5 Clever ATM Theft Scams and How To Avoid Them: Internet ScamBusters #213
The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud
By Audri and Jim Lanford
Copyright © Audri and Jim Lanford
All rights reserved.
Today we haver an important issue for you that focuses on ATM
theft. It’s called “5 Clever ATM Theft Scams and How To Avoid Them.”
Fake PIN pads? Skimmers? Cash trapping? ATM theft is
getting downright sneaky. Often people don’t know they’ve
been victimized by ATM theft until it’s too late. Do you
know how to recognize and protect yourself from these sneaky
ATM scams? If not, today you’ll find out how.
Plus, we’ll answer the most common question we get about ATM
machines: Does entering your PIN number in reverse really
summon the police?
Before we get started, we wanted to let you know that this is
your last chance get our most popular car buying guide with
the four new online videos at the old price. The price will go
up at midnight. However, you can still grab a
copy at the ebook-only price. To find out more, check out the
first promo towards the end of this issue, or if you don’t
want to wait, click here for info on this important car buying guide.
As always, we also recommend you check out the most popular
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Saving Money and Getting Organized with a Personal Planner: Find out how a personal planner can save you money.
Let’s check out today’s…
5 Clever ATM Theft Scams and How To Avoid Them
With more than 1.5 million ATM machines around the world, most
of us simply take our ATM cards for granted. Unfortunately,
thieves know this and use it to their advantage — so ATM theft is a big problem.
In fact, as ATM banking technology advances so too do the
thieves. They have become so clever in their crimes that you
may well not see them coming. The good news is that there are
easy ways to protect yourself from ATM theft.
In this ScamBusters issue, we highlight 5 common ATM scams.
Since knowledge is power, we offer eight tips on recognizing
and avoiding these scams.
But first, we’ll answer the most common question we receive
about ATM machines: Does entering your PIN number in reverse
really summon the police?
The answer is no. We started seeing the email hoaxes on this
topic this past September. Although this concept seems like a
good idea, and a system was actually designed to notify the
police by a Chicago businessman (so there is a grain of truth
to this urban legend), no such system has been implemented.
The banking industry is not interested in the technology
because of the cost and because they don’t believe it would
work. Imagine trying to remember you PIN number backwards
with a thief pointing a gun at your head.
So, simply delete these email hoaxes and don’t spread them to
Now let’s move on to…
5 Common, Real ATM Theft Scams
1. The Lebanese Loop
Many thieves are using external devices to confiscate your
card. In this scam, a blocking device (which can be as simple
as some film glued to trap ATM cards), is inserted into the
card slot of the ATM machine. Unwittingly, you place your
card into the machine and enter your PIN. All the while,
someone nearby may be watching you enter your PIN number.
A very common reaction is to go into the bank to report your
confiscated card. Now the thieves jump into action. They
remove the blocking device, along with your trapped ATM card
and withdraw money from your account.
The way the scammers use the Lebanese Loop can vary. Often,
once your ATM card is trapped, a “Good Samaritan” will show up
and offer advice on how to get your card back. They may
suggest that you enter your PIN number a couple of times.
They might also offer to hold the cancel button while you
enter your PIN. What they’re really doing is memorizing your
PIN number. They’re certainly not Samaritans at all!
2. Card Skimming
Skimmers are devices added to ATM machines to capture your
card’s information, including your account number, balance,
and PIN number. These devices, often mounted alongside a
machine and labeled ‘card cleaners,’ are difficult to notice
unless you’re looking for them.
You may also find card skimmers mounted beside the normal ATM
card slot with a sign that says, “slide card here first.”
Sometimes they are even mounted right on top of where you
would normally enter your card. Skimmers can actually collect
and store up to 200 ATM cards before they need to be removed
3. Shoulder Surfing, Fake PIN Pads, and Even Fake Machines
Another way to glean your ATM PIN number is for thieves to
mount a wireless video camera inside the ATM area. It can
look as harmless as a brochure holder. Once the scammers have
your number, magnetic strips are easy to make and thieves are
able to easily reproduce ATM cards.
In addition to using cameras to collect PIN numbers, thieves
have designed fake PIN pads that they place on top of the
original ATM PIN pad. Unfortunately, with fake PIN pads, your
ATM transaction will proceed normally and you won’t know a
scammer has stolen anything until it’s too late.
Thieves have also taken to occasionally putting up fake ATM
machines in and around shopping centers and other public
locations. Upon placing your card into the card reader, these
machines collect your ATM PIN and account information. They
do not dispense cash. Rather, a screen comes up that says
that the machine is out of money or out of order.
4. Cash Trapping.
Similar to the Lebanese Loop where a thin sleeve traps your
card, this time your cash is trapped by a sleeve or device
slipped inside the cash dispenser. Your transaction will
operate normally, but you won’t receive the cash you’ve
Chances are you’ll either walk or drive away assuming the
machine is out of order or you’ll go inside the bank and
report the incident. Either way, you have left the machine and
the thieves can walk up, remove the device, and your cash.
We mentioned above how easy it is for thieves to replicate ATM
cards. All they need is a magnetic strip and a plastic card.
Armed with an ATM card, all a would-be thief needs is a PIN
number. Some email phishing scams have been designed to find
out just that.
Representing your bank, a scammer can send you an email with a
notice on it saying something about incomplete account
information or that you need to update your account
information. You click on the link and follow the directions
but you’re not at your bank, you’re at a site designed to look
like your bank by thieves. They collect your information and
are free to replicate your ATM card or simply withdraw your
money from your account via online banking.
8 Tips to Help You Protect Yourself From ATM Theft:
Get in the habit of using the same ATM machine for your
transactions. Become familiar with it and be able to
recognize changes to the machine.
Use ATM machines inside banks rather than on the street
(where they’re easier for thieves to access).
If you’re visiting an unfamiliar ATM machine that is not
inside a bank, examine it carefully for devices. Card or cash
trapping devices need to be glued or taped to the card reader
or cash dispenser. Look for ‘extra’ cameras beyond the basic
and generally obvious ATM security camera.
Never rely on the help of strangers to retrieve a
Never use an ATM machine when other people are lingering.
Report confiscated cards immediately. If you can, don’t
leave the machine. Instead call the bank from the ATM where
your card was taken using a cell phone.
Don’t use ATM machines with extra signage or warnings
posted on the machine.
Never follow a link in a supposed bank email notice. If
you are wondering if your bank has really contacted you via
email, then close the email and directly type your bank’s
website address into your browser. Visit your account and
look for update notices directly on your account or bank’s
website. The email is almost always a phishing scam.
While ATM theft isn’t going to go away, the Global ATM
Security Alliance reports that just .0016% of all ATM
transactions worldwide are affected by crime or fraud.
Additionally, with a little bit of care and attention, you can
avoid these scams and keep your money.
For more information on how to keep your bank account safe from predators, click here.
That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.