Is this Fraud or just me being Cynical ?

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22 Apr 2012 11:23 by acer Star rating. 1415 posts Send private message

Several times now I've paid a bill at a Hotel in Spain to find they've converted the Euro amount into Sterling, without my agreement.  When I've questioned why they've done so, I've been told "customer convenience" or words to that effect which I've taken as being simple corporate boll*cks.

The first time was at a hotel in Madrid when my "convenience" was their clearly intended as their extra profit - it amounted to a surcharge of some 10% .  But more recently the exchange rate used at a hotel in Barcelona was not that unreasonable.

The method of the scam seems to be that you put in your PIN to OK the Euro amount, they then convert it in £ Sterling and give you back the confirmation stapled to your bill in an envelope so you won't read it until you've left the hotel.

To me this is fraud.  If I agree a bill in Euros I expect that amount to be debitted to my credit card - not £ sterling, converted at their arbitrary rate. 

Even more disconcerting was that it happened at a restaurant recently in semi rural Spain and when I pointed out the "error" to the waitress she was clearly perplexed as her hand held device had converted the Euro amount to £ sterling without her doing anything.   Clearly the management had not even told their staff.

Dunno if there's been a thread on this before, but this seems outrageous to me - is there justification ?

Don't argue with an idiot, he will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

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22 Apr 2012 11:45 by Team GB Star rating. 1245 posts Send private message

Team GB´s avatar

If you are paying a EUR bill with a GBP credit or debit card you should be given the choice at the point of sale what currency you want to be billed in - In my experience there has been a option on the hand held point of sale credit card machine, if the supplier is selecting charge in GBP at their exchange rate it's clearly a rip off.

If you manage to select 'bill in euros' then your issuing bank will make the currency conversion - I guess the answer is always ask to be billed in euros




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22 Apr 2012 11:55 by acer Star rating. 1415 posts Send private message

Thanks for yours TeamGB.

I've only ever been asked the question once and that was by a car hire company at the airport - the way the question was phrased indicated that they preferred that I opt for £ sterling. 

But it's the ones that don't ask that I object to.  Even more so as the credit card receipt printout includes a message to the effect that "you've opted to pay in £ sterling and cannot now change your mind" - is that a cheek or what !

Don't argue with an idiot, he will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

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22 Apr 2012 12:53 by william02 Star rating in Guardamar del Segura. 27 posts Send private message

william02´s avatar

 Hi Acer,

Just to complement your post, I have no answers and just questions like you, I am irritated also:

When I arrived in Spain to pick-up the rental car,  they did the conversion without asking first, so I asked  them to redo the bill in euros and they did it without hesitation. When I later looked at the withdrawal on my credit card statement, the amount was 7% lower than what they had charged initially. So maybe the exchange rate changed between the time the bill was processed by the credit card company and the purchase or they charged an extra  7% in the conversion, I do not know ???.  Anyways, now, I always check this and pay in euros.

However in a restaurant, the machine could not take my payment because I did not indicate if I wanted the amount converted.  There was no indication on the machine as to how to do it, the waiter did not know, so I ended up paying in cash.  That seems a bit suspicious to me. I would not return to that restaurant.

Anecdotally, the next day my wife and I went to a restaurant next to that one, they served us food we did not ask for such as bread and shrimps and then charged us for it. So you’re supposed to know that anything that appears to be compliments of the house, is to be charged extra! Another place I will avoid even though the payment went well with the credit card.



This message was last edited by william02 on 22/04/2012.

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22 Apr 2012 17:43 by norm de plume Star rating in North Tenerife and L.... 162 posts Send private message

It's the poverty stricken banks who make the profit on this, not the retailers, who still get paid in euros.

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22 Apr 2012 18:57 by maddiemack Star rating in Grantham, Lincolnshi.... 194 posts Send private message

I may be going off the subject here, but here goes...

I do understand that it's not easy for everyone...but we always pay small bills (anything under a few hundred) with cash...not just in Spain but also in the UK. (We keep our cash with us at all times in Spain, in one of those pouches you strap round your waist under your shirt/jumper).

