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Play it safe to beat ATM crime

Written by Albert Pule
It is the festive season and criminals are on the prowl, looking to rob you of your hard-earned cash.

To make sure you do not become a victim, it is important to stay alert and know what to look out for.

Chief Executive Officer of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) Kalyani Pillay explains that criminals commit ATM crimes - bank card related crimes that take place close to ATMs – at specific times.

“Criminals know when pensions are paid out as well as when people are paid their salaries and will target victims when it is probable that there will be money in their bank accounts.”

She says the most common ATM crime is card jamming.

“Criminals jam the ATM so that the victim’s card is trapped inside the ATM. The victim is made to believe that the card has been swallowed by the ATM.

“The criminal removes the card afterwards and uses it with the PIN number that was stolen by looking over the victim's shoulder when he or she tried to transact,” she adds.

Pillay says SABRIC is working with police and other law enforcement agencies to combat these crimes.

In 2011, SAPS and SABRIC retrieved 194 handheld devices used by criminals to skim cards and 177 in 2012.

“There are numerous arrests made monthly and in recent times, some good sentences have been handed down.

“Regrettably there are many criminals committing ATM crimes and as long as bank card users can be tricked, they will continue to perpetrate these crimes.”

That is why ATM users need to be more careful and alert.

Pillay advises that when using an ATM, you should shield the hand that is typing your PIN number so that nobody can see it.

If something goes wrong, you should report it immediately.

“If your card is trapped, cancel it immediately using your own phone or by calling your bank’s call centre number.

“Do not leave the ATM before the card is cancelled and you have a reference number from your bank. Do not accept assistance from anybody at the ATM.”

Safety tips when using ATMs:

  • Look out for loiters in the vicinity of the ATM and if you are uncomfortable use another ATM.
  • Familiarise yourself with the look and feel of the ATM that you usually use so that you are able to spot if it has been tampered with.
  • Use ATMs where you feel the most comfortable.
  • Have your card ready in your hand before you approach the ATM.
  • Do not use the ATM if it appears to be tampered with or damaged.
  • Do not accept help from strangers at an ATM, especially when you experience difficulty with the transaction and do not allow anyone to distract you.
  • Never disclose your PIN to anybody, not even to the bank or police.
  • Press the Cancel key, withdraw your card and proceed to an alternative ATM if you feel the ATM is not functioning correctly.
  • Use the help line and/or nearest phone to contact your bank and/or police if your card gets jammed, retained or lost, or if someone interferes with you at an ATM.
  • Take your time when transacting and ensure that your cash and card are carefully secured before leaving the ATM.
For more information contact SABRIC on 011 874 3000.