Three ATM scams consumers need to be aware of

By BR Reporter Time of article published Apr 7, 2021

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DURBAN – Strategies to protect customers are a part of banks’ efforts to curb ATM and related crimes but to be effective, customers need to do all they can to protect themselves, says Piet Swanepoel, chief risk officer at African Bank.

It is important to remember that ATMs are a favourite target for criminals, due to their increased usage and accessibility to customers, day and night.

Their modus operandi involves various scams, like shoulder surfing, card skimming, swopping of cards and the trapping of cards inside ATMs, Swanepoel said.

African Bank offers insight on the scams work and how customers can avoid falling victim:

Card swopping:

The victim is distracted while the card is swopped, usually after inserting their PIN number. One of the criminals will have shoulder surfed the PIN prior to the card swop.


A person claiming to be a bank employee approaches the victim and requests they “reactivate” their card by swiping it through the hand-held device (the skimming device). There is often a second or third person loitering around the ATM, shoulder surfing for the PIN.

In some cases, the ATM card reader entry slot is damaged. The victim will struggle to insert their card and the criminal will then approach the victim and take the ATM card from the victim or escort the victim to another ATM to attempt the withdrawal.

While on their way to the second ATM, the criminal gets hold of the card and it is skimmed. The victim is handed back the original card.

ATM mounted skimming:

A skimming device can also be mounted over the ATM card slot. The false reader in the skimming device acquires the magnetic strip data and the PIN is compromised by means of a camera containing the skimming device which is installed in the mould.


  • Follow the instructions on the ATM screen carefully.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and leave if you notice anyone loitering suspiciously.
  • Leave immediately after using the ATM, l.
  • If your card does not go in smoothly do not force it in, rather leave the ATM.
  • If your card is swallowed cancel your card before you leave the ATM.
  • Memorise your PIN.
  • Key in your PIN in such a way that no one else can see.
  • Never let anyone stand close to you while using the ATM.
  • Make sure you are not followed after an ATM withdrawal.


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