Ask Jenny Ross: How can we prevent scammers from stealing our money from an ATM?

Even if you’re unlucky enough to fall victim to ATM fraud, you shouldn’t be left behind

To respond: Scammers have a seemingly endless repertoire of techniques designed to separate us from our money, and these have become increasingly sophisticated: people are duped by text messages claiming to be from Royal Mail, calls that appear come from their bank’s phone number, and Whatsapp messages that appear to be from family members. But the older, less technological methods still prove lucrative.

ATM card fraud in the UK accounted for losses of £28.1m in 2021, according to banking industry body UK Finance. That’s a big number, but relatively small in the context of overall payment card fraud losses (£574.2m) and losses have come down over the last few years so there’s no reason to worry too much.

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You are correct that you cannot withdraw money from an ATM without entering your PIN, so either way the fraudster should have access to the genuine PIN and card.

This can especially happen if someone has written their PIN code in a purse or wallet, which is then stolen.

Or thieves can simply ‘shoulder surf’ – they hover over you to watch you enter your PIN at an ATM or card machine, then steal your card at the appropriate time.

This can be done by using distraction techniques – such as telling yourself you dropped something on the floor and then grabbing your card from the slot in the dispenser.

Fraudsters can also tamper with ATMs to steal cards or card details by inserting a device into the card slot to prevent the card from being returned to you.

To capture the PIN, they will either watch you enter it or use a small camera attached to the machine. Once you leave the machine, the fraudster will remove the device and the card, then use it to withdraw money.

They can also fit skimming devices that scan the information stored on your card’s magnetic stripe.

As always with this type of fraud, for your card details to be useful, fraudsters need to obtain your PIN.

Once they have this, they can create a fake card which can be used with the real PIN to withdraw cash in some countries where machines have yet to be upgraded to chip and PIN.

Some banks are now offering contactless cash withdrawals, which still require you to enter your PIN but don’t need you to insert your card into the machine, meaning you won’t risk skimming devices.

But the easiest way to thwart ATM fraudsters is to fully cover your PIN code when withdrawing cash from an ATM or making a payment using a card dispenser. Be sure to protect it more generally by not disclosing it to anyone else or writing it anywhere.

The good news is that even if you’re unlucky enough to fall victim to ATM fraud, you shouldn’t be left behind as debit card providers are required to refund unauthorized transactions under of the Payment Services Regulations 2017.

The maximum your bank can ask you to cover is the first £35 of an unauthorized transaction on a stolen or lost card, unless they can show you authorized the payment, acted fraudulently , acted with “gross negligence” or reported the unauthorized transaction. payment 13 months or more after leaving your account.