Most bank account holders have heard of card skimmers, the insidious devices that steal your details from inside a cash machine. Now, however, there is another danger to watch out for at the hole-in-the-wall - the 'cash trap'. The simple, claw-like implement sits inside the slot that dispenses notes and grabs hold of customers' money until the thief returns to collect the loot. The devices have been used at ATMs across Britain, with 2,479 reported cases in the fist half on 2012.
Jaws: cash trapping device is shown removed from the machine. Police have warned customers to look out for anything unusual at ATMs
Such scams are already rife across Europe and thieves stole more than a million euros from French cash machines this year using devices that prop open note-dispensing slots, according to security experts. Police have warned account holders to be vigilant, but many devices are impossible to spot. Some are designed to look like part of the machine and attached to the front, and others - such as the claw - are completely hidden inside the ATM. This can mean that customers remain unaware of the problem and simply assume there is a fault with the ATM, failing to report the crime.
The European ATM Security Team advises customers to immediately report all incidents to the bank. In August, Lincolnshire Police issued a warning to cash machine users after fraudsters tampered with three machines in Spilsby and Louth, pocketing hundreds of pounds from one transaction. Officers warned anyone who spots anything unusual on an ATM, finds a device or notices part of the machine falling off to contact the police as soon as possible.
A spokesperson for the force said: 'Unfortunately, there was insufficient forensic and CCTV evidence [in Louth] to progress the investigation and no arrests were made. 'The Spilsby incidents related to ATMs possibly being tampered with and no actual thefts occurred. 'The banks don’t always notify police in these cases if no crime has taken place and their own fraud departments investigate the matter. ATM tampering is obviously a nationwide issue and we work with the banks to raise awareness and educate the public about how to protect themselves from fraud and what things to be on the lookout for.'
A SERIES OF SCAMS
Most of the crimes apparently take place outside of normal banking hours. It is estimated that in the first six months of 2004, more than £40.5million was fraudulently taken from customers' accounts using card skimming in London and the South-East alone. In March 2005, Dover-based Kenneth Mennie had £1,500 stolen from his Lloyds TSB current account after his debit card was copied and used in Thailand. Four months later, five Romanians stole up to £1.2m by sticking false fronts to ATMs across London to skim unwitting customers' cards and film their PIN numbers being entered.
A laptop found at the gang's safe house contained details of 1,236 bank cards. It is believed most of the cash was channelled to Romania in a 'fruitful and sophisticated fraud'. Earlier this year, industry experts reported on the danger of 'robbing by radiowave' - in which thieves access 'contactless' cardholders' details simply by walking past them in the street and activating a handheld machine. Cash traps may be the most worrying trend, however, because they are simple, cheap and spreading fast. A spokesperson for EAST said: 'The criminals operate by cash being collected by a customer. As far as a customer is concerned everything can be going fine with their transaction and the receipt - if they get one - can say "£20 taken out", but they've got no money.
Helping themselves: Thieves stole more than a million Euros from French cash machines this year using a similar technique, pictured, in which cash-dispensing slots are propped open after normal transactions
Lucrative scam: A simple fork, pictured, can be placed inside the machine to hold it open after customers have left
'The cash trap is normally placed across the front of the cash dispensing slot, either with adhesive or a spring. The claw is one variant, which is placed inside machine and is a little more sophisticated. 'The criminals make one transaction and insert the device while the slot is open. 'We saw a significant increase in these attacks in 2011, with 15 European countries reporting such crimes, and a surge in the second half of the year. 'The success of chip and pin seems to be driving criminals from high-tech card skimming to low-tech techniques such as cash trapping. 'This can be combined with other ways of manipulating the ATM.'
Source: Daily Mail UK