A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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Nov 10, 2007 — Like many foreigners here in Mexico, we rely on ATM cards (debit cards) tied to bank accounts back home. They provide us with quick and easy cash.

Usually it works great.

One day recently, Kelly and I were shopping at Soriana, a chain store in Chapala, and he went to get some cash from one of the ATMs in the lobby. He came back and said his card wasn’t working.

So I went and tried mine, which has a different number and PIN number. I had no trouble. Kelly went and tried again. No luck. But I had taken out enough money to do our errands, so we did our shopping.

When we got home, Kelly called our bank in Colorado. We had made a point of making the acquaintance of one of the bank officials before we left, so we would have a specific person to contact. This has come in handy several times. It was late on a Friday afternoon when he called and as she wasn’t there, he left a message on her machine.

Saturday morning, I happened to be doing some online banking and I noticed that there were two withdrawals from our personal checking account that were dated earlier in the week, on a day that we hadn’t left home. They were located in Mexican towns I had never heard of. One was for about $112 and the other for about $450. I’m talking dollars, not pesos.

Well… that was no good. We surmised that this was why Kelly’s card hadn’t worked at Soriana. But how had this happened? The card was never out of his possession and he is very careful about letting someone else in line see his card or what he is punching. In fact, our favorite ATM here is one in a booth, where you swipe the card so the machine has no chance to gobble it up. (When a card is gobbled in Mexico, you may not be able to get it back from the bank. I don’t know if this is also true in the US.)

Anyway, I found the emergency number for calling on weekends, and got put through to the fraud unit. There was, as we suspected, already a temporary hold on Kelly’s card, and the man told us that there had been two more charges as well. He put a permanent block on Kelly’s card.

Monday morning early, our friend at the bank called and we discussed everything with her. How could this have happened, we asked. “We can only guess,” she said, “but my best guess is that someone was running random numbers to find some that worked, and that they physically created a credit card with Kelly’s number, not needing his PIN.” I had found out in the meantime that those two Mexican towns were near Mexico City, not near us at all.

She faxed Kelly a form to fill out and he sent it back. (We use an inexpensive fax service at send2fax.com, which sends faxes to our emails and lets us send them out through their website, very handy.) A few days later, we were refunded all the money. The bank sent Kelly a new debit card to our Colorado address, and a friend is bringing it down to us soon.

It’s good — make that essential — to have more than one way to get money. Whew.

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