Friday, March 20, 2009

Beware of Credit Card Fraud in Johannseburg International Airport

Friends, I am sad to report that the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannseburg, South Africa is a confirmed site of credit card fraud.

My credit card was cloned either at The Body Shop or at Frasier's (a shop in the new part of the airport selling handbags and wallets). It was then used to make fraudluent purchases of $400 at a watch shop, $1,250 at a furniture shop, and $1.05 at a cable tv operator (watching porn with my stolen credit card info, I imagine. Fuckers.).

Please excuse my language. I'm pretty pissed off.

I suspect my card was cloned at Frasier's. Why? Because I always buy at The Body Shop when I am at the Joburg airport. I bought some creams there when we were on our way to Brazil 2 weeks ago. I remember the vendor. She was nice. No unauthorized charges appeared after that initial purchase.

Then, while in Brasil, I had the bad luck of losing my wallet while out for drinks one night with Chocolate, our best man. I went to get Rico's wallet from my purse, and probably knocked mine out and onto the floor in the process. It was dark and crowded in the Bar Informal, and we didn't notice my wallet was gone until the next day.

Since it is Rio, and since I am not an otária, I had cleaned out my wallet on day one of our Brasil trip. I took out everything but the essentials - driver's license, copy of passport, 2 credit cards and my health insurance card.

When I realized my wallet was gone, Rico and I immediately called to cancel the credit cards. On one, there were no bogus charges. On the other, someone had spent R$400 (about US$180) at a pharmacy. We entered a fraud claim, and will have to dispute the charge at the end of the month.

While I was pissed about losing my wallet - I *never* lose things, to me it is a red flag that I am under unnecessary stress - I was at least satisfied that the loss had been minimal.

I switched to using my backup US credit card, which has a very high limit but is a pain in the ass because they charge 3% on all international purchases. I avoid using the card because they will not budge on that service charge, and my other cc gave me a much better deal for foreign transactions.

Anyhow, fast forward to me in the Joburg airport on our way back to Maputo, armed only with my backup 3% charging credit card. Since I lost my wallet in Brasil, I had to buy, well, another wallet. I remembered seeing one that I'd liked a few months earlier, made of ostrich skin. Rico and I found the store - Frasier's - and I selected a beautiful pink wallet.

After buying my replacement wallet, I went to The Body Shop and purchased some body butter since I had absent-mindedly left the one I bought 2 weeks prior in my carry-on luggage and it was seized at the security check (over 100ml. I should know better).

Anyhow, the girl who helped me at The Body Shop the second time around was the same one who helped me on our way to Brasil. She was very sweet. I know this is no guarantee, but I just don't feel she was the one who commited fraud on my account.

Now the Frasier's people? They are the ones I like for the cloning. I've never purchased there before, and the first time I do, I have problems. Coincidence? Who knows. I think not.

Either way, beware. I only used my backup credit card two times after my wallet was stolen, so the fraudulent charges either came from The Body Shop or Frasier's. Please be careful in the Joburg airport. I know these type of problems are common in the Nelspruit Crossings and the Riverside Mall, but to have it happen in the secure section of an international airport is surprising.

Please be careful in your travels. Use cash whenever possible, and keep a good relationship with your card company. Take out fraudulent purchase insurance if this is an option. Call and cancel your card immediately if you suspect you've lost your card or it has been cloned or stolen.

I have certainly learned my lesson. Cash is King.


Jo Ann v. said...

Oh my... never heard of that. :-(
I'm sorry about that, is there any chance you can recover your money ?

Ali la Loca said...

Yeah, it's happened to me once before. They clone your card when you make a purchase, and unless you are very vigilant or your cc company calls you, you never find out...they are really good with replicating your purchase profile. I recently bought a watch and furniture...and what do you know, they bought a fraudulent watch and furniture!

Only it's never happened to me in a secure airport int'l wing...just in regular downtown shops in centros comerciais.

I should be able to get my $$ back, because I have a good cc comapany who thought the charges were suspicious and called for authorization. Still, a pain in the ass...

planetnomad said...

I'm sorry. I hate stuff like this. We try to be super careful, but sometimes you just get stung.

Linda said...

With our bank, I'm not sure if it is true with others, we are charged a fee with our credit card if used overseas but not with our debit card so we use that one. I will be careful to use cash as often as possible after reading your post. You would think that you would be safe in an airport.

Ali la Loca said...

~Planet Nomad - We are super careful, too, but I honestly never thought the secure area of an int'l airport would be a place to worry!

~Linda - I'm not charged to use my debit card, but since it's directly connected to a bank account, I am now even more concerned about using it rather than a cc. When I use my debit card here, it is charged as a cc, no pin required for some reason. If they can get the info off my regular visa, I bet they could just as easily off my debit card...and then I'd be fighting to be reimbursed rather than to de-authorize purchases.

Either way, sucks to deal with...

Marcia Francois said...

I would log a complaint on and see what happens....

You are guaranteed to get super fast service because no company wants to be listed there!


*cross fingers* in all my years of online shopping and normal cc shoppnig, I've not once had anything happen!