Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Continuing Crisis: "ATM Thefts"

I received today via one of my DC mailing lists this warning about the threat of falling victim to an ATM scam in which the crook can obtain your card and PIN number without your knowledge. The email included this powerpoint presentation that shows in a series of slides taken from an ATM security camera how the scam is perpetrated. It was sent directly from a DC MPD Lieutenant.

Being immediately skeptical about the latest threat to the safety of the world that I receive via email, especially when it originates from an official source, I googled it. As it turns out, this isn't exactly breaking news. Hoax slayer put up a page about it on December 4, 2006, but confirms that it is not a hoax. Some official looking European anti-fraud website has the presentation hosted as well. It's unclear who actually put this thing together or how old it is, but the nature of the scam seems to be of the sort we might have seen in WarGames circa 1983. In the demonstration they talk about a sum of money that is "R4,000" so clearly this originated in some quaint European dukedom with funny colored bills of different sizes.

So I looked through this presentation, available here as a regular slideshow for those who don't have Powerpoint. It isn't rocket science. A piece of film is installed in the ATM machine to basically jam the mechanism when someone puts in their card. The con artist then pretends to help the victim with some story about entering the PIN again while pressing another button, and obtains the PIN in the process. Eventually, unable to recover his card, the vic leaves, and the con artist pulls out the card from his trap.

I got three things to say about this dire warning.

1. Do any bank machines even capture your card any more?

2. While criminals in Europe may be clever and polite, is there a single crook in DC who would go to all this trouble to get your money when you are at the ATM, versus the much simpler solution of sticking a gun to your head and demanding you withdraw $500 and give it to him?

3. This presentation ends with the ubiquitous calling card of all that is useless on the Internets:

Send this message to friends and family immediately!

I, for one, will not be losing any sleep when I use an ATM.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually, most Bank of America ATM's do in fact take your card during the process. My thought is what idiot would just walk away with their card stuck in the machine? My ass would stay there, call customer service and immediately have the card deactivated. And I'd mace anyone who offered help at an ATM, then give them a knee to the groin. But I'm just violent that way...