News Archive from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week April 18th to April 24th
FREE CARD TRICK
Scandal of stolen credit cards used weeks after being cancelled
By Tom Cain and James Parkes
A CBN GROUP INVESTIGATION INTO STOLEN CREDIT AND CASH POINT CARDS HAS REVEALED THAT HIGHLY ORGANISED CRIMINAL GANGS ARE ABLE TO DECODE STOLEN CARDS AND USE THEM TO EMPTY CUSTOMER ACCOUNTS AT WILL.
investigation was launched when readers Margaret and Trevor Saxon
reported 600 euros removed from their account at a cashpoint 30
minutes after their card was stolen. However, their bank branch
insists it is impossible to withdraw cash without the holder's personal
PIN number and has refused to cover the loss. But the CBN Group
can reveal that highly organised gangs now use portable hi-tech
computers that can decode the information on a card to reveal the
PIN number within seconds of the theft. The thieves are then able
to help themselves to cash until the bank freezes the card. Despite
the commonly held belief that a stolen card is cancelled as soon
as the bank is notified, the process often takes up to an hour for
the information to be fed into the computer network.
Another previously undisclosed facet of card theft is that many outlets such as motorway toll booths and petrol stations are offline and will also unknowingly accept the cards long after they have been cancelled. Sol and Deutsche banks admit to cards stolen in Torrevieja being used for weeks on road networks across Spain.
The Spanish bank users' association Ausbanc has confirmed that credit
cards are far removed from the 'safe' image advertised by banks.
On cashpoint operations, the PIN number is no longer an unbreakable safety block. Information downloaded by the thieves will even reveal the cash limit of the holder, allowing the criminals access to how much is in the account and how much they can withdraw without arousing suspicion. With regard to shop purchases - the most common use of stolen cards - although the bank obliges establishment owners to check the purchaser's ID, negligence is responsible for thousands of operations with stolen cards daily.
"The customer, who has been told no one else can use the card, is immediately presumed guilty of negligence," says Pedro Pérez Cortés, a spokesman for Ausbank who encourages customers to persist with their claims despite an initial denial from banks. These should be addressed to the relevant bank's 'Defensor del Cliente', details of whom must be supplied under law, or directly to Banco de España. Alternatively the matter can be taken to court. If the amount in dispute does not exceed 900 euros, no legal representation is required. Ausbanc offers several standard complaint letters to banks and official institutions on its website at www.ausbanc.com.
TAX BOOSTS COSTA TOURISM
Tour operators steer customers away from the islands
By James Parkes
TOUR OPERATORS ARE REROUTING THEIR CUSTOMERS TO THE COSTA DEL SOL FROM THE BALEARIC ISLANDS, WHERE THE ENFORCEMENT OF AN ECO TOURISM TAX WILL INCREASE HOLIDAY PRICES FROM MAY.
Leading French tour operator Fram has been the first to open fire by informing all its customers of the tax. The firm claims the announcement has seen many of the 30,000 customers who had booked holidays in the Balearic Islands cancel and seek alternative resorts on the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca.
Fears that the new tax, intended to fund environmental protection plans and infrastructure improvements, will see the prices of holidays in the Balearic Islands rocket is leading many holidaymakers to reconsider their plans for their summer vacations, said a tourism expert - who warned: "The target of protecting the environment may be achieved, but it will as a result of a serious reduction in tourism."
del Sol hoteliers and travel agencies have already stressed their
opposition towards similar tourism tax proposals for the region.
RESIDENTS LISTENED TO
Partido Andalucista in Marbella looks to secure foreign votes
By David Eade
PARTIDO ANDALUCISTA SPOKESMAN, CARLOS FERNÁNDEZ, HAS ANNOUNCED THAT HE HAS STARTED A ROUND OF CONTACTS WITH THE VARIOUS FOREIGN RESIDENTS ASSOCIATIONS ON THE COSTA DEL SOL IN ORDER TO DISPEL ANY DOUBTS OVER THE FUTURE RUNNING OF MARBELLA.
The Partido Andalucista spokesman and Marbella councillor said that his party maintained regular contact with the delegate of tourism of regional government, María José Lanzat. He said their aim was to liase "in order to dispel from the colony of foreign residents any doubts on the future of our town."
Sr Fernández has been spurred into action after learning of foreign residents' fears concerning development in the Elviria area. The Partido Andalucista has already denounced the indiscriminate felling of pine trees at Elviria, which the party has described as being of great ecological value.
urging regional government into urgent action Sr Fernández
said: "the quality of life in these zones, home to different
colonies of foreign residents, must be looked after."
