Criminals are scoring top marks for their devious ways. Automated teller machine (ATM) fraud involving close personal contact tends to be opportunistic and ranges from serious violent crime to carefully orchestrated plans to defraud victims without their knowledge. Know the facts so that you can avoid becoming another unwitting victim.
Jammed Card Readers
Tampering with an ATM card reader so your card gets stuck in the slot is one of the simplest and most passive methods of ATM fraud used. Unfortunately, you will only become aware of it once you have finished transacting and realise that your card cannot be retrieved. By this stage it is quite likely that the fraudsters will have seen your personal identification number (PIN) while you were entering it, either over your shoulder or with a hidden camera or even binoculars. As soon as you leave the ATM and go look for assistance, the fraudsters will move in, remove the card and withdraw money from your account.
How to protect yourself: There have been reports of criminals installing tiny cameras above ATM machines to allow them to see clients’ PIN codes. Always be cautious when entering your PIN at the ATM or point-of-sale. Make sure that no-one is watching and try to shield the keypad with your body or your hand so no-one can see it.
The success of this method rests entirely on direct human interaction and can occur in one of two ways. In the first, fraudsters may tamper with the ATM card reader so your card gets jammed. Someone will then approach you in an attempt to offer ‘assistance’. Typically, they will ask for your PIN while they ‘attempt’ the transaction for you, when in fact they are busy swopping your card with a similar looking one. They soon leave with your card and PIN.
The other scheme involves creating a deliberate distraction before swopping cards. The fraudsters will try to record your PIN when you start transacting and then create a distraction so you take your eyes off the ATM. For instance, one or two strangers will stand close to you and start an argument with each other or even bother you when they are in fact using the situation to their advantage.
How to protect yourself: Be vigilant. If you feel unsafe, trust your instincts and cancel your transaction or contact the bank immediately. Never let your card out of your sight during transactions and never accept help from strangers – rather approach a clearly identified employee at your nearest bank branch for assistance.
Statistically, card skimming is now the preferred method of ATM fraud, though it’s not only limited to the ATM environment. Skimming was once solely limited to credit cards, but the reality is that it now also includes debit cards. Skimmers are electronic card readers that gather the encoded information on the magnetic strip of a debit or credit card. Once a card has been skimmed, the information is used to make a duplicate bank card and then all that the fraudsters need is your PIN. Once they have your card and PIN, they can start clearing your account. These illegal devices can be small portable units concealed in someone’s pocket and used when no-one is looking. Skimming devices can also be connected to a card machine or fixed to ATMs and disguised as card readers.
How to protect yourself: Never let your card out of your sight during a transaction and protect your PIN by never disclosing it to anyone.
Banking Safety Tips
• Act fast: Report jammed, lost or stolen cards immediately. If you suspect that you have been a victim of ATM or card fraud, contact your bank immediately and stop your card. You can always have your card reissued with a new PIN.
• Debit card purchases: Shopping with your debit card is safer, cheaper and more convenient than drawing and carrying around large amounts of cash. Most retailers and small businesses allow you to make cashless payments for goods or services using your debit card.
• Protect your PIN: Without your PIN, stolen or duplicated debit cards are useless. Memorise your card PIN and never disclose it to anyone. Never keep your PIN on a piece of paper with your bank card as anyone can use it if your wallet is lost or stolen.
• Be responsible: Alert the bank, security employees or the police if you notice suspicious behaviour near an ATM.
• SMS updates: Most banks offer some kind of SMS notification service. Clients simply register to receive SMS messages whenever there’s activity on their accounts.