Money change scam

Jamaica-money-change-scamMoney change fraud takes place in almost every popular tourist destination, and every country has their own version of this scam. For example, tourists in Turkey are given “old Lira’s”,which are indistinguishable from the “new Lira’s” to the untrained eye, but which is worth one millionth of the latter. And in Budapest, tourists are distracted when the fraudulent money changer gives them Belarusian Rubles instead of Hungarian Forints, leaving them behind with currency that’s worth a fraction of what they’re paying for.

The similarity between all these scams is that they happen by hustlers on the streets luring tourists with exchange rates that are higher than those that are paid by official, and trustworthy, money change offices or banks.

In Jamaica, there are two ways to scam tourists looking to change money on the streets. In the first way, the money changer will ask the tourist how much they want to change and tell them the rate. Let’s say the tourist wants to change 100 US Dollars into Jamaican Dollars and gives the money changer five notes of $ 20. The scammer takes these notes and adds them to the big pile of notes in his hands, counts them and tells the tourist they’ve only given him four notes, worth $ 80. The fifth note, he’s already quickly hidden elsewhere in his pile of notes, so it can never be proven it wasn’t there before. Even is the tourist is 100% sure of having given the correct amount, there’s no way to prove it, and has to accept the fact that he’s just been robbed.

Also read: Scammed using distraction and intimidation tactics changing Jamaican Dollars

Jamaica-money-change-rip_offThe other way to rip off tourists changing money involves two scammers. One does the actual changing (and stealing), while the other is only there to distract the victim. They lure the tourists with an attractive exchange rate, and try to convince them to change a larger amount than they initially indicate, because the larger the pile of bills, the easier it is for them to pull this trick. They take the tourists money and count out the Jamaican Dollars. When the tourists recounts the money themselves, they notice there’s a small amount short, as intended by the scammers. The tourists gives back the bills to the money changer, who does a recount himself. At that moment, the second scammer distracts the tourists with a question, giving his team-mate the chance to steal a few extra bills from the pile he is counting. When he finishes the recount, he apologizes for the miscalculation and returns the money to the tourist, and adds the missing amount separately. The tourist is unlikely to count the whole pile again (that’s why they want you to change as much as possible, and that’s also why they only use lower denomination bills) and will walk away, only to find out later that he’s still been robbed.

Always change money at a bank, hotel reception or an official money change office, and never on the street, anywhere in the world, no matter how attractive the exchange rate is.

Find experiences from real victims or post your own story in our Montego Bay and Jamaica Tourist Scams Forum.

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