ATM Scam Warning
Netlore Archive: Increasingly prevalent ATM scam involves thieves putting a thin, clear, rigid plastic sleeve or similar device (known as a 'Lebanese Loop') into ATM card slots
Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: 2000
Email example contributed by an AOL user, 06/16/01:
For all of you who use ATM cards.
Just wanted to warn you about something that happened to me the other day. I was getting some cash out at the cash point outside at HSBC George Street. I put my card in and a message came up on the screen saying the machine was temporarily out of order. A lady approached me and told me that this had happened to her the other day and what I needed to do was key my pin number in and then press cancel twice. I did this and of course no card was returned. I left the machine thinking that it had swallowed my card. But when I returned to HSBC the following morning, my card wasn't there. According to the police this method of stealing bankcards is called the Lebanese loop'. A plastic envelope is made up that fits the hole in the machine perfectly. When you put your card in, the machine knows it is there but cannot read it and therefore the message comes up on the screen. Once the pin number has been given away and the card left in the machine, it is then 'looped' out and the spending starts! I had 500 taken from my account before I realized what had happened and cancelled it. The woman who approached me at the cash point was late 40's in age, 5.3 in height, dark hair and eyes. The way she was dressed was smart as if she had just left work. Please pass this information on to all your friends.
Email example contributed by Deborah S., 04/16/02:
Subject: ATM Scam
For your information, please be advised of the following ATM scam:
Beware the next time you use an ATM. Criminals are inventing ever more ingenious methods of relieving you of your cash.
The latest scam involves thieves putting a thin, clear, rigid plastic 'sleeve' into the ATM card slot. When you insert your card, the machine can't read the strip, so it keeps asking you to re-enter your PIN number. Meanwhile, someone behind you watches as you tap in your number. Eventually you give up, thinking the machine has swallowed your card and you walk away. The thieves then remove the plastic sleeve complete with card, and empty your account.
The way to avoid this is to run your finger along the card slot before you put your card in. The sleeve has a couple of tiny prongs that the thieves need to get the sleeve out of the slot, and you'll be able to feel them.
The police would like as many people as possible to be aware of this scam, so pass this on to your friends.
Comments: This is a real scam verified by law enforcement agencies worldwide, who warn ATM customers to beware of bystanders observing as they enter PINs or passwords and to immediately cancel any card that seems to have been "swallowed" by an automated teller machine.
The crime is called "card withholding." Using various simple devices made of plastic or metal (known as "Lebanese loops"), thieves can cause a legitimate debit or credit card to become jammed in an ATM slot, which they revisit later to retrieve the "confiscated" item. Having observed the victim enter and re-enter their PIN - sometimes even boldly encouraging them to do so as they watch - the perpetrators can then use the card to empty the victim's bank account.
See the resources below for more information on ATM scams and how to protect yourself from bank card crimes of all types.
Sources and further reading:
Beware Scams at Your ATM
CBS News, 21 Feb 2003
Where ATM Con Artist Strikes Next, Nobody Knows
More detail on ATM-related crimes from ATMMarketplace.com
Special Squad Fights ATM Scam
From The Guardian, 26 April 2002
State Attorney General Warns of ATM Scam
From Reno Gazette-Journal, 26 April 2002
Last updated: 02/26/03