As the list of readers of De viaje a Brasil (the Spanish-language counterpart to this blog) who have been victim of credit card fraud while holidaying in Brazil grows steadily it is clearly time to raise the alarm here at the Brazil Travel Blog as well.
The first time I heard of credit card fraud in Brazil was shortly after arriving in the country more than ten years ago. A Scottish friend of mine visiting Rio de Janeiro was the victim. Since then, the list of friends and acquaintances who have been victims of a widespread crime in Brazil is extense.
Michael Sommers told us at Thrill of Brazil how he himself had been a victim: Summer of Scam: Beware of Card Cloning. Bear in mind he is no ordinary tourist. He’s a seasoned traveller and specialist on Brazil, where he has been based for years. So if someone street savvy as himself falls victim of the fraud, what can an ordinary tourist do to prevent himself?
Criminals get smarter by the minute but my basic advice would be: only use ATM’s that are on public spaces where the constant coming and going of the public would make it impossible for the criminals to set up the devices they use to clone the cards. ATM’s at airports are excellent choices. ATM’s inside bank branches (but not the ones outside the branch with round-the-clock access) are even better. They are not easy to find but some banks have them. The ATM’s are inside the bank branch and you can only use them during banking hours.
ATM’s that are unguarded after banking hours are prime suspects, even if they have CCTV on them.
As the approaching sporting events are likely to herald growth in credit card fraud, it would seem prepaid travel money cards will be the way forward.
Carlson Wagonlit Travel heralds the bad news:
Brazil leads the way as the only nation in CWT’s entire 48-country forecast expected to see double-digit price increases next year, which causes significant challenges for travel budgets.
This statement and a more complete picture can be read at the company’s global forecast for 2013 in the tourism sector.
The company estimates hotel prices will increase in Brazil above 10% during next year. The proximity of the big sporting events (World Cup and Olympic Games) leaves little doubt as to whether there will be joy for the traveler’s budget during the coming years. Certainly not if they are heading to Brazil. If Rio+20 is a model to be followed (an end to the Rio hotel saga, for the time being at least), there are very dark clouds in the horizon.
Independent travelers are hopelessly abandoned by the Brazilian tourism authorities, who still believe organized traveled, package tours and travel agencies will save the day. In the meantime, other worldwide destinations with an array of attractions are competing on an equal level with Brazil and enticing more travelers to their shores. In view of the rising costs of holidaying in Brazil, a new approach to bringing foreign tourists to the country will be needed.
The news hit the healines a few days ago but the specific details are still scarce. The Brazilian government gave permission to banks and other financial institutions to install and operate money exchanging machines (Real can be exchanged for Dollars in ATMs).
The machines, similar to ATM’s but operating independently, will allow tourists to exchange foreign currency (initially only dollars and euros are being mentioned) for Brazilian reais – and viceversa. The person exchanging money will have to insert an international credit car in the machine. The information on the card will be used to identify the person exchanging money. And then they will insert the bank notes they wish to exchange.
The key issue will be the exchange rate used by banks and financial institutions on the exchange machines they run. If it’s a disadvantageous rate, then our recommendation will remain exchanged: withdraw money from ATM’s when possible or use the tradicional foreign exchange booths.
An interesting idea in theory that will have to be reassessed once it is implemented. With the Soccer World Cup and the Olympic Games in the horizon helping tourists gain access to local currency should become a priority.
An article from Tribuna do Norte (we saw it mentioned at the blog Guia Natal) reflects on increasing living costs in Natal, capital of Rio Grande do Norte. Prices have gone up to the point where Natal is today the most expensive capital in Northeast Brazil, surpassing Recife, Salvador and Fortaleza. The reason for the high cost of living would be a rapidly increasing population putting pressure on a limited housing and services market.
Destination: Natal is our main blog post on the popular destination of northeast Brazil.
Michael Sommers, author of the Moon Travel Guide to Brazil, published recently a blog post with the title The World’s Most Overvalued Currency reflecting on how expensive Brazilian has become in recent years – for those coming to visit the country but for those living in Brazil too!
Essential reading, as it is the case with anything written by one of the best-informed travel writers on Brazil.