THE Bloemfontein police say three criminals with previous convictions were among the four suspects arrested recently in connection with an outbreak of ATM fraud in the city. However, the police could not clarify the nature of the previous alleged crimes. The three men, aged between 32 and 39, were arrested in Rocklands, Bloemfontein, on 15 June after an intensive search. Const. Wendy Nkabi, Park Road police spokesperson, said upon screening the four suspects, the records had revealed that three had previous convictions for various crimes. The Free State police state that ATM crime is increasing in the province, occurring day and night. Reported cases involve victims whose bank cards had been taken by strangers who had interrupted them while they had been doing transactions at ATMs. The police said the victims had fallen prey to suspects who claimed that the ATM was “faulty” and had told the victims to press hard while punching in their secret code. “By punching hard, the suspects notice the code and memorise it. “After that, they will go to other ATMs to withdraw all the money available for the day,” the police said in a statement. The arrest of the four alleged ATM card fraudsters came after a man had reported that he had fallen prey to the fraudsters when attempting to withdraw money at an ATM in Oranjesig. This happened when one of the ATM fraudsters, who had been loitering around, tricked the victim by saying that the ATM was faulty. The victim reported that the suspect had insisted on using the ATM despite claiming it was faulty. During the event, the suspect reportedly took the victim’s bank card, rushed to a Toyota Tazz with registration number FFB 803 FS, and sped off from the scene. The police later spotted the vehicle, with three occupants, parked at the Rocklands Shopping Center. “The members of the police immediately searched the vehicle and found more ATM cards in the possession of the suspects, who were then arrested,” said Nkabi. Worldwide bank card syndicates are reportedly defrauding people using various sophisticated scams, which include scamming ATM users out of their cards. Banks are reportedly also losing millions of rands to syndicates that keep changing their approach to trick their victims and evade arrest.According to the 2015 annual report of the Banking Association South Africa (Basa), the most common types of card fraud in South Africa include counterfeit card fraud, lost and stolen card fraud, false application fraud and card not present fraud. In the report, Basa states that card fraud is difficult for the banking industry, because syndicates prey on the vulnerabilities of customers to commit their crime.The police and the banking entity advise customers to adhere to the following tips when doing transactions at ATMs: Do not allow anyone to interrupt you when you are using the ATM. Before you insert your card in the ATM and before you punch in your secret code, look out for people loitering around. Ask the security officer employed by the bank to assist you if you are struggling at the ATM. Avoid drawing money at a stand-alone ATM, especially if there is no security officer around. Do not give your pin to anyone. If you are having problems with your card, do not leave the ATM that you were using. Call the numbers appearing on the board to stop your card immediately. Ask for the reference number for future use and open a case at the police for further investigation if you feel that a crime has been committed.