Getting ripped off while sailing and travelling abroad is increasingly common - and expensive

Credit card fraud is becoming commonplace round the world and a number of the sailors I spoke to last week from the World ARC Rally had been ripped off during their circumnavigation.

One skipper who had a standing order to have his current account topped up automatically from a savings account had $20,000 dollars plundered while he was at sea.

Another crewmember had $15,000 siphoned off.

Thankfully in all these cases, the banks paid up. But read the small print, because it can be the account holder’s responsibility to check transactions within a certain period, and it is sometimes necessary to let your bank know where you’ll be using your cards.

Card fraud is a particular concern for cruising sailors. They need to have ready access to funds at short notice in case of a major breakage or problem, but are also sometimes offline and out of touch for several weeks.

They are not always able easily to check their balance and it might be some time before they notice suspicious transactions.

According to those defrauded, South Africa and Brazil were the worst places for bank theft. In South Africa, card details were cloned at restaurants and shops. In Brazil, bank machines had readers fitted to them to copy card details.

So what’s the remedy?

The recommendation is to have a separate account with limited funds for routine transactions ashore such as food shopping, eating out, etc and to limit the funds in it any time. Cards giving access to funds for big-ticket items such as boat repairs or new equipment should be kept safely on board and not carried round in your wallet.

Skippers also strongly recommended limiting overdraft facilities, as banks often authorise very large and unasked-for funds. One skipper I spoke to had his capped at $1,000, but his daughter, a medical student, discovered hers had been set at $10,000 when a fraudster had withdrawn the maximum.

Several sailors I spoke to check their balance online several times a week and if they are away and unable to keep an eye on it, they delegate a family member or trusted friend acting as ‘mission control’ to do it for them.

What else can you do to minimise the risks of being ripped off overseas? If you have some ideas or suggestions, please let me know.

We’ll be running a big feature on the costs of round the world cruising, the practicalities of handling money, bills and post while away, and what people’s budgets were in a forthcoming issue.