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:: High-tech ATM fraud  

Millions of rands are being spent on additional security measures by banks in an attempt to prevent crime at cash machines across the country.

Card skimming is becoming a cause for concern, with statistics showing a dramatic increase over the past five years.

The move to upgrade security comes after figures show that the amount of ATM fraud rose in the first six months of 2006 compared with the same period in 2005.

According to Standard Bank, the skimming of cards now accounts for an even greater proportion of cash machine fraud in South Africa than conventional card swapping.

Phishing or identity theft is also on the increase.

In a phishing attack, thieves pose as banks or other companies to gain customers' trust and then their personal data.

Security expert at Standard Bank Pat Pather said skimming involves attaching a small electronic device to the card entry slot of a cash machine to record a card's details without the cardholders knowledge.

Criminals are then able to produce a fake card and use it to withdraw money from a cash machine.

He said the rise in skimming coincided with a significant drop in Internet-based crimes, like hacking and phishing.

"We've put a lot of systems in place to foil Internet crime, like two-factor authentication, but as banks close off one avenue, criminals will try another," he said.

"Card skimming is now the most frequently used method of ATM fraud being perpetrated around the globe.

"We have identified the key areas being targeted by fraudsters and we are making significant investments to protect our customers' hard-earned cash."

He said part of the problem was the ease with which it was possible to copy the magnetic strips on the back of the cards.

Pather stressed however that the majority of cash machine withdrawals were safe.


He said security would be upgraded around the banks' cash machines by increasing physical security, displaying warning posters, installing new anti-skimming devices and monitoring customers' accounts at identified hotspots.

Pather also said the bank would soon be introducing new high-tech smart cards to ensure that this type of fraud did not continue.

"The growing use of chip-only cards will ensure that copying chips is not possible because they are encrypted," he said.

"New chip-based cards aim to cut fraud by including smart chip, which can store more information that the usual magnetic strips and also by having users verify transactions by keying in a PIN rather than signing a receipt."

Pather said France pioneered the technology more than 10 years ago and as a result brought down fraud statistics by almost 80 percent.

Standard Bank urges all customers who withdraw cash at ATM's to be vigilant and help reduce the chance of fraudsters getting a hold of their PIN details.

Customers are also advised to keep an eye on their accounts so they can spot bogus transactions.

What can customers do?

  • Always protect your secret PIN.

  • Don't write the number down.

  • Cover the keypad when entering your PIN.

  • Don't give the number out to anyone.

  • Know where the security cameras are located. While many ATM's have cameras, they won't be positioned to record the keypad.

  • Be wary of any offers of "help" with ATM transactions.

  • Be suspicious of a machine that has signage indicating the use of a specific machine.

  • Use a different machine if you feel uncomfortable about the ATM instructions.

  • Report anything suspicious or strange about the ATM machine to the bank.

  • Alert the bank immediately to any suspicious activity around an ATM.

  • Call your bank immediately if your card has been retained by the machine.

  • Be on the lookout for suspicious transactions on monthly statements.



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