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Snatch Theft

Esther 4

Last updated on 21st October 2019

Nasty Robbery

I read about it, I was careful and was lucky for years, and I do not think about it all the time of course. And then, when I was the least aware of it, it happened and left me vulnerable, lost, furious, helpless and even crying.

16/10/2019 @ 20:15 

On my way to get some dinner last night in Kulala Lumpur some idiot on a motorbike drove past and grabbed my handbag. He was fast, the shoulder strap snatched and both were gone, bike and bag. I could not even gather any details of the bike or the man on it.

Apart from money and my passport there was my phone in it and all the cards I own, including credit card, ID card, driving license and diver’s license. I was left standing there on the road in the dark, empty handed with tears of sadness and helplessness. Surely I could not catch the thief, nor could I do anything than going back to the hotel.

The hotel staff was really helpful, they saw in what state I was and helped as much as they could. They took me to the tourist police and after that to a second police station to file the incident, it took about 3 hours, and persuaded me to go to the embassy next morning.

Luckily I was a little precautionary. I have a second passport and a spare credit card.  Major problem is that I have no proof of my arrival date in Malaysia. I don’t know if I could leave using my spare passport. The second major problem is the missing phone. Since September EU banks require smart phones for online banking and without I have no access to my bank account. I cannot even log in and check my account for suspicious activities. I could and did block the lost credit card though. But I cannot pay any bill, can neither make any money transfer nor get cash. I would need a phone with my registered SIM card in it. Not to mention that I cannot call my bank.

17/10/2019 @ 9:00

The friendly and very supportive staff of the hotel take me to the entrance of the German embassy in Kulala Lumpur. There, at the registration, I am told that the embassy is closed today and I have to come back tomorrow. I already missed my flight to Medan and also will miss out the hotel room that I have booked in Medan. The hotel staff, namely Nathen, picks me up again and brings me back to the hotel. I spend my time to order a new credit card and new SIM card as well as changing all passwords of apps that I had used on my lost phone.

17/10/2019 @ 15:25

I am back in the hotel from a lengthy shopping for a new phone with the support of the hotel’s driver Nathen, who took me to the shopping mall and back and supported me finding the best deal.  Also, as I had no cash, he paid for my lunch and the new SIM. I owe him so much. I am now the proud owner of a stylish blue Huawei phone and will hopefully re-establish access to my bank accounts. As the EU recently decided  in favour of the 2-factor authentication, there is no online banking without a phone anymore since mid September. I had reported my loss to my bank via email when I blocked my credit card. The bank already replied  that they can’t help.  I will not have access to my accounts without a smartphone. Setting up the phone now.

18/10/2019 @ 9:00

With the help of the hotel staff I am back at the German embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The embassy is a small office at the 26th floor of an office tower with two counters behind glass. I have to hand out my phone and get a waiting number. I am No 4. I have to tell the lady behind the glass everything in front of all the others in the room waiting. Weird. She asks me for a copy of the missing passport and advises me to go to the immigration office, and hands out all the information I need to know to find the building and the responsible counters in it. 30 min later I am back in the hotel.

18/10/2019 @ 11:10

I have arrived at the immigration office in Putrajaya. The driver of the hotel has agreed to take met there. Putrajaya is a 45min drive away from the hotel and this time my ride is not for free. The whole area is a very clean, nicely set-up business area full of impressive buildings for the government and all sorts of big organisations, with wide, tree-fringed roads, beautiful bridges and monumental architecture. The immigration office is full of people. Again I must take a waiting number, I am 5013. Luckily I don’t have to wait for too long.  The driver, Nathen, is with me all the time and great help. I explain, hand over the police report and the ticket of my entry into Malaysia, and make copies of documents. And then I learn that I need a valid flight ticket in order to get a “special pass” stamp into my passport which would allow me to leave the country. I also learn that the office closes for prayer at 12:15 until 14:30, and it closes for the weekend at 15:30. It’s a Friday routine. I try hard to book a ticket online before this deadline but my booking does not go through. I cannot authorize the booking via my spare credit card. In contrary to my bookings two days ago it does now send a confirmation request to my (lost) phone.  I log in to my spare credit card’s website and change my German phone number to the Malaysian number of the SIM card that I bought yesterday. But the booking gets rejected. Prayer time.

