A Melbourne, Australia woman has issued a dire warning to Australians traveling overseas after she was allegedly conned out of $1000 at Bali airport by border staff.
Monique Sutherland and her 60-year-old mother were jetting off to the Indonesian province for a “much-needed” holiday.
When the pair checked into the Batik Air counter at Tullamarine airport, the 28-year-old was pulled aside by airport staff over the state of her passport.
“I was made to sign an additional blue form which I was told I had to show whenever I showed my passport,” Monique explained to 7 News.
“This was because my passport was slightly dirty as it is seven years old.”
After getting their paperwork in order and going through immigration, the mother and daughter were finally able to board the plane before enjoying a just over six-hour non-stop flight to Bali.
But upon arriving in the tourist hotspot, the mood quickly changed when Sutherland was questioned by airport staff after they saw her blue note.
The “hysterical and petrified” Melbourne woman was escorted into an interrogation room where she claims she was questioned for over an hour.
Sutherland added the staff started speaking in Indonesian and laughing before they eventually accused her of breaking the law because her passport was damaged.
“They told me they would be able to sort out the issue for a fee of $1000,” she said, after claiming that if she didn’t pay, she wouldn’t receive her passport back.
Sutherland – who recently became unemployed – stood her ground and said she refused to pay the fee.
In response, the group started to take advantage of her senior mother.
“They approached my scared mother and convinced her to pay, and said if she didn’t I wouldn’t be getting my passport returned,” she said.
Once the staff received the family’s money, Sutherland and her mom were able to continue with their holiday without further issues – but the ordeal dampened their mood.
“The entire holiday was spent stressing about this experience and researching whether my passport was acceptable,” she said.
“It was a terrible experience … very traumatic.”
As they went through customs prior to departing Bali, they weren’t questioned and safely made it back home.
The incident prompted Sutherland to inform an Australian border security staff member about the ordeal, with the officer allegedly telling her she likely had been set up.
“My passport was never the real issue,” she said.
“It was an easy way to get some money from inexperienced tourists.”
“I really didn’t expect this … so very traumatic.”
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs Smartraveller website, normal wear and tear to your passport shouldn’t be an issue, rather more serious damage can stop you from traveling.
“It‘s important that: there are no tears or cuts in the passport pages, especially the photo page, everything on the photo page is legible and clear, there are no marks across your photo or in the Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) on the photo page, no pages have been removed (and) there is no alteration or tampering,” a statement on the website reads.
“If you’re not sure about the condition of your passport, call the Australian Passport Office on 131 232 or contact your nearest Australian embassy or consulate overseas. We may need to see your passport to assess it.”