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Criminals are always looking for new and inventive ways to separate us from our hard-earned cash. Unfortunately, the growth of cheap and easily-accessible technology has helped them, leading to an explosion of ATM fraud in recent years.
Most of us go into auto-pilot mode when we use a cash point. It’s such an everyday occurrence that we pay little attention to either the machine itself or the people around it – and it’s a situation that criminals can use to their advantage. In Europe alone, ATM fraud increased by 15 percent in the first six months of 2015.
Here we take a look at seven news stories that prove ATM fraud can hit any of us, at any time…
Criminal Gangs Have a Global Reach
Losing a few dollars to an ATM scam is bad enough. Losing a whole month’s salary is the stuff of nightmares.
Sadly, that’s exactly what happened to Candice Fernandes, a teacher at a school in Mumbai. She had Rs 36,500 ($560 USD) stolen after a series of unauthorized transactions were made from a single ATM at a train station.
She was far from the only victim – after the police started to investigate it was discovered that 62 people had all lost money from the same machine.
Thanks to CCTV footage, the police ultimately arrested three people – Allen Budoi, Marion Grama, and Miu Ionel. It wasn’t until the police had them in custody that they realized they had inadvertently cracked one of the biggest ATM fraud cartels in the world – the accused were all on most-wanted lists across the European Union and South America.
Vulnerable on Your Holidays
Holidays are supposed to be the most relaxing time of the year – the last thing you want is for it to become a stress-ridden event, especially if you’re vacationing on the other side of the globe.
Unfortunately, criminals know that lots of us let our guard down during our time away from home. Too many cocktails and a lack of familiarity with the local language makes us ripe targets.
The recent case of Dimitar Nikolov highlights this perfectly – he is accused of committing mass ATM fraud on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali. According to authorities, at least 300 tourists were targeted, most of whom didn’t discover their loss until they returned to their home countries.
He was arrested on 7th February in Bosnia after spending several years on Europol’s wanted list, and Indonesia won an extradition appeal in September.
His case is just one of a growing trend; Indonesian authorities recently expressed concerns that South East Asia is becoming a haven for international online fraud syndicates, with Internet penetration spreading but law enforcement remaining lax.
It Happens In Your Neighborhood
As with all these things, people tend to have the belief that “it won’t happen to me”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It doesn’t matter whether you live in a poor inner-city neighborhood or a middle-class leafy suburb – you’re always vulnerable.
A cursory scan of local news is revealing. Just last week, for example, a man was pictured on CCTV at an ATM in Attleboro, Massachusetts making fraudulent transactions. The median household income for the town of 43,000 residents is $65,000 per year – a figure that puts it comfortably above the American nationwide average ($51,000).
Don’t Trust the ATM Provider
ATMs inside banks are typically safer than those which are in public areas. The worst offenders, however, are machines which are not operated by banks at all.
No doubt you’ve come across them, they are typically freestanding, don’t have a bank logo on them, and charge you an exorbitant fee to withdraw your money. Annoyingly, they are often either in highly-conveniently places or are the only option for miles around.
The widely-read security news website krebsonsecurity.com is currently investigating machines of this nature in the popular tourist destination of Cancun, Mexico.
They report that one area of the city has ten ATMs from a particular provider all in very close vicinity. Experts told the site that there was “no way Intacash could afford the rent required to place so many ATMs in such close proximity on public property and still turn a monthly profit”.
Intacash have a negligible online presence, have not responded to the website’s requests for information, and have only been in existence for one year. The only lead the site could find was some local hotels who confirmed Intacash’s sales reps were from Eastern Europe.
You can draw your own conclusions.
The Threat Within
The threat doesn’t have to come from international cartels and hi-tech cyber criminals. It can also come from some of the people we trust most implicitly.
Just last week a case emerged in Anchorage, Alaska, in which 53-year-old Susanna Difranco pleaded guilty to stealing more than $70,000 from an unnamed elderly Japanese woman who was a friend of Difranco’s family.
Difranco posed as the woman’s daughter and managed to convince a bank teller to issue her an ATM card due to the elderly woman’s worsening dementia. From late-March to late-April Difranco then withdrew almost $500 per day from ATMs, made online wire transfers to her own account, and even paid her daughter’s college bills.
The crime wasn’t discovered until the Japanese lady tried to book a flight to Japan to see her family.
Physical Threats Remain
Of course, tech plays a huge part in modern-day ATM fraud, but that doesn’t mean that the more “traditional” physical methods have disappeared. It would be remiss not to mention them.
Physical threats can be broadly divided into two categories – con artists and brute force.
Worryingly, brute force attacks are all-too-common. For instance, police in Scotland are currently looking for a thief who attempted to rob a 23-year-old woman while she was using an ATM machine in Montrose’s high street last month. Luckily, the thief was unsuccessful, but the woman was left with injuries to her hip and leg.
Con artists are less common, but can easily fleece you out of your money. There is currently an on-going scam in the “Golden Triangle” area of Fort Worth, Texas, where a woman approaches her victims at the cash point, tells them a sob story, tries to pray with them, and then steals their freshly-withdrawn cash and credit cards.
Have You Been a Victim?
Have you been a victim of ATM fraud? What happened? What steps have you taken to prevent the same thing happening in the future?
What about the future of ATMs? Is a system where fraud is so common and so easy now doomed to failure?
Let us know you thoughts and feedback in the comments section below.
Image Credits:Man with backpack using an ATM by Semmick Photo via Shutterstock