The experts are warning of a new trend in ATM thefts. Instead of skimming your card details, these ones use rudimentary claws inside the machine, to hang onto cash and prevent it from dispensing.
So how does it work, and what should you watch for?
The scamThe criminals insert a device a bit like a fork inside the slot that dispenses cash. When the machine tries to give out cash, the claw will take it before it can be dispensed, and hang onto it. Then when you leave, the thieves can return to remove the claw and take the cash.
The Daily Mail reported that these techniques are used across Europe. The European ATM security group recently said that in the last year 15 countries reported this kind of crime. The use of this sort of basic theft has increased, after chip and PIN cards made other forms of theft harder.
Overall, The UK Cards Association says that in the first half of this year £14.6 million was lost to ATM fraud, so it's clearly big business for criminal gangs.
In the UK, there have been incidents in Lincolnshire and London. Confirmed cases are rising exponentially, with the most prolific offending happening across London, including the City.
Crime Prevention Officer Tony Blake, from the DCPCU, said:"The 'cash claw' is just the latest attempt by small-time crime gangs to steal customer and their banks money directly out of the cash machine. Industry has quickly wised up to this new methodology and is working alongside us to catch those responsible and to make it much more difficult for anyone looking to follow in their footsteps."
What to look forThe trouble with this kind of crime is that the claw is hidden inside the machine, so there are no warning signs to watch for. It means customers are unaware there has been a crime: they will assume the machine is faulty and either think that the whole transaction was void, or will go to the bank to report the fault rather than to the police.
The criminals will usually attack outside of normal banking hours, to make it harder for you to seek help from the bank immediately.
The police have warned people to keep their eyes open for any incidents. They say any faults should be reported to the bank immediately - who should check if it is a fault or whether you are a victim of crime. You also need to keep an eye on your statements, to be sure that there are no withdrawals that you are unaware of.
Avoiding cash machine fraudIt's also important to brush up on good ATM etiquette. There are some tips below from LINK, the UK's cash machine network, on how to avoid falling victim to cash machine fraud. One of the key points is protecting your PIN, and the video below from LINK was fitted by fraudsters and highlights the importance shielding your code.
1. Protect your PIN
• The simplest step of all to minimise the chances of falling victim to fraud is to shield the keypad when you enter your PIN. This will protect your PIN from a shoulder-surfer, and also if a criminal has set up a hidden camera that is filming the keypad.
• Some losses at UK cash machines are still, unfortunately, the result of PINs being written down and kept in a purse or wallet. So, the other important advice remains: 'never write down your PIN'.
2. Choosing a cash machine
• Be aware of others around you. If someone close to the cash machine is behaving suspiciously, or makes you feel uncomfortable, go to another machine.
• If you suspect that a skimming device has been attached to a cash machine, inform staff within the bank or, if this is not possible, inform the police.
3. Using a cash machine
• Be aware of your surroundings. If someone starts crowding or watching you, cancel the transaction, preferably before you've entered your PIN, and go to another machine.
• Stand close to the cash machine and always shield the keypad effectively, for example by using your free hand, to avoid anyone seeing you enter your PIN.
• If your card gets jammed or retained by the machine report this as soon as possible to your card issuer.
If you are a victim of card fraud you are protected through legislation, which states that you will not be liable for losses unless you have acted fraudulently or without reasonable care.