ATM Fraud


The increased usage of ATMs has also resulted in criminals devising various scams such as ATM shoulder surfing, card skimming, swopping of cards, and the trapping of cards inside ATMs to steal card data or actual cards. These cards are then utilised to withdraw money fraudulently at ATMs and to then make purchases nearby.    


While conducting a card transaction at the ATM, the victim is interfered with and the card swopped. This usually happens after the victim has already inserted the necessary PIN to transact. A criminal would have shoulder surfed the PIN prior to the card swop. Usually criminals who do card swopping work in groups of about three perpetrators. Some may distract the victim while the other attends to the actual swopping. The victim then leaves the ATM with someone else’s card. As in the case of card trapping with the Lebanese Loop, the card will be utilised immediately to maximise the reward before the victim realises what has transpired, and arranges for the card to be stopped.

Skimming at an ATM:

Unsuspecting victims are coerced into swiping their cards through hand-held devices at ATM’s. The following permutations of this scenario have been identified:

  • A person claiming to be working for the bank approached the client. Using various social engineering skills, the client is requested to re-activate the card by swiping the card through a device which is a skimming device. This can happen prior or after the client has already withdrawn money from the ATM. Often there would be a second or even third person loitering around the ATM, shoulder surfing for the PIN the moment the client uses the ATM.
  • In some cases, the ATM card reader entry slot is damaged. While the victim struggles to insert their card, the criminal will approach the victim and take the ATM card from the victim, often escorting the victim to another ATM to attempt the withdrawal. While on their way to the second ATM, the criminal gets hold of the card and it is skimmed. What makes this scenario so alarming is that the victim is handed back the original card only to discover that money was withdrawn from the account much later.
  • Scenarios also occur where the hand-held card reader is temporarily attached to the ATM together with a leaflet requesting that the unsuspecting bank client swipes their cards prior or, after making use of the ATM.

ATM Mounted Skimming:  

A skimming device can also be mounted over the ATM card slot. Most ATM skimming devices do not interfere with the ATM when utilised. These devices are created to look like a card reader slot and fit seamlessly over the slot, making them difficult to detect. The false reader in the skimming device acquires the magnetic strip data and the PIN is compromised by means of spy camera installed within the mould containing the skimming device.

Lebanese Loop:

This is a technique used by criminals to trap a bank card inside the ATM by inserting a thin film of plastic into the ATM card slot. The plastic is rigged in such a way that both the plastic and trapped card can later be removed. The victim transacts at the ATM, and the cash and receipt are provided but the card remains trapped. The victim realises that the card has been retained by the ATM. The criminal is in the close vicinity and has already shoulder surfed to get the victims PIN. Once the victim leaves ATM, the criminal goes back to ATM and removes the trapped card and uses it, along with the PIN to withdraw cash immediately.



  • Follow the instructions on the ATM screen carefully.
  • Be alert to your surroundings. Do not use the ATM if there are loiterers or suspicious people in the vicinity. Be aware that fraudsters are often well dressed, well-spoken and respectable looking individuals.
  • If you are disturbed while transacting at the ATM, your card may possibly be skimmed by being removed and placed back into the ATM without your knowledge. Cancel the transaction immediately and report the incident using your Bank's Stop Card Toll free number which is displayed on all ATMs, as well as on the back of your bank card.
  • After successfully transacting at the ATM, leave immediately. Be cautious of strangers requesting you to return to the ATM to finalise any transaction as skimming may occur during this request.


  • Never force your card into the slot if you experience initial difficulty, as it might have been tampered with.
  • If your card is swallowed by the ATM, do not leave the ATM before you have cancelled your card.

Tips to protect your PIN:

  • Your PIN is your personal key to secure banking and it is crucial to keep it confidential.
  • Memorise your PIN, never write it down or share it with anyone, not even with a family member or a bank official.
  • Choose a PIN that will not be easily guessed, and never use your date of birth as a PIN.
  • Key in your PIN yourself in such a way that no one else can see it, for example, cover your hand that is punching the numbers even when alone at the ATM, as some criminals may place secret cameras to observe your PIN.
  • To keep both your card and PIN safe, don't let anyone stand too close to you

Tips to protect your cash:

  • 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.
  • Set a daily withdrawal limit that suits your needs to protect yourself in an event that your card and PIN are compromised. (Every Bank will have its own default amount which you must check).
  • Be cautious of strangers requesting that you return to the ATM to finalise/close the transaction because they are unable to transact. Skimming may occur during this request.
  • If you think the ATM is faulty cancel the transaction IMMEDIATELY, report the fault to your Bank and transact at another ATM.
  • Never allow your children to draw money using your card, since they're the most vulnerable to perpetrators.
  • Have your card ready in your hand before you approach the ATM to avoid opening your purse, bag or wallet while in the queue.
  • Be cautious of strangers offering to help as they could be trying to distract you to get your card or PIN.
  • Choose familiar and well-lit ATMs where you are visible and safe. Report any concerns regarding the ATM to the Bank. Toll free numbers are displayed on all ATMs.
  • If you are disturbed or interfered with while transacting at the ATM, your card may be skimmed by being removed and replaced back into the ATM without your knowledge. Cancel the transaction immediately and report the incident using your Bank's Stop Card Toll free number which is displayed on all ATMs, as well as on the back of your Bank card.
  • Know what your ATM looks like so that you can identify any foreign objects attached to it.
  • Do not ask anyone to assist you at the ATM, not even the security guarding the ATM or a Bank official. Rather go into the Bank for assistance.
  • Do not insert your card if the screen layout is not familiar to you.
  • Don’t use ATMs where the card slot, keypad or screen has been tampered with. It could be an attempt to get hold of your card.
  • 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.
  • Take your time to complete your transaction and secure your card and your cash in your wallet, handbag or pocket before leaving the ATM.
  • Check your balance regularly and report discrepancies to your Bank IMMEDIATELY.
  • Avoid withdrawing cash to pay for goods/services as your debit card can be used for these transactions. You can use your debit card wherever the Maestro/Visa Electron logo is displayed.

Telephone numbers for reporting ATM related incidents:

ABSA: 0800 111 155

AFRICAN BANK: 0861 000 555

ALBARAKA BANK: 0860 225 786

BANK OF ATHENS: 011 833 2117

BIDVEST BANK: 0860 111 177

CAPITEC BANK: 0860 102 043

CITI BANK: 1 800 950 5114

FNB: 0800 110 132

INVESTEC BANK: 011 286 9663

MERCANTILE BANK: 0860 119 925

NEDBANK: 0800 110 929

STANDARD BANK: 0800 020 600

SASFIN: 080 23 23 23 6

SA POST OFFICE (POST BANK): 0800 535 455

VISA: 0800 990 475

VISA (OUTSIDE SA): + 1 303 967 1096