October 6th, 2011

Getting Robbed in Peru (South of the Border Series)

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The fake card that the robber switched my real card with. I keep it as a souvenir.
After six amazing months in South America, I had my first experience of being robbed (of my credit card) in Arequipa, Peru.

I walked into a bank to take out some cash from the ATM. I put my card in the ATM and typed my pin number. A guy next to me told me that the machine did not have cash and I should try the other one. I believed him and tried the other machine. After entering my PIN and the amount of money I wanted, I was stuck on a screen “Transaction Processing”… I was about to cancel the transaction when another man quickly did that for me, taking my card and replacing it with a fake card… It happened so fast, like a magician using sleight of hand. There was also a girl behind me that I suspect was part of the gang, watching me enter my PIN number into the machine.

Police! Help! … Policia! Ayuda!

I reacted quickly, yelling at the guy that I suspected switched my card for the fake and asked for it back. I also started yelling “Police! Help!” in English as my adrenaline rush caused me to react in my native language. I realized this and changed my yelling to “Policia! Ayuda!”. The robber started walking and then running away from me, denying that he had it. I chased him across a busy street, stupidly almost getting hit. I was still yelling for help as well. He kept running down a side street, and dropped something on the sidewalk as I was chasing him.

Hearing my yelling for help, three local Peruvian guys came to help me. They walked with me and the robber to the local police station. The police searched the guy but he did not have my card. I waited at the station for about 20 minutes waiting for the tourist police to arrive. Within this time the police caught the other guy that actually had my card. They drove me (and the 2 robbers) to the a local coffee shop so I could check my card transaction history using Wifi. No money had been taken out, and I had my card.

End of story- I got my card back, changed my PIN number and all is good. Lesson learned- always be conscious of what’s going on around you. If you rely on habits, you can be taken advantage of.

Part of the South of the Border Series

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