HIGH COURT TOUGH ON JESÚS GIL
The countdown has started to Marbella's Mayor, Jesús Gil, being forced out of office. From April 25 he will commence a disqualification of 28 years from public office after being found guilty on a variety of charges in the Atletico Madrid 't-shirt' case. He will also be fined a sum of 6,000 euros in fines.
matters for Gil have gone from bad to worse. Juan del Olmo, the
judge responsible for Gil's case in the Spanish High Court, has
now ordered an unconditional prison sentence and an embargo on all
the Mayor's personal assets and those of his family to the value
of 93 million euros.
POWERS UP FOR SUMMER
Electricity "guaranteed" for peak months
By Dave Jamieson
Málaga is having a major electricity upgrade to avoid the risk of power cuts during the high-demand summer months. The supplier, Sevillana-Endesa, is taking steps to increase capacity and improve distribution, and has guaranteed that supplies will be maintained. A large part of the high-tension network will be reconfigured to eliminate bottle-necks, in order to avoid the situation which arose in Cataluña last year, when excessive demand collapsed the system.
Launching their "Plan Málaga" last week, Endesa revealed its investment, equivalent to 4,000 million pesetas over three years, which includes major work in the capital to improve supplies around the Guadalhorce Industrial Estate. While demand throughout Andalucía has risen by 2.9 per cent in recent times, demand in the province of Málaga has risen by 4.1 per cent, reflecting the growing number of homes and support infrastructure on the coast, with a total of 4.229 GwH supplied last year.
TOUR OPERATORS PREVAIL
By Dave Jamieson
Málaga is the Andalucían province most dependent on foreign tour operators bringing holidaymakers to the area, according to three professors at Málaga University. In a report just published, they say that such dependency should not be interpreted as a disadvantage, but recognise the business risks of dealing with an intermediary or excessive dependence on a sole agent.
survey of 201 professionals in the tourism sector showed that 37.5
per cent of holiday visitors book through a tour operator, a figure
which rises to 45 per cent when hotel accommodation alone is considered.
And, within the hotel sector, large hotels with more than 250 beds
rely even more on tour operators, with 57 per cent of bookings made
this way, although the average more expensive hotel deals with fewer
than 10 different operators. The report's authors add that booking
through a tour operator can lead to erroneous information being
supplied to the client.
TELEFONICA HEARS RONDA'S PROTESTS
By David Eade
Year-long protests by staff, parents and pupils at the placing of a giant mast housing mobile telephone antennas close to an educational complex have paid off. The telephone company, Telefónica, has agreed to move its antennas from El Fuerte after discussions with Ronda Town Hall.
The new mast will be situated 10 kilometres outside of the urban area. In a stark contrast with the antenna's current position in the centre of Ronda it will now be housed at Puerto de Encinas Borrachas, a barren wind-swept hillside, on the Ronda to Algeciras road.
Mayor, Juan Benítez, expressed his satisfaction at the outcome
of the negotiations between his administration and the telephone
company. Sr Benítez said that the Town Hall would collaborate
with Telefónica to ensure all the permissions necessary for
relocating the antennas were forthcoming.
EURO CHANGES HABITS
And many still calculate in pesetas
By David Jamieson
SIXTY-ONE PER CENT OF MÁLAGA CONSUMERS HAVE CHANGED THEIR SHOPPING HABITS SINCE THE ARRIVAL OF THE EURO, ACCORDING TO CONSUMER GROUPS IN THE PROVINCE.
A recent survey of 18 to 65 year-olds showed that most now pay more attention to their change and to the price tags, while buying less.
Sixty-five per cent use a calculator while shopping, 21 per cent use a credit-card style currency converter, and 40 per cent employ the "rule of six" calculating that 1,000 pesetas is roughly six euros. However, the study also revealed that many retail businesses continue to price goods in both currencies for the convenience of their patrons.
ROUNDING OFF LEADS TO CONFUSION
The biggest problems with the new currency appear to have been associated with the rounding of prices on conversion, with 54 per cent saying it left them confused. Forty-four per cent said they did not understand the new prices and were unable to tell if prices had gone up or down. Despite this, the survey concluded that the people of Málaga had shown a good disposition to the new currency since its introduction.
PUMA ALERT IN GENAL VALLEY
By David Eade
For over a month Guardia Civil officers have been hunting for a large cat that has been attacking cattle in the Genal Valley area. The search has now been intensified after a resident of Benadalid reported to police the death of one of his foals.
The Guardia Civil are taking the hunt for the giant cat very seriously indeed. Thirty officers from Cortes de la Frontera, Estepona and Gaucín along with members of the specialist forest and environment squads are carrying out an intensive search of the area for the cat.
Initially it was thought that the large feline might have escaped from the Selwo, but that theory has been dismissed by the nature park's management. Pumas grow to 1.80 metres in length and between 60 and 70 centimetres in height. They tend to be nocturnal creatures that only kill to eat.