Money change scam

Bali-scam-money-exchangeMoney change scams are found in almost every tourist hotspot across the globe. Most of them happen when a tourist changes money on the streets with someone who just approached them instead of at an official money exchange office. In Bali, tourists can get scammed at money change desks inside a shop, especially those with a high counter behind which the money changer can hide his loot.

Also read: Stealing money changer

Money change agents can be seen everywhere in Bali, and the differences in rates are a clear warning sign that there’s something fishy about some of them. If you go into the shop with the lowest or one of the lowest rates, especially if the teller is standing behind a high counter, please be warned to count and recount the money you receive. If you don’t count the money you receive at the counter before walking out the door or you let anybody touch the cash after you’ve counted it, you might find out later that there’s some money missing.

This is how the scam works:

Once you indicate the amount of Euro’s, Dollars or Pounds you would like to change into the local currency, the teller will calculate how many Rupiah you will receive. He will then count the bills on top of the counter, so you can see the amount is correct. But then, when you are the least suspicious, as you have just confirmed the total is correct, he will steal some of your money by dropping it behind his counter when he stacks the money together. Bali-scam-money-changeThis scam is possible because of the low value of the Rupiah. One hundred Euro’s/Dollars/Pounds will get you over one million Rupiah. As a result of this, you are likely to receive quite a big bundle of bills. After the count, he will shake this bundle to arrange them into a clean stack, and during that shaking, or when he passes the stack from one hand to his other, he will quickly drop one or two large denomination bills behind the high counter, back into his drawer (that’s the reason why he’s not sitting at a lower desk), without you noticing. And because of the large stack of bills, one or two missing bills are easily overseen. Even if you would be suspicious of it, and closely monitoring his hands, you might not even see it happening, as it is done very quickly. These con-artists are extremely light-fingered, so you have been warned.

Sometimes they even ask you for some small denomination Rupiahs as change, claiming they don’t have any change themselves. This is purely intended to distract you and take your eyes of the bills that are still in their hands, as they absolutely do have small change to give you exactly the amount of Rupiahs you are entitled to.

They calculate very quickly and their whole demeanor is hurried, just to make you feel rushed as well and become too impatient to take enough time you need to calculate the challenging exchange rate again by yourself, or to recount the large stack of bills before walking out the door.

But that’s exactly what you should do. Always count the money you have been handed, before you walk out of the office, and don’t let them touch it after you’ve counted it. If it’s not correct, tell them about it and ask for the rest of your money. Sometimes they can even become slightly aggressive and blame you for stealing the money yourself, but you’ll have to stand your ground and warn them you’ll call the police if they don’t give you the money they just stole from you.

Bali-rip_off-money-exchangeIt’s better to change your money at an official bank or hotel desk, even at a lower rate, or best to just withdraw the local currency directly from your bank account at an ATM. Unfortunately, ATM’s are not yet widespread in Bali, especially outside of the big cities, so make sure that if you must go to a money change office, you find one with a desk or low counter, and with a sign “No commission” outside, like the Kodak shops or Seven-Elevens. These are the least likely to play a magic trick with your money. Even then, make sure you count and recount the money at the counter, loudly in front of them, and don’t let them touch it after you have counted the bills.

Find experiences from real victims or post your own story in our Bali Tourist Scams Forum.

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