Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Credit Card Fraud in Ukraine: "It Can't Happen to Me"

All of us know that credit card fraud happens, but many believe that "it can't happen to me." Here's a story I recently learned of first-hand from an expat who makes frequent trips to Ukraine for periods of several weeks or months at a time.

This man experienced bank card fraud twice in one year in Ukraine. The first time the bank figured something was amiss and gave him a call to notify they were cancelling a suspicious transaction. The second time no action was taken by the bank. The expat printed out withdrawal statements and was preparing to scan them and send them to his bank to contest withdrawals amounting to many thousands of dollars.

These withdrawals were all performed in St. Petersburg, Russia over a span of a week or more. One was on the same day that he withdrew money in China (an obvious sign of fraud). He hopes his bank will cancel the withdrawals and he will not lose the money.

I asked how he might have prevented this situation. He said he used his bank card (a debit card) to get cash out of ATMs and to pay at restaurants and stores. He didn't know where his information might have been stolen. Since this happened to him twice in one year, he suspects it might be fairly common among expats in Ukraine. (That's why I'm writing this post.)

I have spent a total of 10 years in Ukraine and Russia and have not had any experiences like this, but I have only used my debit cards to withdraw money from ATMs. I have never used them to pay for things in Ukraine/Russia. I have also not been particularly discriminate in which ATMs I use; usually I just use whatever ATM is handiest. So far so good... But other expats have recommended using only ATMs located inside banks. This is probably sound advice.

Perhaps the most important thing one can to do protect against fraud is to use a debit card rather than a credit card, and to keep the balance in the account reasonably low so that if fraud occurs you will not lose very much money. The expat I talked to was preparing to set up another account from which he will transfer money to his checking account as necessary rather than storing funds in the checking account that is tied to the debit card.

This is something worth thinking about and preparing for. Have you taken steps to protect yourself from bank fraud?


  1. I think the debit card advice is a good one. Credit card fraud continues to be very alarming especially for the users. We don't want to bring cash everytime so I think its best to have the debit card with the balance low.


  2. I've been in Kyiv, Ukraine for mostly the last 9 months and I think the biggest tip I can give for credit cards here is don't let anyone take your credit card out of your sight. (i.e., restaurant to go 'run' the card) If the card is in your sight at all times they usually don't have the ability to get all the numbers (albeit possible). But honestly I've mostly switched to just using ATMs and paying cash than running the possibility of card getting declined due to international use or whatever...