World Economy

UK Facing ATM Fraud Epidemic

Criminals work in small groups to distract a cash machine user and steal money.Criminals work in small groups to distract a cash machine user and steal money.

Bank customers are being warned to stay vigilant as a new wave of cash machine distraction scams sweeps the country.

In the scam, victims are distracted for just a matter of seconds while taking money out of an ATM, enough time for the fraudsters to steal cash from their account or swap their debit card for a fake.

Barclays released a video on Thursday to help warn customers. The short clip shows a man waiting at a cash point while a woman stands behind him and watches as he enters his PIN number, This Is Money reported.

She then causes a distraction—in this case she drops some money—and he turns his back from the machine to help her.

Her accomplice, who is standing at the next terminal either takes his cash or—as in the case of the video—puts a fake bank card into the slot.

The unwitting victim then turns around, collects his cash and the fake card and leaves.

Finally the woman then tells the PIN code to her accomplice and they can then begin draining his account as they have the real card and the code.

Fraud at cash machines rose by a fifth to £32.7million ($43.56 million) in the last year alone, according to Financial Fraud Action UK.

One victim who contacted This is Money is Gordon Urquhart, 66, from West Yorkshire, who had £300 swiped from his Santander current account after being distracted by a pair of Romanian scammers at a branch.

Urquhart was withdrawing money from outside the Airedale shopping center branch of Santander in Keighley last month when he was interrupted by a man and woman.

He said that the pair kept insisting the machine was out of order and that he should try the machine inside the branch.

He told them to go away, but they refused. He terminated the transaction, withdrew his debit card and went into branch to alert the staff.

However, somehow in the commotion, the two thieves managed to withdraw £300, the maximum daily amount, from his account—while he was distracted by one, the other managed to make the transaction in seconds.

He says the bank called the police and in the meantime arranged for the stolen funds to be reimbursed. Before leaving, he was told he would enter his account within 24 hours.

However, despite numerous requests in the days after, he didn't receive the money back.

When he phoned to question it, he was told by the fraud department that his account of events "didn't match that of bank employees".

A few days after the ordeal, he was informed by police that two Romanians had been apprehended. He claims to have been told they had been carrying out a similar scam across the country.

But weeks after the incident, Urquhart was still out of pocket.