Be careful at ATMs this festive season

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FNB broadcasted a video clip to show how fraudsters con people at ATMs. Photo: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Durban - The festive season is in full swing and with many people receiving their bonuses, fraudsters are on the prowl.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) has encouraged banking customers to be vigilant and safe when using ATMs.

“A huge number of South Africans rely on the ATMs to withdraw money,” said Kalyani Pillay, the chief executive of Sabric. “However, the increased usage of ATMs has also resulted in criminals devising various scams such as card skimming, swopping and the trapping of cards inside ATMs.”

Card skimming is when a card reader is used to copy encoded information from the magnetic strip of your card. The data is then used for encoding counterfeit, lost or stolen cards to transact fraudulently.

In card swopping the victim is distracted while using a card. While the victim is distracted, the criminal swops the victim’s card with another.

Another method used is that of trapping cards in ATMs. In this case, criminals insert hard plastic into the card slot which results in the victim’s card being trapped in the ATM machine.

“The victim usually thinks that the card has been swallowed by the machine. When the victim leaves the ATM, the criminal will dislodge the plastic and the card will come out of the machine with it,” explained Pillay. This was usually accompanied by shoulder surfing to steal PINs.

“In order to get the PIN, criminals look over the shoulder of a victim typing in a PIN on a keypad and memorise it.”

Through its own research Sabric has found that most bank customers do not shield their PINs when at the ATM.

“We would like to encourage ATM users to ensure that the hand that types in the PIN number is always covered so that nobody can see what you are typing,” said Pillay.

By doing this customers ensured that the criminals did not have the PIN to conduct further transactions.

Pillay also warned stokvels members withdrawing their annual savings to be on guard.

Members must ask that their payouts be made electronically to their personal accounts, as opposed to withdrawing the club’s savings and distributing it manually, she said.

If a cash payout was the only option, Pillay advised stokvels to refrain from making withdrawals on “high-risk days”, such as the Monday after payday.

She also suggested that the person making the withdrawl be accompanied by another club member.

This month stokvel member Jabulani Mdlalose, 56, was robbed of R140 000 as he left a bank in Pietermaritzburg. He was attacked after withdrawing the club’s savings and stepping into the street.


Here are some ATM safety tips:

* If you think the ATM is faulty, cancel the transaction immediately. Report the fault to your bank and transact at another ATM.

* Be cautious of strangers offering to help as they could be trying to distract you in order to get your card or PIN.

* Choose familiar and well-lit ATMs where you are visible and safe. Report any concerns regarding the ATM to the bank. Toll-free numbers are displayed on all ATMs.

* If your card is swallowed, do not leave the ATM before you have cancelled your card by calling your bank’s call centre.

* Save your bank’s call centre number on your phone so that you have it handy in case you need it.

The Mercury

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