Oaxaca mural

Oaxaca mural

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Travelers Beware!

I have read that there is a gadget that thieves can use to read the information on your passport and credit cards even while those items are securely on your person.  Well, it would seem that I fell victim to that nasty technology.

I always take three credit cards with me when I travel.  Two of them I use frequently, but the third one is simply a backup in case of emergency.  I didn't even realize that the third, rarely used, card was going to expire at the end of this month.  When I returned from my recent trip to Mexico, my replacement card was there in the mail at home.  It wasn't until today that I got around to calling to activate the new card.  It was then that I discovered that my credit card had been blocked.  I talked to a service representative, and she explained that there had been some suspicious activity on the card.  She removed those charges and told me that she would send me a new card immediately.

During my entire time in Mexico I had never used that credit card.  In fact, I didn't even have it on me; it was tucked safely away along with my passport in the apartment.  The fraudulent charges (there were three of them; all through Doha, Qatar) were made on the day that I flew home.  The only possible explanation is that some crook scanned my wallet with one of those devices while I was in the airport... either in Mexico City, or, more likely, Newark, New Jersey. 

I double checked my other two cards, and there was no problem.  I will, however, be checking them more frequently than usual for a while, just to be sure. 

The pouch in which I carry my passport is supposed to block scanners.  I was just checking out some websites, and they also make wallets that will block those devices.  The problem is, I like the wallet I use when traveling.  It is a biker wallet with a chain that attaches to my belt.  I feel that it gives me more protection from pickpockets (although I still tuck my wallet in my front pants pocket when I'm on the subway or crowded buses).  I noticed that they also make small sleeves in which you can place your cards.  I'm going to order a few of those as a safeguard.



  1. Be sure to double-check that the fraudulent charges were indeed removed from your account. I've had credit card people tell me they would be removed, and then they weren't.

    It's sad we have to watch everyone all the time, including our credit card companies, but I guess that's the price we pay for the convenience of not having to carry cash.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we think it'd be a much better use of police resources to catch the credit card scammers than the endless "stop & hassle" policies most police department use.

    1. I am grateful that the card company was so vigilant and immediately put a hold on my account. They are super-good. My account has already been credited for the fraudulent charges. And they sent me a new card by over-night UPS. I received it this morning.