Cashpoint tampering hit the new again this week, as the Metropolitan Police revealed that several ATMs in the capital city have been found to hide miniature cameras that capture a user’s PIN number.
The worst part is that these devices are so tiny and well-hidden that most people wouldn’t even notice they were there – until the criminals started spending the money.
It’s a constant battle, of course, as banks and the authorities work together to introduce new measures to deter criminals from tampering with ATMs, but at least there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.
Keeping your money safe is of paramount importance these days – especially since, in addition to covert cameras, the return of ‘skimming devices’, which steal your card and film your PIN, was recently announced by police in Lancashire. These are four main ways you can tell if the cashpoint you’re using has been tampered with…
Check for cameras
Cameras are the favoured way of criminals to steal your PIN number, as the news from London has show. These cameras can either record the details, to be collected later, or in more advanced cases transmit them directly over wi-fi. It’s far safer and subtle than having one of the criminals peer over your shoulder, although that’s still a technique employed by some, even today.
Depending on the model of the ATM, pin-hole cameras can be located just about anywhere, so keep your eyes peeled for tiny holes in odd areas of the machine. It’s also worth checking for strips along the top of the machine, with cameras facing down at the pin-pad itself. If it doesn’t look like it’s perfectly part of the ATM, then chances are it isn’t.
Look at the card slot
Skimming devices were a popular tool a few years ago, and have recently been found again, despite attempts by banks to modify ATMs to prevent them being attached to the machine.
These devices are attached to the card slot, and can often appear invisible and part of the machine itself. However, there are a few clues that the ATM you’re using is dodgy. What you need to look out for are bulky card slots, which imply that the original slot is covered with an exterior device. Many of these are able to read the magnetic strip on the back of your card, steal the details, then return the card to you.
But not always. You should also check to see if the card slot is ill-fitted or has been blocked, since this tends to reveal the presence of a device that will prevent your card from being returned. Around the area, you might also see poor quality stickers that aren’t set straight, which is a plot to disguise other parts of the machinery.
Test to the pin-pad first
Not content with attaching card-stealing devices to the card slot, criminals also need to capture your PIN number. One of the ways they do this is so ridiculously simple that you might not even realise it’s there.
Gangs simply overlay the existing pin-pad with one of their own. These homemade pads will record your PIN, but as the buttons depress they’ll register on the genuine keypad – so as far as you’re aware, everything is fine.
A sure sign that you’re using a phoney pin-pad is that the buttons feel cheap and spongey; the pad may even wobble, suggesting that it’s loose and poorly fitted. In which case, report it to your bank.
Check the whole ATM
Ok, we’re not suggesting you spend an hour with a magnifying glass, going over the whole cashpoint like Sherlock Holmes, but nor should you blindly insert your card on auto-pilot. That’s your money, after all, and you want to keep it safe, right?
That’s because one of the most elaborate and hard-to-spot techniques used by criminals is to cover the front of the machine with their own false ATM. The only genuine thing left is the screen itself, while everything else is fake.
This gives criminals total access to your card, PIN and account, using all the methods above in one handy façade. The dodgy pad captures the pin, the card slot collects your card, and in some cases, the cash may not even be dispensed.
If you spot a suspect ATM, immediately call your bank, who can then bring in the police. This is even more important if you think that a phoney device has stolen your card and is at risk of fraudulent use. Should you use any ATM, police advise that you cover the keypad with your wallet or purse, which prevents anyone from accessing your details, and ultimately, when using a cashpoint, the best advice is to stay vigilant.