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Cash machine fraud

What it is

When your credit or debit card – or the card’s information – is taken by fraudsters when you use a cash machine or ATM.

Protect yourself

  • Check a cash machine every time you use one. Always cover the keypad when entering your PIN and don’t make it obvious which buttons you’re pressing.
  • Take a look around you. If someone’s standing too close, get your card back without withdrawing any money and walk away.
  • Your safety is the most important thing. Don’t approach anyone you think has been acting suspiciously and if you find loose parts on the machine don’t take them away with you.

Spot the signs

  • You find a wobbly or bulky part that doesn’t seem to belong with the machine, such as a cover over the card slot or a loose keypad.
  • Purchases and withdrawals start appearing on your account that you don’t remember making.
  • Some cash machines are built entirely by fraudsters. Be cautious using a ‘standalone’ machine, rather than a ‘hole in the wall’, which is embedded in the front of a building such as a bank.

How it happens

There are a number of ways fraudsters can use a cash machine to steal your card or banking details.

They may attach a skimmer to the card slot. This is a small device that fits over the card slot and made to look like a normal part of the cash machine. It’s designed to copy the information on the magnetic strip of your card when you insert it, leading to bank account fraud.

An alternative to a skimmer is a card trap, which is slid inside the real card slot so the card won’t come out again once you’ve finished using the machine. Once you’ve left the area, the fraudsters remove the trap from the slot along with your card.

Sometimes a fraudster may be posing as a bystander. This is either to spot the PIN you enter on the keypad or divert your attention so an accomplice can steal your card. They may pretend to offer help if your card is taken, when actually they’re simply getting you away from the machine so a trap can be removed and you’re distracted long enough for accomplices to use your card.

A more high-tech approach to discover your PIN is to place a hidden camera in the top or sides of the machine. They’ll then look to steal your card so they can quickly make a large cash withdrawal before you can cancel the card.

How to report it

Make sure you have your card issuer’s emergency number with you. If your card is held by a cash machine for whatever reason, call your bank straight away to make sure the card can’t be used. Then report it to us online or call 0300 123 2040.