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Home DFR Observations & Comment ATM Fraud and Security Digest - May 2009
ATM Fraud and Security Digest - May 2009 E-mail
Written by Douglas Russell   
Friday, 19 June 2009 10:25


Deposit / Cheque Fraud (Check Fraud)

In CA (USA) sixty arrests were made in May for false deposit / fake cheque fraud valued at $500,000. The perpetrators acquired valid cards and PINs from others and used the accounts to deposit and withdraw funds before  the validity of the cheques were authenticated. In WA (USA) a perpetrator of a similar false deposit fraud was sentenced to more than six years in prison.  



Transaction Reversal Fraud / Manipulation / Denomination Fraud

In Nigeria, a suspect was arrested and accused of obtaining N3.9 million by defrauding a bank. The suspect had discovered he could withdraw cash without his account being debited.

A suspect in TX (USA) was sentenced to probation and 180 days in jail for denomination fraud. He had changed the value of notes from $20 to $1 utilizing supervisor codes for the ATM.

Transaction Reversal Fraud (TRF) was detected in the UK during May.


Card Trapping / Card Theft / Distraction

ATM card thefts, combined with shoulder surfing and honey traps were used during May in Namibia. A woman was arrested with twenty stolen cards. She was accused of offering help to ATM users, observing their PIN, then seducing her male victims and stealing their cards.

Honey traps continued in the USA during May. Four women in TX (USA) shoulder surfed their victim while he entered his PIN, before drugging him and stealing his card.

A combined atm card theft and pigeon drop fraud was reported in the DC (USA) during May. The perpetrator first asked the victim to help him deposit a large ‘bundle of cash’ but then changed tactics and asked the victim to show him how to use an ATM. The victim’s PIN was shoulder surfed and card stolen. In a separate incident in GA (USA), the victim exchanged $500 withdrawn from an ATM for a ‘bundle of cash’ offered by the perpetrator of the scam, which, unfortunately for the victim, was not cash.

Lebanese Loop card trapping in FL (USA) included one incident where the fraudulent spend was within two minutes of the card theft. Card theft was also reported in IL (USA) during May.

Card trapping in the UK continued during May. One victim, a well known British writer and broadcaster, fell victim to a ‘helpful stranger’ who trapped her card with a Lebanese Loop card trap and used shoulder surfing to observe PIN entry. The ‘helpful stranger’ technique was also reported in India where the perpetrator pretended to be a bank official assisting ATM users.

A Lebanese Loop card trap and mobile phone camera was recovered in Hertfordshire (UK). In West Sussex (UK) devices fell from an ATM and were recovered. Spy cameras and Lebanese Loop card traps were also reported in Hampshire (UK).

ATM Skimming / Skimming

China experienced ATM skimming in May. In one incident an alert consumer reported a suspicious square box attached to an ATM. An ATM skimmer and spy camera were recovered. One victim in China had 150,000 Yuan taken from his account. CCTV recorded the fraudulent spend (transaction).

In Guyana, two suspects were arrested in May using cloned cards and PINs.

Distraction, shoulder surfing and hand held skimming was reported in Namibia. Two arrests were made in May. The technique included the perpetrator hitting the cancel key on the ATM keyboard to gain temporary possession of the card which was copied using a hand held skimming device.

ATM skimming in the USA continued to gather momentum during May. Incidents were reported in MD, NC, CA, DC, NY, FL, ND and CO. ATM skimming devices were recovered in CO, MD and CA. In CA, four suspects were charged for an estimated $400,000 of losses. Weapons and drugs were also seized. In DC, a suspect is facing up to a five year prison sentence after pleading guilty to skimming losses of $200,000. In an incident related to ATM skimming in NY, four Romanian suspects, living in FL, were arrested in what is understood to be a $1.8 million ATM fraud.

Self-Service Fuel Pump skimming was detected in NV (USA) and CA (USA).

The UK experienced a multitude of ATM skimming incidents during May. In Norwich an unlucky victim had their card and PIN compromised two months running. An ATM skimming device was discovered on a supermarket’s ATM in Cambridgeshire. In Hertfordshire, two suspects believed to be part of a larger gang received a sixty day prison sentence. Also in Hertfordshire, various arrests were made including eleven suspects arrested following over one hundred reported ATM skimming incidents. ATM skimming devices were also recovered in Devon & Cornwall, Sussex, Buckinghamshire, Tyne & Wear among other places. In Norfolk, ATM skimming was detected along with damage to the ATM fascia. Lancashire, Yorkshire, Dorset, Kent and East Sussex also had ATM skimming activity reported in May.

Chip & PIN terminal compromise was detected during May. In Hertfordshire (UK) over three hundred cards and PINs are suspected to have been compromised.

In Cornwall (Canada), four members of the one family were victims of card cloning. ATM skimming devices were recovered in Ontario. Various arrests were made in Canada during May, including six suspects believed to have links with organized crime based in Sri Lanka who were arrested thanks to cooperation between Canadian bank investigators and law-enforcement. They were arrested while withdrawing cash from an ATM using multiple compromised cards.

ATM skimming in Australia continued in May. ATM skimming devices were recovered in Queensland and Victoria. In Western Australia, CCTV recorded images of suspects attaching an ATM skimming device in April were released by police. A Romanian national was jailed for six months for using a door access skimming device (he was not thought to be a member of the organized crime gangs responsible for the other recent ATM skimming incidents.) Another suspect, also from Romania, was arrested in Melbourne.