Having watched the recent programme on TV showing how easy it is for crooks to read your card detals (in small hand-held devices that fit into the palm of a hand enabling the card handler to run your card through a strip without you even seeing it!) we never hand our card to anyone.  Fraud using other's cards is far too easy since fraudsters have even created devices that attach to card machines of all sizes...meaning you can't see them, even when you use the card device!  Both my son and my sister have been 'done' with such devices but, thankfully, since this was in the UK and they could prove they didn't spend the hundreds of poounds that were taken without their knowledge, they both got their money back from the respective banks,  I wonder if this would be the case in Spain?  Has anyone been unfortunate enough to have had this sort of thing happen to them in Spain?

Since we found that we HAD to use a card to pay for a hire car at the airport...we always order a car online and pay for it there and then.  We absolutely refuse to hand a card to anyone at the airport.  If we decide to hire a car from a local company at some point during a holiday in Spain, we insist on paying cash or we won't take the car!

Perhaps we are over-cautious but we have witnessed first-hand the distress caused by fraudulent card dealings and we won't ever put ourselves in a situation where it could happen.



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22 Apr 2012 19:45 by acer Star rating. 1415 posts Send private message

Maddiemack, personally I think I'd prefer to be the target of credit card fraud than carry loads of cash with the associated risk of attracting attention and getting mugged.  If you lose your cash that's it - with a credit card you normally have protection and can recover your dosh.

But it seems to me that these days you've got to be totally alert all the time - so many scams and cons around, including the one I raised and you ignored !

Don't argue with an idiot, he will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

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22 Apr 2012 20:08 by guslopez Star rating in Lorca, Murcia.. 745 posts Send private message

maddiemack wrote  " I wonder if this would be the case in Spain?  Has anyone been unfortunate enough to have had this sort of thing happen to them in Spain? "

yes a friends wife had her bag stolen & 600€ was taken out on each of two cards. The bank repaid the lot without question even though her pin number had been with them . 

I can't remember the law exactly but the banks are responsible for any loss apparently.       the 1st 150€ can be down to the customer , but rarely is, & if you do have this problem asking for the banks 'defensor del cliente' normally gets it sorted.                Ç


Todos somos Lorca.

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23 Apr 2012 23:02 by Marksfish Star rating in Vera, Almeria. 2575 posts Send private message

Marksfish´s avatar

 Dynamic Currency Conversion. The rate given is the rate that Visa/ Mastercard/. Amex decide, not the retailer. Some handheld terminals will automatically detect a non local currency card and convert automatically. The operator should be able to override, but thay are not alsways trained well enough to do so. If you make a payment in a dynamically changed currency, you have no recourse as the receipt will state "you have been offered" even if you haven't.

Just be aware of what is displayed on the screen BEFORE putting in your pin.


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24 Apr 2012 10:52 by acer Star rating. 1415 posts Send private message

Many thanks for yours Mark and putting a label "Dynamic Currency Conversion" on the practice.  Presumably Visa and Mastercard have a reason for the practice - somehow I doubt that it's in my best interests. 

Perhaps it's linked to the uncertainty of the Euro.  If Spanish Euro debits suddenly become a lesser amount of Pesetas that are payable 28 days later there will be a substantial loss for Visa and Mastercard - so perhaps it's an attempt to reduce their potential loss.

But I'm as sure as I can be that I checked the amount at the hotel before I inserted my PIN, but I'll be doubly vigilant in future.  The experience at the restaurant was as you say - the waitress input the amount in Euros and handed me the terminal and the debit had become a £ sterling amount. 

I handed the terminal back to her and told her the amount was agreed in Euros and she was clearly both perplexed and embarrassed.  It was a small amount and the exchange rate was not unreasonable so I agreed to pay anyway.  But it is the principle that I find objectionable  - changing the currency without your agreement.  It's open to scams in the future.

I'm going to insist on paying in Euros in future, unless I'm asked beforehand.

Don't argue with an idiot, he will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

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