Our jaunt in St. Maarten did not even scratch the surface of our family’s favorite vacation destinations, and not because we had all of our credit cards compromised. We actually didn’t get any calls about our theft on vacation in St. Maarten, and all our credit cards being fraudulently used until after we got home.
► Ranking: #stinkydiaper
We’ll definitely be sharing details regarding the trip soon, but the cliff notes are:
- Worst hotel room we have ever stayed in (even including the pee stained drug addiction crack house in California)
- Cat got a horrendous ear infection a couple days in
- We both got fried on day 1 (kids were fine)
- All of the beaches are not nude beaches, but that does not stop all of the beaches from being nude beaches
- All our credit cards numbers were stolen on vacation
How to Avoid a True Life Nightmare:
Our Story of Credit Card Theft on Vacation
We stayed on the St. Maarten Dutch side of the island at the Sapphire Beach Club and Resort for an entire week. The Christmas before our trip we purchased a discount stay through a local deals site that offered a discounted stay to the Caribbean.
Our friends had been living on the island for a few years prior to when we came attending Medical School and had told us so many great things about living here and what to do. We were excited to come, in no small part, because relaxing on the beach never sounds like a bad idea.
Our hotel room was quite large, and we were super excited about that. There was even a separate bedroom. There was also a full kitchen, a couple futons, and a hot tub on the balcony that overlooked the ocean. We felt like we were living in the lap of luxury.
That is, until we went to the bathroom. The toilet in our bathroom wasn’t bolted onto the floor. It literally moved every time we sat down, and water leaked out from the bottom of it.
The tub was great for the twins, but it also doubled as a shower. Except there wasn’t a curtain. Every time we took a shower the water splashed all over the floor and created puddles above the hard tile.
And then there was the smell. The muggy, moldy, we never bothered to clean up after the last hurricane smell.
We were starting to see why these rooms were discounted.
The room did have a safe though, and we were sure to use it every time we left the room. Even if it was just to go down to the pool, or the beach, we always utilized this amenity to keep everything “safe”. Other than being dilapidated, nothing ever seemed off.
Down the street we found a nice little grocery store within walking distance, and we frequented it a few times to pick up basics. There was also a local college pizzeria, an all-you-can-eat ribs joint, and a local mall. Nothing ever seemed out of the ordinary when we visited any one of them, and we used our credits cards to make purchases during the week.
When we got home, we still had possession of all our belongings including our credit cards, our ID’s and wedding rings. But as soon as we walked in the front door of our home, we started getting calls from every single credit card we owned.
The calls were a courtesy to let us know that large purchases were being made on them as a result of theft on vacation. I am talking tens of thousands of dollars. The purchases were automatically blocked, and of course, we had the companies cancel our cards immediately and send replacement ones.
All except for good ol’ rotten American Express. We had not used that specific card anywhere, but I thought just to be safe I would call and have the card cancelled. When I called, I was assured to the moon and back that I should not cancel it, because there were zero fishy purchases being made on that card. They also assured me that if there were any fishy purchases made on that card, we had 100% fraud protection.
I hung up feeling warm and cozy, and protected, of course.
Little did I know that just mere moments prior, while we were flying home, some thief was in Iowa making a $20,000 purchase at a lumber store using my card number. What is curious about this is we have made large lumber purchases in past ourselves, as we have done extensive home renovations. Never in Iowa, and never for that much money, but it wasn’t like the thief was making massive purchases for a meth lab or something.
As soon as I became privy to this information, I called American Express. Now keep in mind I already talked to them about this being a potential problem. Unfortunately, my warning call went undocumented and thus began a six month back and forth between us and American Express.
From the very beginning, they kept insisting that we had made the purchase. We would argue, and they would send it back to the fraud department to investigate. Over and over and over again for six months. It was infuriating to say the least. I even sent them receipts, and copies of airline tickets, showing that we were thousands of miles away and above from where the purchase was made. Literally and exactly.
After many, many, many phone calls over the course of several months, and very hoarse vocal chords, we finally got a letter from American Express stating that they had concluded the investigation. Finally!
But wait for it. American Express found in favor of themselves. They stated that the purchases were made by me, and even included a copy of the receipt as proof with a signature of Henry, that was not even remotely close to mine.
This was my limit. I called them up to really let them have it. I was so angry! But before I could get into it with them, they simply said, “OK! We will remove the charge from your account, and reinstate your credit card.”
What kind of nonsense was this?
What is Happening?
And, that was that.
Needless to say, after that trip I invested in a RFID protected neck pouch to carry my credit cards in. We have not had a similar issue on any of our trips.
To this day we still scratch our heads as to when the theft on vacation in St. Maarten occurred and where our cards could have been copied. Whether it was through a card reader at one of the places we used it, whether it was copied from our “safe” in our room, or magnetically swiped walking through town – we will never know.
► For Kids: Mute point. Not relative to the post, but keep them safe.
We have since updated our wallet cash carrying methods after our family was pickpocketed in Japan too!