ATM attacks rose 149% on 2008 in Europe and annual cash machine losses approach EUR 500 million states ENISA, the European Network and Information Security Agency.
ATM burglaries and physical attacks have also seen an increase by 32% over the last 12 months from ram raids and explosions to the use of rotary saws, thermal lances and diamond drills.
“ATMs are attractive to criminals because they contain bank notes, while the bank cards themselves give thieves access to customers’ bank accounts,” said Mr. Andrea Pirotti, Executive Director at ENISA.
ATM numbers have increased in Europe by 6% last year to almost 400,000. Seventy-two percent of European ATMs are located in just five countries: UK, Spain, Germany, France and Italy. Many ATM’s are in remote locations such as convenience stores, airports and petrol stations.
Criminals prefer take money directly ATM’s after obtaining pin numbers using a wide range of techniques from ‘shoulder surfing’ to complex skimming techniques. During 2008, 10,302 skimming incidents were reported in Europe.
“This can involve the usage of a small spy camera, a false PIN overlay and even fake machines; while increasingly Blue Tooth wireless technology is used to transmit card and PIN details to a nearby laptop computer” states ENISA.
“ATM crime is likely to become even more attractive as the latest generation of ATMs is designed to dispense other services and products such as phone top ups and stamps” he said.
Organised criminal gangs have also extracted money by trapping and then retrieving users’ cards, stopping withdrawals in the middle of a transaction and completing them later or even trapping cash in the machine.
PIN and account information has been obtained by sophisticated phishing techniques and hacking into bank computer systems and web sites, states ENISA.
“Most ATM crime is focused on exploiting the human element and card holders must be more aware of the risks they are exposed to and how to prevent fraud occurring” said Pirotti. “Information security has, for too long, been focusing on technical solutions to maximise protection.”
“The first line of defence against ATM crime is increasing awareness of the risks” so that users can take simple precautions such as shielding their PIN when entering it and by keeping alert to any signs of tampering or suspicious activity at an ATM.”
The ENISA suggests a few Golden Rules to offer maximum protection with minimum effort.
ENISA Golden Rules
- Choosing an ATM Machine
- Don’t use ATMs with extra signage or warnings
- Try to use ATMs inside banks
- Don’t use freestanding ATMs
- Physical surroundings
- Use an ATM which is in clear view and well lit
- Be cautious of strangers and check they are at a reasonable distance away
- Pay careful attention to the front of the machine for tampering
- Pay attention to the card reader for signs of additional devices
- Look carefully for differences or unusual characteristics of the ATM’s PIN pad
- Look out for extra cameras
- Protect your PIN by standing close to the ATM and shielding the key pad
- Report confiscated cards immediately
- Beware of ATMs that don’t dispense cash and non-bank ATMs that don’t charge fees
- Frequently review your account statements
- Report any suspicious activity immediately
(‘ATM Crime: Overview of the European situation and golden rules on how to avoid it’.)