ATM Pin Reversal and ATM Theft Scams

Advice from readers and experts alike on what you should do to avoid being taken by ATM pin scams: Internet ScamBusters #217

Since we haven’t done an issue with subscribers’ tips and advice since last summer, we’ve collected some great stuff for you. You’ll find some excellent advice in today’s issue about:

  • ATM Pin Reversal and ATM Theft Scams
  • Poetry Scams and Photography Contest Scams
  • IRS Audit Scam, Including Advice for Canadian Subscribers

ATM Pin Reversal and ATM Theft Scams


This first suggestion on the ATM pin reversal legend comes from Addys and it refers to the ATM theft article on our site.

First of all, thank you for posting the urban legend of the “ATM pin reversal.” I had received this ATM pin reversal email, but did not forward it until checking if it was true or not.

I read the recommendations to avoid ATM theft regarding the gadgets used for trapping money or cards in the ATM machine so that when you leave, the thief takes the money.

I have one more suggestion to add: If the person has no choice but to withdraw money at an unknown ATM machine, why not put in the card as if you were going to make a transaction, but before putting in the ATM pin number, cancel the transaction so the machine spits the card out?

This would help ensure that the ATM is not rigged to keep the card. And the person has not gone as far as feeding the ATM pin number into the fake machine or gadget. If the card is stuck inside, at least the thief won’t have an ATM pin number to use it!!!

Thanks for all the information you provide.


A suggestion from Andrea:

I am a bank teller. These tips are very good, and it is important to be cautious while using one’s ATM card.

I’d just like to add that it is also important to be wary to whom you write checks. Many people don’t realize it, but their account number is printed on the face of every single check they write.

All it takes is a lost check in the mail for a scammer to get your account number.

Sometimes we tellers write customers’ account numbers on the backs of their checks to speed the processing time later down the line. Occasionally a customer will ask us not to write down the number, but what they do not realize is that the number is automatically printed on all deposited checks.

I’m not saying don’t use checks. I’m just saying please, please, please be careful to whom you give them. If it’s someone you don’t trust, for heaven’s sake use a money order.


Some kudos from Lori:

I just wanted to say “keep up the GREAT work”!!! I work for a bank as a fraud prevention specialist and found the info on the ATM scams very helpful! Thank you!!!

Editor’s Note: We get lots of these kinds of testimonials from experts but we’ve rarely shared them with you. However, we thought including one from time to time would be useful so you can see that we have lots of the terrific experts as subscribers — and that experts usually agree with our advice. ;-)


Poetry Scams and Photography Contest Scams


This comes from Donna and is a response to our article on the poetry scam.

Thank you for making people aware of these scams. I teach many classes (including poetry) at writers’ conferences across the country and can tell you several stories of people who have “won” these contests — including a woman in her 80s who won the “Poet of the Year” and was going to spend over $900 to travel to D.C. to accept her prize. (Fortunately, or unfortunately, she broke her hip and couldn’t go.) Thank you again.


Karen contributed an example of the most common feedback we received on this topic — that similar photography contest scams are also quite common:

I just read your article about poetry scams. In addition to poetry, there is also a scam working in the same exact way offering a photo contest.

I entered, and bought the book, although I knew I really didn’t win anything. I did want to have the book containing MY picture.

I also was offered the plaque, and WON the photographer of the year award!! For a fee, I could go to Las Vegas for the convention, etc, etc.

They have actually sent me the same letters every year since I bought the book.


IRS Audit Scam, Including Advice for Canadian Subscribers


This recommendation, from M.F., is a response to our recent IRS audit scam issue.

I don’t ever remember providing my email address to the IRS, nor their requesting it. I’m also unaware of a national email directory, so there’s no real way for the IRS or any other ‘agency’ to find my email address.

I mention this because, in addition to your statement that the IRS doesn’t use email to contact people, you might mention that there’s no way for the IRS to get your email address, so you should have mentioned that as well.


We recognize that a significant number of subscribers live outside the US, so we’re looking to improve our focus on international resources. This last suggestion — for Canadian subscribers — comes from Fred:

If you check out the Canadian Government Department of Finance website you’ll find this alert:

Some Canadians are receiving emails fraudulently identified as coming from the Department of Finance Canada that promise a tax refund if an appended form is filled in and returned.

The email is not from the Department of Finance Canada. There is no such refund. Do NOT fill in the form, as it will compromise your credit card and social insurance information. If you receive this email, simply delete it. We have already notified appropriate law enforcement authorities.

A copy of the fraudulent email is included below, so as to make identification of this scam easier. The “click here” link in the email copy has been disabled.

From: Department of Finance Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2006 7:28 AM To: undisclosed-recipients Subject: Notification – Please Read This.

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $112.80. Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 days in order to process it.

A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To access the form for your tax refund, please click here.

Regards, Department of Finance Canada


Looks like Canadian scammers are using some of the same ideas that the US scammers are using.

Editor’s note for subscribers in other countries: if these tax scams have not yet appeared in your country, be alert, because they probably will.


As always, we also recommend you check out the most popular articles from our other sites during the past week:

Are Credit Cards With Annual Fees a Good Idea? Find out if the benefits of credit card annual fees outweigh the costs.

Flowers Aren’t Too Old Fashioned For Valentine’s Day: Discover the meaning of a Valentine’s Day gift idea that keeps on giving…

Are You Taking Advantage of Home-Energy Improvement Tax Breaks? Certain home improvement tax breaks can help you beat the battle of soaring energy costs.

Preventative Measures Banks Take to Reduce Your Risk of Identity Theft: These increased security measures make identity theft harder for criminals to commit.

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.