Beware of ATM criminals on the North Coast

Criminals are finding new and creative ways of conning people at the ATM.

Police are concerned about a surge of ATM-related crime on the North Coast, with at least a dozen incidents reported every week.

Umhlali resident Johan van Zyl said that two months ago, R25 000 was stolen from his relative’s account while she had her card in her possession.

“We received notifications that the card had been swiped at shops and money was drawn at the Umvoti Toll ATM.

“We thought at first that the messages showing there had been a transaction was a hoax but when we contacted the bank, we found that was not the case. The police told us that my relative was the second person that week to have fallen victim to card cloning.”

Also read: ATM bombing foiled in Stanger

Umhlali SAPS spokesperson Vinny Pillay said crimes like card theft and card cloning have drastically increased in the last six months on the Dolphin Coast alone.

“At the end of the day criminals are out to make easy money and from speaking to those who have been previously convicted, they can make a large amount of money from simply sitting in their cars and conning people.”

Pillay said with the right technology, card cloning takes only a few minutes.

“A popular con is for criminals to put a replica of the ATM keypad over the original one. There is often no way of telling the difference between what is real and what is fake. The keypad is connected to software on the criminal’s laptop so they have to sit a few metres away. When the pin is entered into the ATM, it shows up immediately on their end.”

Criminals use a blank card that they have obtained overseas to make a clone of a bank card.

“Criminals are also known for finding creative ways of offering assistance.

“In many cases, they watch you as you insert your pin and later steal your card. They can tell what your pin is just by looking at how you move your hands.”

It is believed that in some cases the thief dressed as a security guard and stands close to the ATM. They then temporarily “break” the ATM by causing a paper jam. In some instances, the criminal will use the ATM machine, pretend to “forget” something behind, then activate the cardless mode which will ask the victim to insert their pin but rejects the card.

The well-dressed thief, who looks like another bank customer, will be standing close by pretending to be waiting to get whatever they left behind. Meanwhile, they watch to see the pin being entered by the next customer and when the card is rejected, they offer to help saying that it just happened to them as well.

“They then steal the card and already know your pin.

Pillay said the criminals are usually well dressed and travel in fancy cars.

Meanwhile, the busy town of Tongaat has been experiencing an increase in ATM theft, bombing and bank robberies. According to Tongaat SAPS spokesperson captain Patrick Ngwane a bank robber was shot and killed by SAPS members at Nedbank, Tongaat two weeks ago.

“SAPS Tongaat attended to a complaint of a burglary. Police was informed by the security guards that the suspect was still inside the building. The 26-year-old man was called to surrender himself to the police but did not. He resisted arrest and tried to stab the police officer, as in self-defence the suspect was shot in the chest and died.”

Also read: Huge spike in domestic abuse reports

Most banks are aware of the increase in ATM crimes and some have said that they are putting measures in place to combat the issue.

Standard Bank media liaison Ross Linstrom said, “Standard Bank spends a vast amount of resources in combating fraud and theft that could occur at ATMs or at the point of sale. Standard Bank is in regular contact with SAPS and has ongoing initiatives with the South African Banking Risk Information Centre.

“While there are visible measures that the bank takes to ensure the safety and security of sites, there are other measures that are taken that can not be disclosed in a public forum due to security considerations.”

ABSA bank head of marketing and corporate relations Dante Mashile said clients were ultimately responsible for the safekeeping and proper use of their cards but that the bank would assist in the event of a crime.

“The cardholder must take all precautions to prevent the card from being lost, stolen or used by any unauthorised third party and/or that any of the authentication measures become known to any unauthorised person. We do not place security guards at every ATM.

“However, we have a specialised team who deal with criminal activities across the province with cameras to track, monitor and arrest criminals.”

Previous cash in transit official Sebastian Govender said most ATM-related queries that they received were due to cloned cards and paper jamming.

“We would see hundreds of white cards in an ATM because some machines detect that is a clone card.

“If people are vulnerable, like the elderly or sick, family members should accompany them. People should not accept help from anyone unless they work at the bank. Overall, trust your sixth sense – if you feel something is wrong or that you are being watched, then it generally is.”

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Erica Abrahams

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