How to Not Line Up for ATM Scams

Though you are nobody’s fool, the chances of you and your money soon parting are increasing every day as thieves and scammers become more sophisticated. It can be enough to discourage you from using current electronic banking technology. But this is akin to never leaving home because you are afraid of getting accosted by a mugger or hit by some careless driver as soon as you step into the street. You don’t solve these problems by holing up in your house, of course. You try and prevent them by becoming a better reader of your environment.

Guest post from the Desk of Attorney Monica Risam (Nicklin)

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An increasingly popular ATM scam is the so-called Lebanese Loop. This is frighteningly simple and effective. Crooks install a piece of plastic, often a strip of cassette tape, with a crimp in it into the slot that accepts your card. This keeps the ATM from ejecting the card after the transaction.  Your money remains inside, too. When you enter the bank to report the problem, the artful pilferer who watched you enter your PIN quickly retrieves the piece of plastic and your card and then uses your card to withdraw your money. A similar device is the card trap, which works the same way but traps your cash instead of your card.

A more sophisticated method is card skimming, which works the same way as credit card skimming. A second card reader is installed on or near the machine, sometimes with a “card cleaner” sign on it. Another kind is mounted beside the real card slot with a sign requesting you to put your card in there first. Still another is placed on the ATM card slot and skims your card as you insert it. These devices are difficult to detect. The information from the card read is used to make a duplicate card which can then be easily employed to empty your account.

There are quite a few helpful tips available. Try to use only one ATM and become familiar with every detail of its appearance. That way, if someone installs a device on it, your practiced eye is much more likely to detect it. Try to use only ATMs inside banks as these are much harder to tamper with. Do not use an ATM where there are people standing nearby able to watch you type in your PIN. If you must use an unfamiliar machine, examine it closely for anything that looks unusual, and avoid using machines with warnings or a seemingly unusual number of signs. Beware of cameras aside from the regular security camera. Never accept help from strangers in retrieving trapped cards. If your card gets trapped, do not leave the ATM’s side. Report the problem from your cell phone. That way you secure your card and cash. And don’t forget to take care your cell phone is not snatched instead!

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