Monday, 18 May 2009

Attack Of The Clones - Part One

We were out with some friends last night, including a couple of visitors from the UK. The conversation turned to robbery/pickpocketing in Madrid, and we smugly declared ourselves robbery-free for over a year, and able to spot all the danger signs and avoid them.

I spoke too soon: I was robbed twice this morning by some asshole in Milan (the one in Italy).

I might not even have known about it, except I have a doohickey on my bank account that sends me an SMS whenever 50 Euros or more is withdrawn from my account. It's quite annoying, actually: I know when I'm taking money out, and I don't really need the added thrill of a vibrating phone in my pocket whenever 'computer says yes.' I've been thinking of cancelling the facility.

Now I'm glad I didn't.

I'd just settled down to some serious work when I got the SMS. Bingely-beep.

'We like to inform you that you have withdrawn 200 Euros from ATM at Poste Italiano.'

Feck! I throw on shoes and socks and head off to the bank. On the way I try calling the bank's hotline. A computer wants to attempt voice recognition of my ID number. It gets it hopelessly wrong both times-- my fault: it's obviously never heard Spanish spoken in a Yorkshire accent before. Never mind, I'm almost at the bank.

Bingely-beep. Shit!

'We like to inform you that you have withdrawn 100 Euros from ATM at Via Riccardo P.'

I storm into the bank. The two girls who look after problems are both busy. The cashier is not. Fortunately, he spikka a bitta da Ingles. I ask him to cancel my card. He asks me for ID. I show him the laminated passport copy that I always carry. He says 'this is a copy. I need original passport.'

I tell him that's at my house, but meanwhile please cancel the card. He can't do it, and he phones my branch in Chueca. He speaks to Paula, and passes her on to me. I guess she recognises my voice and generally grumpy attitude (Paula likes to call me from time to time and tell me I don't have enough money in my account to pay the bill that has just been presented) and tells the bloke to cancel my card. He does so.

'Now,' he says, 'you haff to go Police, tell them you card cloned, get denuncia, take to you home bank. Money refund will be two month.'

Well, this looks like fun. MamaDuck has been through the denunciation process once, and it took hours. Basically what happens (if your Spanish is rubbish) is you go to a specific cop shop near Plaza de España. They have a phonebox there that can connect you to a translator of most European languages, and Arabic (although I didn't see any options for Russian, Chinese, Gallego or Catalan).

When I finally find the place, the cops on the door ask me what I want. I garble something including the words 'denuncia' and 'ladron'. They tell me to wait, and after a minute or two a young lady, not dressed like a cop, appears and asks me what the problem is.

She takes a queue ticket for me, and escorts me into the Room Of Despair (actually Sala de Espere - the waiting room). It is full of miserable-looking people. She goes to the phone box in the corner and dials a number. Then she passes the handset to me and goes away.

I speak with a lady who has a very posh-sounding English accent. She is breathtakingly efficient, and the whole thing is done in about three minutes. She gives me a Police Report number, and I thank her.

In the lobby, there is a door to the room where I think I am supposed to collect the report. I try to enter, but the cops on the door stop me. They tell me it will take some time: maybe this evening, tonight, tomorrow or the next day.

I'll go back tomorrow to see if it's there.

I have no idea of how this can have happened: I'm pretty vigilant at ATMs, especially when it looks like there might be some kind of skimming device on the card slot. And it may be a mere coincidence that I requested a new ATM card a few days ago because the current one is knackered.


Colin said...

Keith, How did they get the cash without your PIN?

Keefieboy said...

This, I don't know. I have heard of scams where the bastards from hell insert a sleeve into the card slot that can read the data from the card's magnetic strip, combined with a little webcam that they stick above the keyboard of the ATM. I'm very wary about stuff like this, and have never noticed anything untoward: my suspicion veers towards the card-making factory...

Jayne said...

That really is a bugger Keefie & has the distinct ring of an inside job......
Hope you get reimbursed hon.

the real nick said...

The fun never stops at keefie's..

Mind you - there was a wave of these scams in Dubai last year. a friend of mine had 5,000 Euros lifted off his account. It took him about six months to get it back.

nzm said...

Room of despair - love it! I always giggle when I see the spanish word espere for wait.

Espere in French means hope, so maybe it is more like a room of hope!

Jeez Keefie, this is serious - will tell Jen about it so that we can watch the ATMs around here.