Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela to use fingerprint gadget against travel scam

Credit card machine
Image caption Use of cards abroad will only be authorised after fingerprints confirm the trip

Venezuela's government is planning to use fingerprint checks at its borders to prevent a popular travel scam.

Venezuelans travelling abroad are entitled to a foreign currency allowance at a cheaper rate.

But amidst the economic crisis, some are only buying travel tickets to sell dollars on the black market and making a profit of nearly 700%.

Credit cards will be activated abroad only after checking that the person has left the country, authorities say.

Venezuela has been going through an economic crisis, with rising inflation and shortages of basic products, such as milk and toilet paper.

Some Venezuelans are reportedly passing their credit cards to friends or family to use them abroad and then send the money back.

Officials say there are even gangs operating the scam, known as "el raspao" or "the scrape", which is hurting the economy.

'Scraping cards'

"These dollars acquired through illicit operations, scraping credit cards, come back to Venezuela and are sold at a high price, which causes an overvaluation of the dollar," Juan Carlos Dugarte, director-general of Venezuela's Administrative Identification, Migration and Immigration, told Globovision TV channel.

The travellers allowance of up to $3,000 (£1,870) can be sold at nearly seven times the official price in the black market.

Currently, Venezuelans have to present a ticket to a foreign country to get the approval for their foreign currency allowance.

But many never use the tickets to travel, according to reports in the local media.

Flights are getting fully booked with months in advance, which has reportedly led to an increase in fare prices.

But the number of "no-shows" is also said to be on the rise.

The government says it is already testing the new fingerprinting scheme.

Police controls at airports, ports and border checkpoints would then confirm the exit of the passenger, authorising credit card use in foreign currency.

Critics say the scheme will make life unfairly harder for honest travellers.

The Venezuelan opposition blames President Nicolas Maduro's policies for the economic crisis the country is facing.

The government says there is an orchestrated attempt, led by the opposition, to sabotage the economy.

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