A Platinum Grade Scam

Who would have thought that this man who prides himself on his forensic ability to detect scams, swindles and tricksters, should fall to pick up this – an eye watering catastrophe.

It needs a preamble to even try and excuse, justify the sequence of events! I recommend strongly reading the previous posts before this one. It’s my first trip OS for 3 years, the first not organised down to the minute by a travel agent. Hence the Chile e-visa fiasco which dogged me from day 1 until I escaped the clutches of the local immigration authorities and left me a quivering, frightened wreck of a human being. Still in a state of panic, I headed to the exit, not bothering to change some basic currency.

As I entered the arrival area, there were the usual drivers with signs to pickup their clients. A middle aged respectable man with an official looking lanyard, standing actually in FRONT of the security rail, designed to separate the arriving passengers from their welcoming, rather than behind, approached me and in excellent English ask me if I was being collected and which hotel I was going to? I said yes, I was going to the hotel Matilda. He said I will show you where the pick up point is so I followed him. What follows is a very impressive scam, which as bad luck would have it caught me in a extremely fragile state of mind. You’ll understand clearly the process he adopted, and it became obvious to me once I realised what happened, quite quickly.

I acknowledged his help ( yes he was “employed to welcome international visitors! “) We walked along until he stopped and explained that he could not see any driver from Hotel Matilda. He said he would phone the hotel and brought up the web site of what looked like the hotel Matilda, which he showed me. He dialled, spoke at length, then handed his phone to me! At the end of the line , a man, who I assumed was on the Matilda front desk, explained that his driver had a car problem, could I take a taxi, get a receipt and I would be reimbursed! So we walked further to the park and were met by a young man and a limousine.

We set out, very chatty driver. Arrived and I brought out my phone to swipe. He apologised his payment device required an actual plastic card! So I swiped and verified! He then said “my machine is not working I will park around the corner and come back to the hotel.” He supplied a receipt for $US 25 . I carried my bags and receipt into the hotel and I NEVER SAW HIM AGAIN!

Whilst checking in, my phone sent me a notification that I had debited an amount of $Aus xxxx.xx ! Jesus wept!

I contacted the NAB 24 hour card line! Helpful but pessimistic! We will try he said when you return. Change your PIN now ( which I did) and he lodged a disputed transaction for me and recommended I cancel the card when back in Australia, A potential hassle being overseas.

The hotel staff contacted police, who were totally uninterested and/or disinterested- take your pick! The whole scenario and police total lack of action, brought back memories of the stolen iPhone whilst travelling in Brazil more than 10 years ago

The amount, to give you a clue, was akin to a drop in my share portfolio over a day. My financial planner at those times in the past I had emailed, phoned or SMS him about such sudden falls, would patiently explain, that these were just paper changes, virtual, imaginary and any other synonym that you care to use, meaning that I hadn’t LOST any money! Well let me tell you, SIR, I think that advice needs a Royal Commission.

In summary, I wandered the streets of Santiago, Sunday night, a severe migraine, and so distressed by the catastrophic, accumulation of events over 48 hours that I contemplated throwing in the travel towel and giving Chilean customs the satisfaction of catching the next flight back to Australia! “I’m too old to travel especially to the third world anymore…enough is enough! “

But after another day, a good night sleep Monday, changing some Chilean Peso Monopoly money , I am better!

In a few days time I’ll send a link to a GoFundMe link to offset my loss!

The Receipt

The only other scam that involved money was the saga of the “ tea sampling and drinking ceremony” in Shanghai. That was also several years ago at a Parkinson’s neurological conference. However in the end I had a delightful time with several young Chinese allegedly wanting to improve their English. The money they asked was not that much, but not expected as I assumed, lulled into a friendly interaction with “locals”.

The Chilean NBN in Punta Arenas. Malcolm Turnbull was seconded as the inaugural consultant, I believe?

I have arrived successfully in Punta Arenas. I negotiated the domestic air terminal in Santiago. I have confirmed my bus ticket to Ushuaia on Friday, joining the Backroads tour Sunday . Punta Arenas is a delightful village which I will explore tomorrow Thursday.

I am in a much better place mentally! But having said that the sad thing is that one only becomes more suspicious and even paranoid about ones’ fellow man, especially when travelling in a third world country.

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