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Safety & security: Beware of ATM thieves

East London police spokesperson Lt-Col Mtati Tana said the recent arrest of a 33-year-old suspect was part of an ongoing investigation into the increase in reported ATM bank card thefts.

“The suspect was arrested by crime prevention after two cases were opened in a space of two days in the East London CBD. We believe he might be involved in other cases and urge anyone who has been the victim of a bank card theft to come forward,” said Tana.

Lonwabo Nkonki, who witnessed a robbery in the East London CBD, said he saw a well-dressed man pretending to help a pensioner withdraw money. Minutes later the man disappeared and the pensioner was left holding a fake bank card.

“I never thought he could be a conman. He was dressed formally and looked very respectable,” said Nkonki.

Tana said the ATM card thieves pretend to help the victim, quickly swap their card with a fake one and disappear after the victim has typed in his or her PIN code.

“This happened to a 77-year-old man who reported a case of fraud on Wednesday. The thief then went on a R3 000 shopping spree in town, buying goods from different shops,” said Tana.

He said police arrested the 33-year-old man in connection with the case and he appeared in the East London magistrate’s court on charges of theft.

Justmoney.co.za advises people using ATMs to follow a few simple guidelines:

  • make sure your PIN is something that is not obvious
  • memorise your PIN, do not write it down
  • If you spot any suspicious looking characters nearby, leave or approach security
  • if the ATM is giving you trouble or you feel that it is not working like it should, cancel your transaction immediately and try another ATM
  • make sure nobody is watching you put in your PIN on the keypad
  • If you need help, do not ask strangers or security guards for help. Ask a bank official. If your card is stuck, do not accept help from strangers
  • if it looks like the card slot has been tampered with, do not use the ATM
  • make sure you get your card back whenever you are done with a transaction. Make sure it’s your card with your details and somebody hasn’t swapped your card.
  • if your card is lost, stolen or jammed into a machine, make sure you contact your bank immediately.