‘Protect yourself from ATM fraud’

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ATMs Reuters file

Johannesburg - There are simple steps the public can take to prevent ATM fraud, the SA Banking Risk Information Centre said on Wednesday.

“There is a perception that most bank-related [crime] matters are perpetrated by internal staff in banks,” Sabric chief executive Kalyani Pillay told reporters in Johannesburg.

This remained possible, but Sabric's information indicated that most fraud and bank-related crime was carried out by external criminals.

“There are very sophisticated people in the world, not necessarily from South Africa.”

With the internet, criminals could hack sensitive information and use it to defraud others of their hard-earned money, she said.

“We are a developing economy... a very lucrative destination for cyber criminals.”

South Africa was rated the third-highest cyber crime target country, behind Russia and China, in a recent study.

There were simple steps the public could take to protect themselves from cyber crime.

Setting daily limits for withdrawals was the primary step, so that if criminals accessed an account they could not steal all the money.

It was important to access online banking by typing the bank's web address, rather than searching for it on Google.

This was because some sophisticated criminals created spoof sites mimicking banks' websites in order to steal banking details.

Pillay said the public needed to be aware of regular ATM crime and take the appropriate precautions, even though these might be “closely linked with emotions”.

For example, in the case of “shoulder surfing” -- where a criminal stood too close behind the person using an ATM -- people often felt it was impolite to ask the person to stand further back.

“People feel shy and awkward,” Pillay said.

It was better to risk seeming stand-offish than risk having one's personal identification number (PIN) or bank card stolen.

Pillay said she was surprised that people often did not take the simplest step to protect their PIN, that of covering the key pad of the ATM or point-of-sale (POS) machine.

“Using the POS machines in restaurants, people often feel shy to cover (the keypad) in front of the waiter. Criminals have forced us to behave differently,” she said. - Sapa

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