UK Police have warned that there may be a rise in cash machine crime around the Olympics, with visitors and tourists being targeted. The Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit are aware of a number of scams, and believe that over 90% of these crimes are carried out by members of organised gangs.
It’s important to point out that cash point crime is still relatively rare, but it’s still good to be aware of the most common rip-offs. This way you can often avoid trouble before it starts.
On the street
Sometimes thieves simply wait for someone to take out a handful of cash, then they pickpocket, bag-snatch or mug their victims. As these thieves often operate in gangs, think twice before getting into a fight with one of them. Assess the situation carefully.
Keep a look out for people acting strangely around machines, and walk away if you feel worried. It’s also a good idea to put money, wallets and purses away quickly after using the machine, and avoid counting the money in the street as this can attract unwanted attention.
Other criminals are fraudsters, trying to find out your PIN, then stealing your card in the hope of stealing larger sums. Make sure people are not standing behind you trying to work out your PIN when you key it in, and be wary of fraudsters trying to distract you – often one person offers or asks for help, while their partner watches out for your PIN.
Some fraudsters push devices inside the slots of cash machines to make it look like the ATM has retained or confiscated your card. There is then usually a time delay of some sort before the trapped card is pushed back out again, usually into the hands of the thief who has been waiting nearby.
If a cash machine unexpectedly retains your card, stay at the machine if it feels safe to do so. Use a mobile phone to call your bank or send a friend into the branch for help from staff.
Some thieves attach tiny pinhole cameras to ATMs to find out your PIN, and there is usually an attempt to obtain your card at the same time (either by pickpocketing, mugging or a card-retaining device).
These tiny cameras are often hard to spot, but if a machine looks suspicious then don’t use it and notify the bank. You can also fool most pinhole cameras by covering your typing hand with your other hand when entering your PIN.
These are small devices that steal your account number and other card details, and can be hidden inside cash machines by criminals. They are often impossible to spot, and allow the fraudsters to shop online using your money, or make themselves a new cloned card using all your details.
The first warning most people have of this happening is money going missing from their bank account. If it’s just the card details there may be purchases you don’t remember making, and if they’ve stolen your PIN at the same time they can also steal cash. Keep a regular eye on your bank or credit card balance and statements. Contact your card supplier immediately if you see anything suspicious.
Although fairly uncommon, some thieves have even been caught setting up whole false fronts that look like cash machines to steal cards and details. If in doubt, call the relevant bank before using a machine that looks temporary, new or unusual.
If you think you may have been a victim of cash machine fraud, report it immediately to your bank or credit card provider. If you’ve been harassed, robbed, attacked, or seen anything suspicious, report it to the police.
Anyone who’s had money taken from their bank account by fraudsters using skimmed or stolen cards is entitled to reclaim it. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) offers more protection than many people realise, and has information on how to make a successful claim here.