ATM cons: 9 arrests in 11 days

2012-09-01 00:00

IN 11 days, nine people have been arrested for robberies and scams involving ATMs in Pietermaritzburg. This has been achieved with the help of the city’s Safe City CCTV cameras.

Safe City general manager Lucas Holtzhausen warned yesterday that vulnerable people using ATMs were soft targets for opportunistic criminals.

Holtzhausen said that from August 20 to 26, seven suspects were arrested following robberies involving some form of violence near ATMs, with two scamsters arrested this week.

Yesterday at 6.20 am, a Safe City operator noticed a well-dressed man pretending to help another man at an ATM. Instead, he was trying to steal the victim’s ATM card.

“But before he ran off to another ATM in the Church Street mall where he withdrew money from the victim’s account, the police were dispatched,” said Holtzhausen.

The cash card and the victim’s cash were recovered.

“This is very encouraging, as this is the period according to our research when elderly persons are mostly vulnerable to robberies or bag-snatchings,” he said.

The CCTV camera system detected 89 incidents, including liquor-induced brawling and other crimes, from August 20 to 26.

Holtzhausen described the ATM culprits as opportunists.

Safe City said it was worried about victims who withdrew cases.

“I think people are scared to go to court,” Holtzhausen said.

The information stored on the black or brown magnetic strip at the back of a card is stolen in a method called “skimming” via handheld devices or devices attached to ATMs, explained the chief executive of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre, Kalyani Pillay.

Pillay said ATM robberies were a common crime trend nationally and were most prevalent in Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.

She advised bank customers to familiarise themselves with their bank’s ATMs in order to be able to detect any foreign objects attached to them.

“Customers should also keep tab of their SMS notifications from their banks and contact the bank immediately once they notice suspicious transactions,” she added.

The police said they had not noted any increase in ATM robberies in the province.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said the comprehensive crime statistics would be released next month. — Witness Reporter.

How card skimming works

- Criminals tamper with ATMs by fixing a skimming device over the slot for the card. When a customer inserts the card, the skimmer reads the information on the magnetic strip.

- During the transaction, criminals film the customer’s PIN number using a small spy camera positioned discreetly on the ATM.

- The customer’s transaction will proceed and the card will be returned to the customer as usual.

- The scamsters use the information to manufacture counterfeit or “cloned” cards.

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