Guiding consumers since 2009

Tips to beat ATM fraud

By Staff Writer

Justmoney previously looked at banking fraud and how you can keep your banking information safe. This guide looks at ATM (automatic teller machine) fraud and tips to help you prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
When using an ATM, it is important to remain vigilant at all times to avoid falling victims to ATM scams.
Lee-Anne van Zyl, CEO of First National Bank (FNB) points of presence, noted: “Consistently arming consumers with information is one of several strategies we use to fight ATM fraud, if customers know what to do they are less likely to fall prey to scammers.”
Nitesh Patel, head of customer financial solutions for Personal Banking at Standard Bank, elaborated: “ATM theft is one of the most prevalent financial crimes that occur at this time. While banks work tirelessly throughout the year and even more so during the festive season to ensure that customer accounts remain safe, consumers must remain vigilant.”
Types of ATM crimes
According to Patel, there are three common types of ATM crimes. These are:

  1. Card swapping: “Criminals distract you while you are entering your PIN and then swap your card. This is done so quickly that very often you are unaware that you no longer have your own card,” said Patel.
  2. Card skimming: “This typically involves tampering with an ATM by placing an additional card reader over the ATM’s. In conjunction with a hidden camera, the fraudsters steal your card details and PIN number,” explained Patel.
  3. Vandalism: There are two reasons why an ATM is vandalised. Firstly, to force you to use a poorly lit ATM in a quiet area where it is easier to commit one of the above mentioned crimes. Or, to trap your card in the ATM, which leads you to think that the machine has ‘swallowed’ your card.

In instances where criminals have tampered with a machine to make it ’swallow’ your card, Patel revealed that someone could be watching you enter your PIN from a distance. It is also possible that the criminal will offer you the use of their cell phone to cancel your card, while having an accomplice on the other end of the line pretending to be from the bank, who will ask you for your PIN.
Lastly, the criminal may advise that you enter your PIN and press the cancel button to retrieve your card. However, this will not work as your card is stuck. “While you are entering your PIN, the criminal memorises it and removes your card using a sharp object once you leave,” said Patel.
What not to do
When using an ATM, there are a number things that you need to remember not to do. Possibly the most important point to keep in mind is that you should never ask a stranger or even the security guard for assistance. Van Zyl advised that if you are unsure, you should rather visit a nearby branch for assistance.
Furthermore, when you are using an ATM, do not respond to strangers who may disturb you, no matter who they are or what they look like.
Deon Louw, head of card and merchant fraud at Nedbank, noted: “Never allow strangers to interact with you whilst you are transacting at an ATM, if you are interfered with report the incident to your bank immediately and stop your card, chances are your card may have been skimmed.”
Other things to keep in mind when using an ATM is to never force your card into the ATM. “If the card is not easily accepted by the device, it may have been tampered with by criminals,” noted FNB.
In addition, if an ATM looks faulty, do not use it. This is another sign that the machine may have been tampered with, rather stop any transaction you may have started and use another ATM.
“Check that the ATM is in a ready and good state. Criminals will typically remove Lost Card and Bank contact details from the ATM to delay you in stopping your card. Only use ATMs in well-lit, high-traffic areas. If the lights aren't working, don't use that machine,” noted Patel.
As mentioned above, it is important to be vigilant. You must pay attention to your surroundings and look out for loiterers.
How to protect your ATM PIN
It is important that you keep your card PIN (personal identification number) private. Louw stated: “Never share your PIN with anyone, not even family or friends, and never write it down or store it electronically on a phone or laptop. If the card is stolen along with the phone or laptop, your accounts are at risk.”
Furthermore, FNB emphasised that a PIN should never be easy to guess. In other words, avoid using significant dates and numbers that may be easy to determine.
When entering your PIN at the ATM, Louw pointed out that you should always shield the keypad with your other hand while inputting the PIN, in order to prevent cameras or onlookers from seeing your PIN.
FNB added: “Stand as close as possible to the ATM and never let anyone stand close to you whilst transacting.”
When using the ATM, FNB also noted that you should not enter your PIN on a screen that is unfamiliar to you. It is important that you read the onscreen instructions before entering your PIN.
Patel highlighted that you should only enter your PIN when you are prompted to do so by the ATM.
In addition, Louw revealed that an ATM will retain a card after three unsuccessful attempts to enter the PIN. “Under normal circumstances an ATM will not retain your card, if a stranger has interacted with you whilst transacting and your card now appears to have been retained by the ATM contact your bank immediately.”
Protecting your cash
After you have finished with the ATM, and you now have the cash you withdrew, it is important that you put this out of sight immediately. FNB suggested that people avoid handling cash in public view.
“Don't count or expose your money unnecessarily when depositing or withdrawing. Enter and leave the ATM area as quickly as possible,” stressed Patel.
In addition, you should ensure that your purse or wallet is secure before you leave the ATM.
“Once you have completed your transaction, leave the ATM as soon as possible and avoid conversation with strangers,” said FNB.
Patel advised that people keep their daily cash withdrawal limit to a minimum.
Rather than carrying around large amounts of cash, FNB noted that you should rather use your debit card to make purchases.
“Knowing what look out for and what not to do could potentially save customers their hard-earned money. The festive season is around the corner; therefore consumers are urged to be extra vigilant, this is a busy time but it’s not the best moment to let the guard down,” stated van Zyl.
For more information on how to avoid banking fraud, click here.

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