‘Well-dressed men’ target ATMs

2016-03-22 10:56

A new syndicate is in town, and they’re targeting your ATM card and Pin number.

Bank clients are apparently being scammed out of thousands of rands.
The Cape Town Central Improvement District has recorded sophisticated, well-dressed people working in syndicates and using high-performance getaway cars to target ATM users.
They use a variety of tricks.

Muneeb Hendricks, CCID safety and security manager, says the public needs to be “warned about this new threat”.
The CCID has found the gangs or syndicates operate in four- to six-man teams and are not afraid to threaten security guards at ATMs with bodily harm if they interfere with their scams.
This latest form of ATM crime is not confined to Cape Town’s CBD or even Cape Town, Hendricks says, with “law enforcement agencies receiving reports that cities across South Africa are experiencing the complex criminal activity”.

Provincial police spokesperson Constable Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed “there are ATM related crimes that being are investigated and various group of suspects are identified”.

Hendricks says the syndicates appear to use various techniques to get access to victims’ cards and Pins.
“It seems to be a lot more sophisticated than the standard, pushy one-person approach of ‘let me help you draw money; this machine is problematic’ that we’ve seen in the past, because nowadays most people are wise to that,” he says.
“These guys almost always have cash in their hands so that they look like they’ve just drawn money, and each person in the syndicate has a different role. The one who is tasked with watching you enter your Pin, for instance, will not be the same person who steals your card.”

A common tactic is for the syndicate member who has ostensibly just drawn money and is holding cash to “accidentally” drop a high-value bank note on the floor to distract a user during his ATM transaction. Another member then steals the user’s card outright or switches it, Hendricks explains.
“Then once they have your card and Pin they tend to leave the area, get into their waiting car – our investigations have found these are often hired cars – and speed off. Sometimes people realise immediately that they have been scammed and are able to block their bank cards on the spot, but many are less fortunate.”

Hendricks says the problem for the CCID’s public safety officers, and in turn their law enforcement partners, is that ATMs are usually considered to be private property.
“It therefore lies with the various banks to secure their own properties, but several ATMs in the CBD and elsewhere do not have dedicated security,” he says.
“This is currently on our radar to such an extent that we have engaged with the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) as well as with the various banks to voice our concern. We’ve also been engaging with the police and Cape Town Tourism, the latter in particular to establish effective public awareness campaigns.”

Sabric CEO Kalyani Pillay told People’s Post: “The crime that is occurring at the ATMs is card swopping.”
She advises ATM users to be cautious of strangers who offer to help and to be alert to their surroundings.
“Do not use the ATM if there are loiterers or suspicious people in the vicinity. Also take note that fraudsters are often well-dressed, well-spoken and respectable looking individuals,” she says.

If you have been disturbed while using an ATM, immediately change your Pin or stop the card to protect yourself from any illegal transactions occurring on your account, Pillay says, and don’t let anyone stand too close to you in order to keep both your card and PIN safe.
She advises setting a daily withdrawal limit as low as possible to protect yourself in the event that your card and Pin are stolen.

Hendricks advises the public to only use ATMs in well-lit areas at night, draw from ATMs where there are bank security officers clearly in sight and make sure you are not followed after using the ATM.
“Instruct your bank to activate SMS notifications for all transactions, which should alert you if money is leaving your account in an unauthorised manner. Keep your bank’s ‘lost card’ telephone number in your cellphone so that if a transaction that you did not make does take place, you can report it immediately,” Hendricks says.

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