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Risk Management

U.S. Warns Citizens on World Cup 'Chupacabra' Cloning in Brazil

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U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil for the World Cup have been warned: beware the chupacabra.

Card cloning is common in Brazil, so U.S. citizens should take precautions when withdrawing money and check account activity often, the U.S. Citizen Services office in Brazil said on its Twitter account. Thirty percent of Brazilians experienced card fraud in the last five years, according to ACI Worldwide's Global Consumer Fraud Survey of 6,000 people to be released later this month. That's the seventh-most of 20 nations.

The world's most-watched sports event begins in eight days, and Americans are the largest foreign group of World Cup ticket- holders. Whereas Brazilian banks have put clients' identifying information in so-called smart chips to prevent cloning, many foreign cards don't possess the technology. Devices used to skim card information are dubbed chupacabras after the mythical creature said to drink the blood of goats.

"Years back, all Brazilian cards migrated to chip-and-pin technology just to tackle this type of fraud, which has been a successful initiative," Joel Nunes, an ACI solutions consultant in Brazil, said in an e-mail. "As Brazil welcomes visitors using cards with older technology, there is an opportunity for fraudsters to again use sophisticated skimming devices."

One such chupacabra struck Lyn Donelson, 34, at the onset of his three-month trip through the country in January. His card was cloned at an ATM in Rio de Janeiro's main airport, and he didn't receive a replacement card for more than two weeks.

An airport "should be a secure location," Donelson, of Iowa, said by phone. "It makes me wonder what's going to happen for the World Cup. I'm sure there will be a lot of fraud and theft, but somehow they'll try to clamp down."

To be sure, South Africa, which hosted the 2010 World Cup, had the same level of card fraud as Brazil in ACI's 2014 survey. Of respondents from the U.S., 41 percent experienced card fraud, the fourth-most of the nations surveyed and more than Brazil. The United Arab Emirates took over the top spot from Mexico.

The U.S. expects more than 180,000 American citizens to visit Brazil during the World Cup, U.S. Ambassador Liliana Ayalde said in comments published yesterday on the American Chamber of Commerce of Rio de Janeiro's website. More than 30,000 visitors to the last World Cup in South Africa hailed from the U.S.

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