budget! That was kind of annoying. I had to email them thousand times and they did not handle it correctly at all. The receipt started to fade pretty quickly, after three weeks, so I was happy I had the digital scan. In the end, I had to email the receipt to ≠ 5 people of all sorts of banks, the hostel let go the person working at the time, so I was happy I asked for the bank number myself, ever trust people when they say they will do things for you in situations like this. My own bank refunded me the money but later took it again and all sorts of crap. So after 7 months, I received the money back for good. And I still don’t know why it had to take this long or why it happened in the first place, but let me tell you, I was happy to have my travel back up fund. Because $300 could be a week of traveling, and without a backup fund I’d had to live on water and bread 😉
I have met one other person that had the same problem in a hotel, no receipt, and just no proof. That’s why I believe this might be a travel scam… I don’t know, but it’s annoying and it’s easy to fix by getting a receipt!
So, long story short, always make sure you get a receipt when you withdraw large amounts of money, scan them immediately digitally, and make sure you have a backup (travel) fund. You can easily scan your receipts on the go with Onedrive and earn your next travel fund with my get money challenge.