Fraud rates for cards in the UK rose by 42 per cent in the final quarter of 2021, the highest rate seen since 2017, according to the National Fraud Hunter Prevention Service.

Police are warning ATM users of a new cash machine scam, where criminals are able to steal card details and drain bank accounts in a matter of minutes.

Victims report that their cards have been retained by ATMs, and that machines have been swallowing their payment devices before a message appears on the screen saying the service is ‘unavailable’.

Brean Horne, personal finance expert at comparison site, NerdWallet, warns people to be extra vigilant when withdrawing money at an ATM machine.

“These thefts are being achieved by a discreet device being placed over the card slot of the machine, which scans the card details, transmits the data to the criminal, and then blocks the card from being returned,” says Brean.

“Fraudsters have several ways of cleverly accessing your current account and spending your money within minutes. So it’s vital to remain vigilant and take preventive measures to safeguard yourself while using an ATM.

If you suspect suspicious fraudulent activity after your card is swallowed, the first thing you should do is cancel or suspend your bank card from further use.

Five precautions to take when withdrawing money from an ATM

  • Choose the right location: Ideally, you should always use an ATM that is in a well-lit area with CCTV surveillance, such as, busy high street or in a secure building. If possible, avoid using an ATM after midnight, or one that’s located in an abandoned area. If you are in an unfamiliar place and feel unsafe or unsure about making an ATM withdrawal, don’t take the risk. Instead, try to find a safer alternative to make a payment.
  • Stay alert: Before use, take a moment to check for any suspicious activity around the ATM. It’s also worth checking if you have been followed or if anyone may be spying on you before using a machine. When taking your money from the machine, count it away from the ATM or only when you reach a safe place, as it is not advisable to handle cash in an open public area.
  • Safeguard your PIN: Always block the view of the ATM keypad with your hand while entering your PIN. Never disclose your PIN to anyone, unless it is a friend or family member you trust and they urgently need access to it. If contacted via phone call or email, remember that banks will never ask for your PIN. Therefore, never be persuaded by anyone who asks for it. Having the same pin or password for more than one card can also put your security at risk. Try to have different pin numbers for each card and make sure they aren’t easy to guess.
  • Check over the ATM carefully: Fraudsters can rig inconspicuous electronic devices called ‘skimmers’ that can record anything you input. It’s important to inspect the machine carefully, especially the card and keypad slot before entering your PIN. Sometimes these dodgy devices can even withhold your cash. If this does happen, visit your bank branch or call the free number for assistance. For extra precaution, do not throw away ATM receipts carelessly, as the information in them could be used against you.
  • Don’t ask strangers for help: If you are struggling with using the machine, you may want to seek help from someone passing by. Whilst this may be okay in an emergency, never reveal your PIN or get them to complete a transaction on your behalf. Try to seek assistance from someone who works for a bank nearby.