Bali is an amazing island with beautiful people, and a very safe place to travel. However, you must be aware of some common scams before you travel there. The money changer scam is one of them. Here are some tips to avoid getting ripped off.
In Indonesia, the local currency is the Indonesian rupiah (IDR). Notes come in denominations of 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; 50 000 and 100 000 IDR, which can be very confusing if you are not familiar with the colors of the notes, and with all those zeros.
The money changer is a place where you can change a currency into another. The money changers can look like small offices or you can also find them inside shops.
Money changer scams are most likely to happen in very touristy area such as Kuta or Seminyak. Usually the money changer indicates very appealing rates as a bait to get you in. Then after you changed your money, you realize that the changer gave you a smaller amount than owned.
The changers use different technics to trick you:
- They can give you fewer Rupiah notes than they should have by counting quickly so you cannot follow.
- They can replace notes by others to give you a smaller amount of money. For example, switching 100K and 10K as their colors are a bit similar.
- They also can simply do the multiplication incorrectly, show you the result in their calculator and then give you exactly that amount – which is often thousands less than it should be.
- They can also show you the right amount on their calculator. Count the money, give you a smaller amount. And if you protest that money is missing recalculate and show you a different amount than the first time.
- Finally, they can sometimes have different rates for small and large notes. For example, the rate for 100$ bills is going to be higher than the one for the 20$ bills. Be careful with that.
So how do you protect yourself from the money changer scam?
Here is a quick Dos and Don’ts list of what to do to avoid being ripped off:
- Don’t use a money changer if the sign does not say “authorized”. And even if it does, still be very vigilant.
- Don’t use money changers located in suspicious areas
- Don’t use a money changer with a desk at the back of another business.
- Don’t use a money changer with a rate that is suspiciously way better than everywhere else.
- Don’t hand over your money until you are satisfied that the exchange is honest and you have the rupiah in your other hand.
- Don’t accept any smaller denominations than 50,000 and 100,000 notes. Usually using small dominations can be a way to rip you off.
- Don’t allow anyone to touch the rupiah once you have counted it and are sure it is correct
- Do check their calculations very carefully, and recalculate with your own calculator if necessary.
- Do count twice the amount they hand you, before handing over your money.
- Do leave the money changer if it looks suspicious.
- Do, if you find you have been ripped off, go back to that money changer and ask for the rest of your money. Even though the chances they give you money are very thin.
- Do try to keep going to the same money changer, once you have found an honest and reliable one.