Protect yourself from ABM crooks

Stories about inventive rip-offs at automated banking machines (ABM) illustrate how bold crooks can be. Whether the tales are urban legends or true, this type of theft is possible.

Lost card scam
One CARPNews FiftyPlus reader gave the alert about a scheme in which a well-dressed woman offers assistance to a person whose card seems to have been swallowed by the ABM.

She tells the victim to key in his personal identification number (PIN) and hit the cancel button twice. This allows the thief to memorize the PIN.

As for the card, it’s not returned to the owner because the thief has set up a plastic envelope in the card slot. Once the victim leaves the scene to report the stuck card to the bank, the crook retrieves the card and uses the PIN to withdraw money from the account.

Shoulder surfing
Police warn that the most common problem at automated back machines is crooks who stand close enough to peer over your shoulder as you enter your PIN number. This is called ‘shoulder surfing’. They then look for an opportunity to steal your card.

One way involves planting a $20 bill on the ground and telling the A user he dropped the money when he made his withdrawal.

When the victim stoops to retrieve the money, an accomplice replaces the legitimate bankcard in the machine with a bogus one. Having already noted the user’s PIN by ‘shoulder surfing’, the crooks now have easy access to the account.

Follow these rules
If you use an ABM, follow these basic rules to avoid being scammed:

  • Know what you want to do before you get to the ATM.
  • Be generally alert and aware of your surroundings.
  • Never divulge your PIN to anyone, no matter how honest or well intentioned he or she may seem.
  • Keep your bank card in sight at all times.
  • If you feel threatened while using the machine, press the ‘cancel’ button, remove your card and leave the area immediately.
  • Report any suspicious occurrences to bank personnel.
  • Always check your bank statement against your ATM transactions. If you discover fraud, contact your bank or credit union immediately.

Also, remember to show the same courtesy to other bank machine users you expect. Stand well back so the person has space and confidence to do their banking business.