Beware the latest ATM scam

Sarah Coles
ATM theft
ATM theft



The Metropolitan Police have released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at an ATM in Dagenham, to help catch the criminals and warn people of a new technique being employed by thieves. The two men behind her pretended to be having an argument in order to distract her.

The footage shows the two men arguing as the woman starts to use the machine. One of the men interrupts her - telling her it isn't working - distracting her further. Then as the prompt comes up asking her how much cash she wants, the second man pushes in front of her and presses the button to withdraw £250.

She bravely fights back and tries to cancel the transaction, but one thief pushes her out of the way while the other tries to cover the machine. After the cash emerges both men run away, despite her efforts to stop them.


The crime

It's a variation of other distraction crimes, which are designed to divert your attention at key moments when you are withdrawing cash from an ATM. Typically this is done when the machine is counting the cash. At that point a distraction thief may use a number of techniques to divert you for long enough to steal the money being dispensed. This can include deliberately spilling something on you, or interrupting you to tell you that you've dropped a note. As soon as your attention is diverted, they grab the cash and scarper.

The new variation cuts in earlier, so the thieves can ensure you are withdrawing the maximum available at the touch of a single button - £250. It involves more intervention from them, and therefore more risk of them being caught. It also raises the risk to the victim, as they restrain you while they wait for the money to be dispensed.
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Protect yourself

While nobody can be blamed for becoming a victim of crime, there are some steps you can take in order to reduce the risks you face at the ATM. Before you approach it, you should have your card handy so you are not rummaging in a pocket or bag. You should also check there aren't people hanging around.

Before you use the ATM, you should check there's nothing visually different from what you are expecting - especially around the card slot. Don't use your phone or continue a conversation - which will distract you from the task in hand. If anyone tries to interrupt you or talk to you, try to ignore them. Stand very close to the ATM, and when you input your number, cover the keypad with your hand. Then when the cash emerges, put it straight into your pocket and walk away.

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