Fraudsters step up techniques with thermal cameras

Just as we wise up to their common scams, fraudsters may have a new trick in their arsenal – thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers.

US scientists are warning that the technology is more advanced than traditional ATM fraud techniques and it is likely to be the next threat for this form of crime.

Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.

Experts have warned the worrying tactic has not become widely used only due to the cost of thermal imaging equipment - which start at around $1,200.

The thermal scam is said to be more advances than traditional ATM machine fraud techniques, which typically involve a thief attaching a card 'skimming' reader to the ATM machine along with a pinhole camera, strategically aimed at the key pad.

The skimmer records the ATM card details - which can then be transferred to another card - while the camera records the pin number sequence. But if the pin number is blocked by the person's hand, then the information taken by the skimmer is useless.

With a thermal camera the sequence is recorded regardless, as the heat from a person's fingertips remains on the key pad. The biggest threat to personal safety is likely to be use of the technology to record a door entry code - allowing thieves to come and go as they please once the image is captured.

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