South Africans need to be hyper vigilant when withdrawing funds from ATMs as fraudsters are constantly coming up with new ways to scam citizens out of their hard-earned cash

From card skimming to shoulder surfing and card swapping, criminals use a number of techniques to distract and defraud their victims. Recently, The Citizen published an article about Bruce Staveley who lost over R50 000 when he was distracted from completing his transaction at an ATM in Randpark Ridge.

According to Saveley, someone “bumped into him” while he was standing at the ATM late at night, and when he turned back to the ATM his card had been removed. Minutes later, he received an SMS notification about a R53 000 withdrawal from his account.

One of the most concerning parts of the incident is that the amount withdrawn far exceeds Saveley’s daily limit. He is now questioning how his bank allowed the transaction to take place, and why security measures weren’t in place. Read the rest of Saveley’s story HERE.

How do you avoid becoming a victim of ATM fraud?

How can you spot a potential fraudster?

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

The key is vigilance and trusting your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in your surroundings in any way, walk away and don’t go ahead with your transaction.

Fraudsters don’t look like criminals! They don’t wear balaclavas or carry guns. They may even seem like very helpful, concerned citizens like these two people in the video below:

The video which was shown on eNCA in December 2018 shows just one of the clever techniques that fraudsters use to distract their victims. While the man seems to be very helpful in trying to assist the woman when the ATM won’t accept her card, the woman behind him is watching carefully to see the victim’s pin number.

R20,000 was withdrawn from the victims’ account, but thankfully the two fraudsters where caught and are now serving lengthy jail sentences.

They don’t seem to be connected in any way, but are actually working together to fool the unsuspecting couple. R20 000 was withdrawn from the victims’ account, but thankfully the two fraudsters where caught and are now serving lengthy jail sentences.

Shoulder surfing, card swapping & card trapping

“One of the most prolific types of fraud in SA is ATM fraud,” says Marius Douglas, African Bank’s Senior Manager: Group Forensic Services. “Fraudsters work overtime to find new and creative ways to steal innocent, unsuspecting victim’s funds while transacting at the ATM.”

Card skimming or card cloning uses a card skimming device to fraudulently copy bank customer details stored on the magnetic strip (brown/black strip at the back) on a debit or credit card. According to the Banking Association of South Africa, “the majority of skimming incidents in South Africa are recorded around ATMs”.

According to

  • Shoulder surfing occurs when someone stands close enough to watch you enter your PIN.
  • Card swapping happens when the victim is distracted, or interfered with and the card swapped. This usually happens after the victim has already inserted the necessary PIN to transact. A criminal would have shoulder surfed the PIN prior to the card swap. Usually criminals who do card swapping work in groups of about three perpetrators. Some may distract the victim while the other attends to the actual swapping. The victim then leaves the ATM with someone else’s card.
  • Card trapping occurs when fraudsters insert trapping devices into an ATM or SST card slot, preventing your card from being returned to you. While you try to get your card back, an accomplice, pretending to be a random passer-by, offers to help you. He or she will ask you to put in your PIN again, making note of the numbers, and watch you walk away in frustration as your card remains in the machine. The fraudster will then remove your card from the machine and make withdrawals from your account.

The Lebanese Loop is another technique used by fraudsters. This technique traps a bank card inside the ATM by inserting a thin film of plastic into the ATM card slot. The plastic is rigged in such a way that both the plastic and trapped card can later be removed. The victim transacts at the ATM, and the cash and receipt are provided but the card remains trapped. The victim realises that the card has been retained by the ATM. The criminal is in the close vicinity and has already shoulder surfed to get the victims PIN. Once the victim leaves the ATM, the criminal goes back to ATM and removes the trapped card and uses it, along with the PIN to withdraw cash immediately.

How to stay safe at an ATM

Lee-Anne van Zyl, CEO of FNB Points of Presence says the bank encourages customers to always be vigilant when using ATMs or any other banking channel, and to constantly familiarise themselves with the latest modus operandi that fraudsters are using.

Here are FNB’s top ATM tips to keep you safe:

  1. Always keep your ATM PIN confidential; never share it with anyone and never write it down
  2. Do not use an ATM if it looks faulty or shows evidence of it having been tampered with
  3. Always read the instructions on the screen before entering your PIN
  4. Never force your card into the ATM; if the card is not easily accepted by the device, it may have been tampered with
  5. When keying in your PIN, cover the keypad with your hand
  6. Stand as close as possible to the ATM, never allow people to stand close/distract you whilst transacting
  7. Be wary of strangers that may call you back to the ATM to complete a transaction. They often ask for assistance or offer to assist you
  8. Once you withdraw cash, immediately place this out of sight. Avoid handling cash in public view and secure your wallet and handbag before leaving the ATM
  9. Set realistic daily limits to protect yourself and you can do this via digital banking in the comfort of your home

What to do if you’re a victim

Marius Douglas, African Bank’s Senior Manager: Group Forensic Services, says your first point of contact MUST ALWAYS be your bank to block your account and secure your funds if you suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud.

“There is a well-established agreement between banks, should they require assistance from any other bank.

“The bank will advise the customer to register a case with the South African Police Service (SAPS) for official investigation,” says Douglas. “Your representing bank, in conjunction with SAPS will do everything they can to locate your funds.”

Douglas also suggests using alternatives to ATM withdrawals

“The restrictions imposed by the national lockdown have brought into sharp focus the benefits of online banking. At a time in which the simple act of queueing can be fraught with danger and where talking to someone can be a health hazard, online banking offers peace of mind, convenience and time efficiency.

“You don’t need to go to the ATM. Reduce your visits to the ATM, use digital alternatives if possible.”