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How to avoid ‘shoulder surfing’ crimes at ATMs

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Thefts at cash points have risen by 75% in the past year. Follow our tips to keep safe.

According to Financial Fraud Action UK, attempts to steal people’s bank card details and PIN codes while they are unaware and taking out money at ATMs has tripled since 2012.

The report revealed there were 7,525 incidents in the first four months of the year, compared with 2,553 in the similar period in 2012.

It said numbers appeared to be increasing every month.

This rise in ‘shoulder surfing’, where thieves look over a person’s shoulder while they key in their PIN at cash machines and then distract them as the card comes out to snatch it, is being attributed to more secure chip-and-pin cards cutting the scope for more hi-tech fraud.

While cash machines are generally safe, they do sometimes attract criminal attention so there is still a need to use common sense precautions when withdrawing cash. 

To minimise the chances of having your card or card details stolen at a cash machine:

Stand close to the cash machine. Always shield the keypad with your free hand and your body to avoid anyone seeing you enter your PIN. This will protect your PIN from anyone who might be looking over your shoulder, and also help to keep your PIN safe if a fraudster has set up a hidden camera that is filming the keypad.

Be alert and put your personal safety first. If someone is crowding or watching you, cancel the transaction and go to another machine. Do not accept help from seemingly well-meaning strangers and never allow yourself to be distracted.

Fraudsters sometimes fit devices to cash machines that trap your card, which they then retrieve as soon as you have left the area. If your card is retained by the machine for any reason, report it to your card company immediately, ideally using your mobile phone while you are still in front of the machine. Make sure you have your card company’s 24 hour contact number stored in your mobile phone.

If you spot anything unusual about the cash machine, or there are signs of tampering, do not use it. Report it to the bank concerned immediately.

Once you have completed a transaction put your money and card away before leaving the cash machine. Destroy or preferably shred your cash machine receipts, mini-statements or balance enquiries when you dispose of them.

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