Hi-tech ATM fraud hits SA banking

2004-01-09 22:26

Johannesburg - Automatic teller machine (ATM) fraud by means of cameras and other devices has made its unwelcome appearance in South Africa.

This follows reports of fraud by similar devices in Britain, Germany, France and Hong Kong.

The First National Bank ATM in Blairgowrie, Johannesburg, was the first known target of the electronic fraud scam.

Claire Gebhardt-Mann of the Banking Council said a home-made card reader was pasted above the card slot at the ATM.

A white aluminium tube containing a tiny camera was attached to the top of the teller machine.

The card reader scanned the digital information saved on the magnetic strip of a client's card as soon it was pushed through the slot. The card was cloned while the camera took a photo of the PIN number when a client entered it.

International fraud syndicate suspected

Gebhardt-Mann said a bank employee noticed the devices and alerted police, who are investigating the system. They suspect the involvement of an international fraud syndicate.

The Banking Council has warned the public to be on the lookout for the devices, and banks are now regularly inspecting their ATMs.

Similar devices were found in Hong Kong on Thursday. In England, the first case of fraud by means of the system went to court two months ago.

In Romania, police found 108 fake bankcards and a laptop computer with stolen card information and PINs obtained by the system.

Gebhardt-Mann said 289 customers, who might have used the Blairgowrie FNB ATM, had been told of the fraud and asked to change their PINs. In some instances, new cards were issued.

No losses have been reported as a result of the system yet.

The Banking Council and police have asked all clients to be particularly careful when using an ATM. They suggest the following measures:

  • Stand close to the teller machine so that nobody can watch you pin in your code. Use one hand to protect the keypad while entering the PIN.

  • Never give your PIN to anybody or allow any one to see your internet banking login name - not even a bank employee. Don't write it down anywhere, especially not on your card.

  • Don't use the ATM if the screen is blank.

  • Don't allow any one to interfere with your transaction, even if something has gone wrong with your card.

  • Never tell anybody your banking details or ID number by phone.

  • Keep your daily withdrawal limit as low as possible.

  • If your ID is lost or stolen, report it to the fraud prevention service at 00860 101 248, or