ATM skimming in Port Elizabeth: how to protect yourself

JULY 13, 2015

An Italian engineer working in Port Elizabeth is reportedly among the latest victims of ATM card skimming that has been going on in the Bay for some time now.

The engineer reportedly lost nearly R20 000 on Sunday after her bank card was skimmed at an FNB ATM at Summerstrand Village, along Marine Drive.

This is the second incident at the Summerstrand Village after a German tourist reportdely lost more than R10 000 under the same circumstances on Friday.

In an unconfirmed report, on Tuesday, last week a local resident, Dyanne Harmse, posted on local crime awareness Facebook page: Public Servant News, that her colleague lost R14 000 after using an ATM at the Metlife Plaza, in Kabega Park, Port Elizabeth.

Apparently, the card was 'swallowed' but asked for a pin - according to the bank, a delaying tactic by the scammers, as he sought help, R14 000 was withdrawn from the account.

In November last year, three foreigners, believed to be part of a hi-tech international card-cloning syndicate, were arrested in Humewood, Port Elizabeth. During the raid, police found R20 000 in cash, 13 ATM card- skimming devices, 30 cloned bank cards and hi-tech computer equipment.

The breakthrough came after the banking crime unit of the Hawks received a tip-off from a bank, which had spotted the three at a number of ATMs in the city.

The men had allegedly cloned hundreds of cards in Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

In 2013, the SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) said credit card fraud had cost the industry R300 million while debit card fraud cost it R117 million.

How to Spot ATM Skimmers

Here are some tricks for spotting ATM skimmers. You can’t spot every ATM skimmer, but it won’t hurt to take a quick look around before withdrawing money.

  • Familiarise yourself with your bank's ATM: Know what your ATM looks like so that you are able to identify any foreign objects attached to it. Perhaps the bottom panel is a different color from the rest of the machine because it’s a fake piece of plastic placed over the real bottom panel and the keypad. Perhaps there’s an odd-looking object that contains a camera.
  • Jiggle the card reader and see if it moves. If it doese move around, something probably isn’t right. A real card reader should be attached to the ATM so well that it won’t move around - a skimmer overlaid over the card reader may move around.
  • Examine the keypad: Does the keypad look a bit too thick, or different from how it usually looks if you’ve used the machine before? It may be an overlay over the real keypad.
  • Check for cameras: Consider where an attacker might hide a camera - somewhere above the screen or keypad, or even in the brochure holder on the machine.

If you find something seriously wrong -  a card reader that moves, a hidden camera, or a keypad overlay - be sure to alert the bank or business in charge of the ATM. If something just doesn’t seem right with the machine, go find another ATM machine.

Basic Security Precautions

You can find common, cheap ATM skimmers with tricks like attempting to jiggle the card reader. But here’s what you should always do to protect yourself when using any ATM machine:

  • Shield your pin wth your hand: When you type your PIN into an ATM machine, shield the PIN pad with your hand. Yes, this won’t protect you against the most sophisticated skimmers that use keypad overlays, but you’re much more likely to run into an ATM skimmer that uses a camera - they’re much cheaper for criminals to purchase. This is the number one tip you can use to protect yourself.
  • Monitor your transactions: You should regularly check your bank accounts and credit card accounts online. Check for suspicious transactions and notify your bank as quickly as possible. You want to catch these problems as soon as possible - don’t wait until your bank mails you a printed statement a month after money has been withdrawn from your account by a criminal.

---additional information from SABRIC and