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BBB Tip of the Week: Low-tech ATM scams

For many people, the words “ATM scam” would conjure sophisticated computer technology that steals from the checking and savings accounts of the unsuspecting. But two ATM scams don’t use high technology. One uses glue. The other uses napkins.

The first scam targets people who use the ATM keypad instead of the touch screen, namely those who remember the days when screens were only made to be viewed. Scammers will glue the “Enter,” “Cancel” and “Clear” keys in place, making it impossible to complete the transaction with the keypad. Once the card has been swiped and the PIN has been keyed in, the transaction will stall if the person’s habit is to only use the keypad. Usually after some frustration, the person heads into the bank for help or gives up and heads to another ATM. This is the moment the thief dashes up and uses the touch screen to finish the transaction by withdrawing money from the account.

In a different scenario, the perpetrator jams wadded-up napkins into the cash dispenser slot and waits. If the next person making a withdrawal gets frustrated or bewildered when his or her money fails to come out and leaves the ATM, then the thief sweeps in and dislodges the napkins and cash.

So that you are not caught off guard by a low tech scam, consider the following if an ATM seems to malfunction.

Try using the touch screen to cancel or complete the transaction if the keys are stuck.

If your cash fails to dispense from an ATM, check for something blocking the slot.

Call the phone number on the ATM using your cell phone or ask someone nearby to head into the bank for help. If possible, stay with the ATM until help arrives.

If you must leave the ATM and possibly abandon your card in the machine to get help, call your bank as soon as you can to suspend the card and protect your accounts.

If you encounter a tampered ATM machine, consider notifying the bank to prevent someone else from falling victim.

If you are the victim of theft, call police.

Erin T. Dodge, BBB Editor