Ireland’s Guide To Money And Living

Fighting back against fraud

ATM fraud

By Christopher O’Riordan

If you’re like most Irish people, you use an ATM on a regular basis. However, many people might not be aware of the regular ATM crime that is undertaken by fraudsters. Fraudulent measures such as card trapping and card skimming have become a significant problem, not just in Ireland but across the globe. And, although financial institutions are constantly reassuring customers of their use of safer, updated technology, this isn’t always enough.

Card skimming

Though not as prevalent as it once was, thanks in no small part to the introduction of chip and PIN in Ireland, card skimming involves the theft of the information stored in your card’s black magnetic strip. In one of the bigger cases in recent years, hundreds of Bank of Ireland customers were hit by scammers for up to €2,000 in some cases. It’s thought that a device was placed over the card slot (to steal the card information) and cameras (to steal PINs) at a number of ATMs around the country. In such cases, cards can be copied and then used in countries in which Chip and PIN is used infrequently or not at all.

Card trapping

In November of last year, two men were convicted of trapping ATM cards and for the use of an iPod Nano to record PIN numbers at various banks around the city. The ruse is simple – fraudsters affix a card trapping device over the card slot on an ATM, along with a camera. Once the unwitting user walks away from the ATM, presuming that it’s a legitimate error, the criminals can then steal their card.

Look over your shoulder

ATM theft doesn’t have to be technological – always be aware of your surroundings, and anyone who might be acting suspiciously nearby. Last month, the BBC reported on a 93-year old man in the UK who was momentarily distracted at a cash machine – thieves swapped his bank card for a fake, and later transferred £23,000 to their own accounts using his details.

While financial institutions employ measures to combat fraud, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • If somebody in the queue is standing quite close, don’t be afraid to ask them to step back. If they don’t cancel the transaction and go elsewhere.
  • Check the ATM to ensure nothing has been added, particularly over the keypad or the card slot. If you think the ATM may have been interfered with, alert the bank and the Gardaí.
  • While some ATMs have shields over the keypad, others remain exposed to the public if you don’t use caution. Use a wallet or purse to cover your hand while you input your PIN.
  • Check your account statements regularly for transactions you don’t recall making – the sooner you spot anything suspicious, the better.
When not writing about all things personal finance, You & Your Money's editor Conor Forrest enjoys reading, football and getting lost in an ocean of Wikipedia articles.