18/10/2019 @ 14:30

I am the proud owner of a freshly printed flight ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Medan, Indonesia. With it, I am back in the immigration office. During prayer time I was sitting with Nathen for lunch and discussing options what to do. With my spare credit card not working and no idea how to buy a flight ticket I was desperate. It seemed the only option I had was to go to a travel agency and buy an expensive offline ticket. But luckily I did not have to do that. Nathen lends me his phone and I called my partner at home in Berlin via WhatsApp. Despite the early hours in Berlin he was up and managed to purchase the ticket online for me, on his expenses (thank you Anton!) and sent it via email to me. Nathen allowed me to use his mobile internet hotspot. My own (new) phone was low on battery and showed a flickering screen. But documents sorted, I handed it all over, made a payment of some considerable administration fees of 100 MYR, and got my stamp and “Special Pass”. My phone died.

18/10/2019 @ 16:00

I am back in the hotel. On arrival everyone is greeting me and asks how it was going. I am well-known throughout the hotel, it seems. The hotel has a “Business Center” and I am allowed to make some phone calls to my banks in Germany to sort out the credit card problems. The first call goes to the bank of my spare credit card. It turns out that they had blocked it in the moment I had changed my telephone number into a Malaysian number. This was felt to be suspicious and safety has first priority. After explaining my travel plans the card gets unblocked and I will be able to change telephone number if needed, including foreign numbers. Sorted.

The second call goes to the bank of my stolen credit card. They confirm that the card was blocked a few minutes after the theft and no further activities have happened. The replacement is on its way to my home address in Berlin. Sorted.

The third call goes to my home bank that holds the account from which my credit card bills get paid and to which I have no access anymore. They explain that I will need a phone to login to my account and suggest to register with my new phone. As I cannot login and change telephone numbers they will send a letter with a one-time QR code for activating the system. After that I can login using the banking app on my new phone. This app does not require a certain telephone number but needs to be the registered mobile phone. I guess, once the letter has arrived and my new phone is registered, this problem will be sorted too.

18/10/2019 @ 18:30

Ira, the friendly shop assistant, who sold the Huawei Y9 phone to me, has the pleasure to meet and greet me again. Despite charging my new phone has not woken up again after it died. The screen remains black. However, it rings when someone calls though. First she tries to send me to the Huawei Service Center at some other place in the city. But I insist on an exchange as the phone has been used less than 24h. She makes some calls, sends photos of the phone to her supervisor, and her colleagues try to reanimate the phone but nothing works. Finally, we reach the agreement for an exchange, same model, but new device. Still in the shop, I double-check with Ira all functionalities of the exchanged new phone and it works fine. Relieved. 

18/10/2019 @ 20:00

Call it a day with Nathen and a Cosmopolitan cocktail at the “New York” bar nearby. I finally have the satisfying feeling that most things are sorted. For the remaining issues, it is clear what needs to be done. Posting the credit card, the bank letter and the SIM card will be the last uncertain matter.

19/10/2019 @ 14:00

Before I leave to the airport I hand over a gift basket with my choice of German, Swiss and Belgium chocolate to the hotel staff to express my gratitude. Their support had made my shocking experiences and its consequences a lot easier to deal with.

  1. Karineh Karineh

    Oh Esther! This summary sounds rather light-hearted for the ordeals you went through … such resilience!
    Smooth sailing in Indonesia and beyond xx

    • Esther Esther

      Thank you Karineh, you are right, I was not as light-hearted as it reads, I had my moments. But hey, I am alive and not injured. And in the end, I was lucky to have a second passport and credit card. And I must really say, the people of the hotel contributed a lot to my recovery! Now, in Indonesia, I have been several times warned already to be always on alert regarding snatch theft and trickery. And it’s just my second day today. Therefore, I will keep my eyes open and make sure I learned my lesson.

  2. Dzovig Harkian Dzovig Harkian

    What an awful experience…I’m glad you had good people to support you, dear. Let’s hope it never happens again anywhere. I hope you have sorted the rest of the issues by now. Stay safe dear Esther! <3

    • Esther Esther

      Still sorting but most is done and I know how to proceed. I was lucky that this happened in KL with those people around, and not on a tiny remote island or so. Thank you for your thoughts and good wishes!

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