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I spent a few weeks volunteering in Antigua Guatemala, which was a wonderful experience, subsequently many of us associated with the project I worked at have had our ATM cards cloned. I've spent today dealing with my bank and getting my ATM card cancelled after fraudulent use was noticed five weeks after I left Guatemala. Thankfully I carry a second bank card with me so I can still access travel funds.
I really don't like innuendo, so I did think twice about posting this, but the consensus of opinion amongst those of us that suffered the fraud pointed to the bank in the main plaza of Antigua, I think it maybe BANCO AGROMERCANTI, what ever the name it's the one with three ATM machines lined up inside the bank entrance. Indeed I only ever withdrew money from that branch so if my card was cloned in Antigua and not one of the other countries I've visited it would point to the very same bank.
So please forgive the innuendo, exercise some caution and come prepared. Bring a second ATM card with you on your travels, after all this could have happened to me anywhere in the world and indeed at any of the other banks I've used throughout my trip. Also in reading this thread please exercise some perspective, todays hotspot maybe Antigua tomorrow's could be Lima, Buenos Aires or London. Nothing beats a little trip preparation and caution.
There've been a slew of reports posted on other forums of exactly this trouble at this branch in this location. I used those ATM's last July without issue, but the reports started coming in after that. A good reason to browse periodically on mainstream forums like Lonely Planet's Thorntree.
Thanks for the link, and yes that is the exact same bank, and believe it or not those of us affected by the fraud had concluded the problem was with the middle ATM machine. It appears that out amateur detective work was good.... and yes I'm still posting those videos! :-)
I think for the time being I would still give that bank, and certainly that ATM machine, a wide birth. There are many other places to withdraw money in town so travelers have plenty of alternatives. It's just better to be safe than sorry.
One thing that does frustrate me with HU (and I'm now doing it myself!) is the number of threads that stray from the subject or repeat information easily found within the Hubb. I just wanted to say that both of you make excellent contributions to the HU community. Guaterider is always giving excellent advice on issues that face riders in Guatemala, and Mark I always look out for your comments which are both well considered and informative. Keep it up guys because it's contributors like yourselves that make this such an excellent resource for overland travelers.
Thanks, Graham. It's always nice to feel appreciated.
For those who don't know, Easyg has been posting videos from all over North, Central and South America. They're informative, atmospheric and crazy funny. Great accompanying music, too. [http://www.brainrotting.com/]
I used that bank in Antigua in January on a 3 week visit to Guatemala and my ATM card was cloned as was a friend's that I was traveling with. In both cases our cards weren't used fraudulently until nearly 2 months later. Fortunately I noticed immediately and was reimbursed by my bank after canceling my card but people should keep an eye on their accounts.
Following on from my original post I can confirm that the problems persist in Antigua, Guatemala.
I revisited Antigua late last year and four months later my ATM card has been cloned and used in Lima, Peru!
In contacting my friends in Guatemala one of them replied to let me know that their card was also cloned and used within the last week.
I hope that details in the previous posts provide enough information with regards to the location of the bank with compromised ATM machines; it is situated in the main square in Antigua and has three ATM machines along side each other and a guard is permanently there - clearly not doing a very good job!
There are plenty of places to withdraw cash from in town, my advice to those of you passing through town is to avoid this one.
Interesting that this requires a reminder that the problem is not finished.
You probably realise that there has been a swathe of stealing card details via ATM machines across the UK.
No doubt it occurs elsewhere in the world and I would guess that the technology involved to the criminals is well known to them and will cross international borders very easily.
I would suggest, therefore, that such cautionary advice could be more widely publicised - maybe in the "staying safe on the road", or similar forum.
Also, carrying multiple cards doesn't deal with the actual problem but it does provide a part-solution for the individual.
Within the UK, the advice for sometime has been made known in various locations including on the ATMs. The latest answer I have seen, on machines in London as it happens, was a kind of semi-opaque screen close to the keyboard which, therefore, stops illegal cameras from seeing the keying of the PIN.
Dave is right that carrying a second card doesn't entirely deal with the problem although it will help you from getting stranded somewhere. Your bank is unlikely to send a replacement card to you out on the road, instead someone at home will need to despatch it to you... of course this is where your secret stash of dollars can come in handy.
It goes without saying that this problem can happen anywhere, and the warnings tend to blow with the wind as certain locations become more targeted. So remain vigilant, although I suspect most of us usually are... to be honest I thought I was; I knew about the previous problems with this bank and yet I was unable to see anything suspicious with their ATM's when I returned to Guatemala 6 months after the first incident.
I have strong connections with Antigua; I know many residents, ex-pats, business owners and people working for NGO's, and this problem is well known in town. The bank in question had given assurances that the issue has been dealt with but clearly it hasn't. On both occasions my card was cloned and used at the same branch of RED bank in Lima, Peru, and on speaking with my contacts in town on both occasions it has become apparent that other friends were also victims, which suggests a well organised gang at work.
I think what we're saying here is remain vigilant everywhere, carry a stash of emergency dollars, and make sure you don't rely on carrying just the one ATM card from one bank account. Oh, and enjoy Guatemala too... a stunning country with wonderful people that stole my heart. I plan to return soon :-)
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