One man and two teenagers have been detained in Canggu, Bali for running a fraudulent money-changing service in the tourism hotspot. One man, named Kadek Rusdiana Wardana, has been arrested and charged, and the teenagers have been released after questioning since they are underage. The three were detained by Badung Police Criminal Investigation Unit and the North Kuta Police after scamming a British tourist.
The issue of fraudulent money changers has hit the headlines in Bali this year almost too many times to count. While the vast majority of these cases were found in central Kuta, it seems that the criminal operations have shifted focus to the often busier area of Canggu.
The incident that alerted the police to the illegal money changers operation happened on November 14th 2022. Police confirmed the arrests to the media on Friday 19th. The British tourist who was scammed out of hundreds of dollars worth of cash has been identified as 21-year-old SJD. Much to his dismay, he realized he had been scammed out of a fair exchange rate not once but twice across two different outlets in Canggu within just a few hours.
The Head of the Badung Police Public Relations Department, Iptu Ketut Sudana, told reporters the sum of money SJD agreed to receive was IDR 4,735,500 at the first changing outlet. In fact, when the cash was handed over, he only received IDR 2,275,000.
Sudana said, “[the] victim was interested in exchanging money there because the rate is quite high. Then the victim exchanged 300 Euros at a rate of IDR 15,000”. Thinking that something was wrong but unsure exactly what, DJS chose a different money-changing outlet to exchange his US dollars.
At the second money-changing outlet on Jalan Raya Munduk Catu, DJS wanted to exchange USD 800. Police have not confirmed which of the three arrestees worked where. However, during questioning, the arrestee who was working at the second venue suggested that DJS had only handed over USD 600, making the money he received a fairer amount.
Based on exchanging UD 800, DJS should have walked away with IDR 9,105,000, but he only received IDR 6,000,000. Although some would argue DJS made a rookie error by not counting the cash he received at the counter, he only realized what had happened when he was totting up his cash back at his hotel.
Sudana told reporters, “As a result of this incident, the victim suffered a total loss of IDR 8 million. The victim reported last November 14, 2022. The process has been investigated by the North Kuta Police. Three people have been secured, and one person has been detained. The three are still young”.
Money-changing outlets in Bali have sadly become synonymous with these kinds of scams. Sometimes the exchange rate given appears fair, but the cash that’s handed over is significantly less than agreed. In other cases, the exchange rate offered is outright incorrect, yet the person at the counter convinces the tourist otherwise.
Decisive action has been taken against illegal money changers in Kuta, though it now seems that more needs to be done to stamp these operations out from Canggu too. Local village leadership teams in Kuta are working with Badung Police to ensure that all money-changing outlets in Kuta are operating within the law. This includes having the correct paperwork and licenses and training staff correctly.
Even the Bank of Indonesia has spoken out about the issues with illegal money changers in Bali. In August 2022, a spokesperson for the BNI, Trisno Nugroho, told local reporters that tourists should not be tempted by the high rates offered by illegitimate money changers. He explained that tourists must check that the changing outlet has sufficient permits and licenses before they proceed with a transaction.
The licenses should be easily visible in a money-changing outlet that is operating legally, and they should also be in date. Nugroho said, “Tourists must transact in a money changer…We [create] licenses so we can avoid the risk of fraud and crime, avoid the potential for getting counterfeit or damaged money, and our rights as consumers are protected by law”.
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