ATM skimming was reported in Turkey during May.

Reports from The Netherlands in May estimated that Dutch banks experienced losses of Euro 31 million last year from ATM skimming which is 0.023% of transactions.


Vishing / Phishing / Smsishing / Advanced Fee / Funds Transfer Fraud

Phishing and related ATM fraud incidents continued to be reported in many geographical areas.

A Nigerian crime gang were arrested in India for a combination of Smsishing and Advanced Fee Fraud (aka 419 fraud). The advanced fee was to cover shipment and processing costs to deliver the ‘prize’ to the victim. Within Nigeria, a very professional looking ‘promo’ website tricked victims into divulging account, card and PIN details, as well as other information, when the victims reached the fourth page of the site. An international organized crime syndicate with links to Nigeria was disrupted in the US. Indictments were made against forty five individuals. The syndicate is believed to be responsible for $12 million of losses in the past year.

Smsishing and Vishing were detected in many US states, including OH, UT, TX, MA, VA and NC.

A bank in Dubai (UAE) issued a warning to customers following a number of phishing attacks linked to what appears to be a domain registered in Russia.


Ram Raid Attacks / ATM Theft

Two suspects were arrested in China after being identified from CCTV recordings of their failed attempt to steal an ATM from a bank branch. With the apparent intent of rolling the ATM out of the branch, their discovery that the ATM had no wheels, and was rather heavy, caused them to abort the attempted theft of the ATM.

Police in Japan arrested a group of five men who had successfully used a backhoe to steal an ATM containing an estimated 5.9 million yen.

In Scotland (UK), a supermarket was seriously damaged during a failed ram raid attempt to steal an ATM using a dumper truck.

Front-end loaders, forklifts, backhoes, 4x4 vehicles and trucks were used in various attacks in the USA during May. Locations experiencing attacks included TX, MS, GA, PA, WV, IL, AZ, CA and FL. One incident in CA ended in two arrests after the suspects crashed their pickup truck while being pursued by police. They had stolen the ATM from a convenience store, less than one hour after failing to remove an ATM from another location. A suspect in FL was arrested and linked to eleven similar attacks perpetrated since January 2008. A total of $1million is estimated to have been stolen during that time. In New York, four ATMs were recovered by NYPD scuba divers from a lake. A bowling alley in FL had its ATM stolen after the perpetrators cut a large hole in the side of the building.

An ATM was recovered by police in British Columbia (Canada) in May.

An ATM stolen from a bar & bistro in Perth (Australia) was recovered from a river. Also in Australia, an attempt to remove an ATM from a convenience store in Queensland failed after suspects were disturbed while trying to dislodge the ATM using a station wagon and chain.

Riots in Portugal erupted following the funeral of a suspect who had been shot by police. He was suspected of being involved in the theft of an ATM from a hospital.

In the UK, two men were arrested in Worcestershire following a ram raid using a 4x4 vehicle. An ATM was also stolen from a convenience store in Northern Ireland in May.


Safe Cutting / Safe Breaking / Frontal Attacks

Oxy-acetylene cutting tools were used in MI (USA) however the cash within the ATM was not accessed. An attempt using a hammer also failed in LA (USA) and the suspect was identified from CCTV. Thieves in NH (USA) were more successful in May. Using power tools, $10,000 was stolen from an ATM located at a fuel station.

In Derbyshire (UK), a cutting torch failed to access the ATM safe.

Frontal attacks were reported in the UK during May. Tools used included a crow bar and a metal pole.

ATM thieves in India managed to break into an ATM safe and remove Rs 6 lakh from an ATM that had been out of commission for a month. The cash had, however, been left within the ATM.


Explosive Attacks

Five heavily armed men blew up an ATM in South Africa in May using solid explosives. Also in South Africa, a quick police response initiated by CCTV monitoring resulted in one arrest and the seizure of explosives

In Tasmania (Australia) two men were charged with aggravated robbery following explosive gas attacks. This followed the previous arrests of two other men and a woman who have been charged with similar offences. The New South Wales (Australia) government doubled the reward to AU$200,000 for information leading to convictions following explosive gas attacks across the state. In a related move, the Reserve Bank of Australia agreed in May, to replace ink-stained notes presented to it by banks whose security measures include ink-staining.

An explosive gas attack in the north of The Netherlands was reported during May.

Technology in Focus

While there were a number of examples throughout May where technology helped prevent ATM crime, the value of ATM Anti-Theft Devices deserves a mention in this month’s ‘Technology in Focus’ section. Around the globe there were numerous incidents of ATM ram raid attacks, many of which, utilized construction equipment to rip ATMs from their mountings. Ram raids can be successful even when the ATMs are installed in solidly constructed walls or bolted to the ground as recommended by industry standards. What is apparent from many attacks, unfortunately, is that meeting minimum security standards alone is not sufficient. ATM Anti-Theft Devices such as those supplied by the long established Acketts Group Limited ( are specifically designed to prevent such ATM attacks and are tested against real-world attack methods.




 The above digest is provided by DFR Risk Management, who provide consultancy services advising ATM and self-service terminal deployers, manufacturers as well as law- enforcement agencies on how to manage ATM and self-service terminal fraud and security threats.

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