An incident shared on social media has shed light on a widespread scam that Australian tourists should be wary of when traveling to Bali. In a popular Facebook group for Aussies holidaying in the Indonesian hot spot, a traveller recently shared an image exposing the scam in progress.
The photo captured a Commonwealth Bank ATM situated at a Seminyak supermarket, where someone had placed a "broken" sign over the card slot of the machine. The intention behind this act was to divert people to use the ATMs located nearby instead, which are suspected to be fitted with a card-skimming devices.
"Just a heads up," the man warned as he shared a photo of the targeted ATM, "a guy wearing a purple shirt keeps on putting a 'broken' sign on the Commonwealth Bank ATM at the Bintang supermarket."
Describing the scene, the tourist recounted witnessing several unsuspecting individuals approach the affected ATM, only to change their course upon seeing the sign and opt for a neighbouring machine. The man intervened to assure them that the Commonwealth Bank ATM was fully functional, urging them not to use the other ATMs.
"The fella kept watching me like he was angry, and as soon as I walked away, I witnessed him placing another sign on it," the concerned traveller added.
Group members confirmed this is a common danger in Bali. "This is a scam they have been doing for a very long time," one person said, explaining that the scammers patiently wait for unsuspecting people to use a nearby ATM which is likely fitted with a skimmer — a device designed to covertly capture cardholder information for illicit purposes. Card skimmers are typically installed on legitimate card readers, including ATMs and payment terminals, enabling fraudsters to steal payment card data.
Another group member emphasised the relative safety of Commonwealth Bank ATMs in Bali, attributing it to regular staff monitoring that minimises the risk of skimming incidents. However, the unmonitored nature of other machines becomes an opportunity for scammers to exploit by marking the Commonwealth Bank ATMs as "broken" or "out of service", thereby guiding people toward the more vulnerable options.
Offering additional insight, another member advised, "If this machine was broken, it would display an electronic message or a black screen. Commonwealth ATMs are the safest ones."
In light of the potential risks, several travellers recommended opting for cash instead of relying on foreign ATMs to mitigate the likelihood of falling victim to such scams.
How to avoid card-skimming scams
Bali Buddies, a tourism website that specialises in Bali travel, offers valuable recommendations to assist visitors in safeguarding themselves against falling prey to such scams.
Don't input your PIN for anyone other than a trusted ATM. Most of the time, the moment you type in your PIN, you forfeit the opportunity to get that money back from your bank.
Only visit ATMs within banks and other trusted areas. Avoid minimart, convenience store or street-side money machines.
Set a daily maximum withdrawal on your card. That way, in the event of a scam, you're not out of all your money.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.