By Ricky Skelton
May 12, 2015

I was travelling in one of Brazils tourist towns a while ago and withdrawing stupid amounts of cash every day to cope with it all. Back in the Big City later, I couldnt get any money out. Naturally wondering if Id spent all my money (or the banks overdraught money if you want to split hairs), I didnt think too much more about it. Then Blondie returned from a bank trip to tell me a story about a couple warning her not to use a certain cash machine as it had some odd wires coming out of it. We discussed the disgrace that is the security measures of Brazils banking system and promised to keep an even closer eye on the machines we use, and check them properly for extraneous devices, which I always do anyway.

Too late!

The same day I called my bank back home to see if my card was blocked. Apparently not, but Id run it up to the limit with the last couple of days of withdrawals. Hang on – run that one by me again… I hadnt made any withdrawals the last couple of days, but they can sometimes delay in appearing. So she checked some amounts with me, making sure they were legit. Two hundred thousand from the…

Whoa there cowgirl! Two hundred what? I nearly had heart attack imagining the unauthorised overdraught fees. How did I take out that much? I must have been drunk early that day… Still… 200k is a lot of reais.

… in Santiago.

Santiago is like Salvador, a place you have to check twice to see if it might be a Brazil one or another Latin American place. No, must be the one in Chile. I started sweating as she ran through the list of recent transactions, thankfully at the same time as Id been making withdrawals throughout the weekend. the card was still in my hand and hadnt left it except for withdrawals, some by Blondie – you dont suppose…? I didnt mention her to the bank, it might lead to awkward questions from someone who didnt trust my Brazilian lady as much as I do.

So all those frighteningly high amounts were only good old Chilean pesos, and as Ive never been to Santiago, it was all quite easy to point them out, cancel yet another card, and wait five minutes for the money to be put back onto my account. Just a couple of forms to sign later to state the fraudulent activity for the police, and Im in the clear. Marvellous. Good luck finding the thieves, and even better luck in trying to get the Brazilian banks or police to provide any help with that or even acknowledge that they have a problem. We called the possible banks, the denied any responsibility.

So as far as inevitably getting roubado in Brazil goes, having a card cloned is about as good as it gets for anybody with a gringo bank account. I can only imagine how much bureaucracy would be involved in the same situation with a Brazilian bank card. I imagine ten years of legwork for nothing to ever be refunded. The thought makes me shiver. I also have the feeling that as most of the card-cloning stories I hear from Brazil involve gringoes that there is definitely some huge scheme going on here, involving the banks and the staff of banks, a huge conspiracy to defraud us all of our dollars by some Brazilian jeitinho.

So I was all happy with life that afternoon, thinking that while having something stolen in Brazil is very common, having it stolen with no violence necessary, all valuables safely returned, and nothing but a painful wait for the correio to deliver the new card. And even better – surely, statistically speaking, having been robbed means that your chances of being robbed again in the near future dwindle somewhat, so the cloning puts back the inevitable and far more ugly type of robbery to a later average date, no?

This thought kept me amused for another couple of weeks, at least until I discovered that it had happened again with another gringo bank card. Im going at the rate of one every couple of months now…

You can visit Ricky’s blog at

Previous articles by Ricky:

Understanding Brazil: Pizza
Around Brazil: Porcaria de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Holding Hands
Understanding Brazil: Statues & Self-Worth
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes Part II
Understanding Brazil: The Pub
Understanding Brazil: Protesting
Understanding Brazil: General Elections
Around Brazil: Oktoberfest Parade in Blumenau
Cultural Brazil: The Alambique
Around Brazil: Whale-Watching in Santa Catarina
Brazil: Tainha Time
Deported from Brazil? Part 2
Deported from Brazil? Part 1
Brazil: The President in Florianpolis
Swine Flu in South America?
The Best Club in Brazil…?
The Great Brazilian Animal-Off (Land)
Understanding Brazil: Giving Directions
Understanding Brazil: Driving
Understanding Brazil: Farra do Boi
Brazil: Catching Flu’
Around Brazil: Garopaba
Understanding Brazil: Funerals
Brazil: Bernie the Berne
Around Brazil: Journey to the Amazon Jungle
Around Brazil: Crazy Town Ceremonies
Around Brazil: Crazy Town
Around Brazil: Manaus
Around Brazil: Santarem & Alter do Chao
Around Brazil: Amazon Swarms and Amazon Storms
Understanding Brazil: Playing Pool
Around Brazil: Gurup
Around South America: Peninsula Valdes
Around South America: Patagonia
Around South America: Montevideo, Uruguay
Around Brazil: The Amazon
Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: So Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

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