A man from Lebanon is visiting South East Asia. He flies to Indonesia and decides to exchange money. He finds a black market currency exchange, and against the advice of his local friend, decides to make a deal. He regrets his decision as he notices his money dropping behind the desk.
Tarek: I entered Indonesia, and I went to a hostel and met a local guy there.
I wanted to go for lunch, but I wanted to change some money so I had some local cash. The exchange is very bad, as usual, in the airport, so I didn’t exchange a lot of money, I will exchange inside the city.
So we went into a mall, and we passed by an exchange office and the rate at the airport was like 1 dollar for 13,900 and something [Rupiah], and at the exchange it was 12,800 and something, so it was a big difference. I started to enter the exchange office, but the local guy said, “No, no no, don’t enter this place. I will tell you where to go.”
I didn’t understand why, so I said ok.
Later, we forgot to do the exchange, so the next day I passed by a sign advertising a similar rate. I couldn’t see the shop; there were a lot of shops, and it was in a small alley between them. So I asked someone and they said “It’s inside, it’s inside.” So I entered inside. It was very dark and had a very small desk.
I said “Can I exchange money?”
“Yeah, how much you want?”
Tarek: Yeah. I gave him the $100, and he started to pull money from the desk. It was something like 12,899 Rupiah. It was not a round number. So he calculated, and he showed me on the calculator.
I said, “OK, give me the money.”
He said “Count the money.”
It was much less, so I said “The money is not right.”
“Yes, it’s right.”
He took the money and started to count, and there was money dropping behind the desk.
I said “You are dropping the money.”
“I see you dropping the money!”
“OK, we’ll do it again.”
He started to count the money again. It is also not the right amount. Then he started to tell me “Give me some coins to make it round.”
He stated to confuse me and make me lose the calculations. The money was still less than what is should be. So I said, “I do not want to exchange, give me back the money.”
So he gave me the $100 and I started to look at the money and thought, “I’m not sure if this is the same one or if he gave me a fake one.”
So I took the $100 and I went to another exchange, an official one, like a bank. I entered inside and gave him the $100. I was looking at him wondering if it was fake or not. It was not fake. He gave me the money, and it was OK. Now I understand why the guy told me not to go to this shop.
Me: I would be having a bad time, because in that moment, I would be thinking the same thing. If this is fake, I’m out a lot of money, maybe I just take the bad exchange rate, because I either am getting a bad exchange rate, or I’m losing everything.
Tarek: But the money is much less than it should be, and every time I counted, I got a different number. It was dark in the alley and there were many people. When I was counting the money, some guys came and they wanted to take pictures with me, so I would lose the counting.
Me: They’re hustling you, for sure.
There’s a thousand different scams when changing money. Some are scarier than others.