Warning: ATM card swap scam is on the rise – this is what to look out for

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) has issued a warning to the public to be on their guard amid high incidences of ATM card fraud in the country.

The group warned that an ATM ‘card swapping’ scam is again gain prevalence in South Africa, and has detailed the modus operandi of the criminals involved so that the public can be alert to their methods.

The card swapping scam is not new, but has proven to be effective, hence its resurgence.

The scam works as follows:

  • While using an ATM, an unknown person will approach the victim and try to “assist” them.
  • Their card will be taken out of the ATM by the criminal who presses the cancel button for the card to eject.
  • It is then swapped without the bank customer even realising it.
  • The card swap usually happens before the victim inserts their PIN to transact, which prevents the transaction from taking place due to the swapped card being in the ATM.
  • During this process of “assisting”, the fraudster is close enough to view the PIN.
  • The victim will then leave the ATM after the unsuccessful transaction, either with someone else’s card, which they don’t realise at that point or without their card which was apparently swallowed by the ATM.
  • At the same time the criminal walks away with the victim’s card and PIN, which will be utilised almost immediately at another nearby ATM.
  • By the time the victim realises what has happened, and arranges to cancel the card, their money has already been withdrawn.

Sabric warned that criminals try to create confusion by messing with the ATM itself – this is usually through:

  • Changing the language on ATM screen so that it looks unfamiliar to a customer, creating confusion;
  • Activating the “cardless function” to change the way the display usually looks to disorientate a customer;
  • Jamming the card slot or the pin pad of the ATM to lure a customer to a more remote ATM, around a corner, or short distance away.

The public has been urged to be on the lookout for anything amiss while transacting, and to alert their banks to any ATMs they think are faulty.

South Africans should also be cautious of strangers offering to help with ATM transactions, and never enter or reveal their PIN codes when unprompted, surrounded or uncomfortable.

“Some fraudsters wait until you’ve drawn your cash to take advantage. Be wary of people loitering around the ATM and ensure that you are not followed,” Sabric said.

Read: A new way scammers target small businesses in South Africa

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